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We talked to a horticulturist today that we randomly found while at Home Depot. (That's a story all on its own) He took a look at some sample plants and it turns out I have a really bad spider mite infestation and just wasn't recognizing it. System overhaul required. Crap. Anybody got any recommendations for an infestation that has gone to far to be salvaged? How do I recover my system?

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I would release the Green Lacewing Larvae and let them handle it: Lacewing

Good idea. This is in my garage though, maybe I'll screen off my system and give them a try.

Alex, there's a couple ways to go about salvaging/re-starting...none of which are real fun/convenient, or economical...However you decide to go about that portion of things is up to you...but...

In the future you might save yourself the repeated headache by NOT using any organic medium (store bought and bagged) to sprout seeds in (particularly ones you have not nuked yourself). Start ALL seeds yourself in an inert and sterile medium (like hydroton). Do not buy seedlings from a garden center etc...

Depending on where your at in terms of your infestation...there might not be a snowballs chance in hell that releasing some predatory mites or lacewing larvae is going to help (no reason to screen anything off as adult lacewing's are pretty useless and the larvae can't exactly fly off...) check out some options on predatory mites...http://www.buglogical.com/spider-mite-predator/

Beware though that such biological techniques are generally useless when used in an "anti-dote...after the fact" type fashion. They are good as part of an IPM program, but not so much as a 'savior/cure' for a bad infestation. For that you have to "bust out the big guns"...

If you are in a position to seal everything off and nuke it all with CO2...repeatedly...after the eggs hatch...then again, after the rest of the eggs hatch, that would be good....but otherwise if it's gotten so bad that a "system overhaul" is required, then do that...Get rid of every single plant, piece of coir, humus, every worm casting, top-soil etc...and just start over and pay attention to the new found realities of bio-security issues. You'd be surprised at what all will hitch a ride in a bag of top-soil...

Coincidentally, I brought some small lettuce plants in from my small hoophouse last fall. Even after submerging them in water for 15 minutes, and then rinsing them roots and all in city water, I ended up with aphids. The ladybugs are laying eggs that are hatching, and these guys do a number on their population. The aphids are still winning....... Spider mites are probably worse than an aphid problem, and anyone who tells you that you can just spray them off with water must have a high pressure hose that they can launch them accross the county with, Plants and all!

I've controlled both aphids and spider mites with water spray for 20 years or so with infestations occurring  here each year, usually multiple times.  Frequent repetition is the key thing, not necessarily pressure.  It works for me.  If it gets hot and dry, spider mites are not far behind.  All of my gardening is done outdoors so spraying water is easily done.

Enough pressure is required to knock the mites off of the plants.  Eggs will probably remain and will hatch.  Therefore, repeat.

I would go for BT-bacteria.

Thanks Vlad. I know, I was just thinking certain females in my household wouldn't appreciate a thousand lacewing adults flying around our garage and ending up in our house :) I've decided to go ahead and clean the plants out of my beds and give the area around my system a thorough cleaning to get the numbers down. Meanwhile, I've planted marigolds, which I'm told they won't eat. Always wanted to try natural predator control, so for fun I'll plan on grabbing some predator mites to help keep the down the numbers in the future. Will spraying with vermicompost tea have an effect on the predator mites?

Vlad Jovanovic said:

Alex, there's a couple ways to go about salvaging/re-starting...none of which are real fun/convenient, or economical...However you decide to go about that portion of things is up to you...but...

In the future you might save yourself the repeated headache by NOT using any organic medium (store bought and bagged) to sprout seeds in (particularly ones you have not nuked yourself). Start ALL seeds yourself in an inert and sterile medium (like hydroton). Do not buy seedlings from a garden center etc...

Depending on where your at in terms of your infestation...there might not be a snowballs chance in hell that releasing some predatory mites or lacewing larvae is going to help (no reason to screen anything off as adult lacewing's are pretty useless and the larvae can't exactly fly off...) check out some options on predatory mites...http://www.buglogical.com/spider-mite-predator/

Beware though that such biological techniques are generally useless when used in an "anti-dote...after the fact" type fashion. They are good as part of an IPM program, but not so much as a 'savior/cure' for a bad infestation. For that you have to "bust out the big guns"...

If you are in a position to seal everything off and nuke it all with CO2...repeatedly...after the eggs hatch...then again, after the rest of the eggs hatch, that would be good....but otherwise if it's gotten so bad that a "system overhaul" is required, then do that...Get rid of every single plant, piece of coir, humus, every worm casting, top-soil etc...and just start over and pay attention to the new found realities of bio-security issues. You'd be surprised at what all will hitch a ride in a bag of top-soil...

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