Whitefly traps

It seems that whitefly really loves tomato plants. Ever since I planted my first tomato seeds they seem to come at regular intervals. Initially I treated them with a garlic and pyrethrin based pesticide; that generally kept them away for some weeks.

More recently I had a very heavy infestation on mature tomato plants, and the garlic based pesticide appeared to be ineffectual. I’m not sure whether the whitefly got used to the taste of garlic, the pesticide had expired or if I just wasn’t covering the rather unruly plants well enough, but it didn’t seem to help.

An attempt at regaining control

So, I looked for some alternatives. I got sick of smelling garlic all the time, and tried to use a soap spray. One teaspoon of Sunlight liquid dish-washing soap per litre of water was recommended to me. I applied it once, and it seemed to kill some whitefly, but it didn’t really seem to get rid of them.

Apparently the soap has no residual action after the spray dries, so that might have been part of the problem. The other part of the problem was the pathetic hand-sprayer I was using. Apart from only holding a paltry 500 ml of liquid, it doesn’t really work when upside down; makes covering the bottom of leaves quite hard.

The final solution

I did some more research, and decided to A) buy a decent pressurised pesticide sprayer B) make sticky whitefly traps. Apparently they are attracted by the colour yellow. Some site I read claimed that they look for the “healthiest” leaves, and somehow yellow indicates that to them; makes no sense to me. In any case, the traps definitely work.

After bringing the whitefly infestation down to manageable proportions by consecutive daily soap sprayings (the pressurised sprayer made that a joy), I mounted my whitefly traps. Within minutes of mounting a couple around my tomato plants (and giving them a good shake to bother the whitefly) they were covered by a large number of soon-to-be whitefly corpses.

A week later there are virtually no whitefly left on my tomatoes! As an aside, the soap solution seems to work even better on red spider mite than on the whitefly. It seems to finally have rid my black eyed Susans of spider mite.

Building the whitefly traps

Combining ideas from the two links above, I decided to cover yellow poster board with plastic, and coating that with a thin layer of oil. Most people seem to use motor oil for some reason, but cooking oil seems to work just as well and is non-toxic to boot! I somehow got confused when shopping, and bought cling-wrap rather than plastic bags. I might have been reading about Roy Orbison that day.

To make the traps, I cut the yellow poster board into roughly 20x15cm pieces and then wrapped them in cling-wrap. I also punched some holes for strings to hang them from using a paper punch. I tied some rope through the holes, and sealed them using prestik. Just to keep it water tight. Finally I applied a light coating of cooking oil using a very advanced brush system. Ok, so I used toilet paper. Below you can seem some pictures of the traps in action.

Whitefly trap 1
Whitefly trap 2

A late update

It’s been a while, but herewith some gardening updates! The damn spider mites seem to be a recurring nightmare on my black eyed suzans. Cooler winter weather coming, so perhaps that will give me a chance to bring them under control. I’ve also had my first good harvest of basil; used it to make pesto. Had no idea pine nuts were so expensive (R60 for 100g!), ended up substituting wallnuts. Tasted good though.

I also planted a rosemary bush into the “real” ground outside my apartment. My “garden” is covered with decorative gravel, but there seems to be (very sandy) soil underneath. Good for rosemary, and since my potted rosemaries don’t seem to be doing anything, I gave it a try. The bush seemed to be doing well till I carelessly stepped on it (while spraying the black eyed susans for spider mite) and broke half the twigs off. Hope it recovers.

Procreational update

A while ago I went about creating a whole bunch of baby plants! The tomatoes are looking good, and I’ve re-potted them again into somewhat larger pots. The bell pepper seedlings are doing similarly well. One of the bell pepper seedlings have been planted into a self watering container made from 7l chutney containers that I got (for free!) from a local restaurant.

I ended up giving one each of the tomato and bell pepper seedlings to a colleague. Also gave her one of the successful origanum cuttings. The other (along with a bell pepper, chives, marigolds and store-bought rosemary and thyme plants) were given as a wedding gift. The wedding couple really seemed to like they idea of receiving plants, although I did have inside info that they were looking to gussy up the garden at their new home :)

Have had no luck with thyme cuttings, even when using growth hormones! I dunno what’s up with that. May be that I used too small cuttings and put them in too shallow soil. Have now tried a much longer (and tender) cutting, planted in more soil, and so far it seems to have made what looks like the beginning of roots fingers crossed. As an aside, it is useful not to harvest your thyme for a while if you are looking for longer tender shoots :)

The garlic seedling has been planted in a 50l washbasin container along with some chives, garlic chives and basil. The basil seems to be thriving, while the garlic chives and garlic are doing fairly well, while the normal chives seem to be just hanging on. Not sure if the (single) basil plant is interfering with the others, or if the basil just doesn’t care as much about the mix of container soil and earth in the pot. I’ll see how it goes, perhaps the chives will do well once they establish themselves, otherwise I’ll make a different plan.

The End

Bed time for this one, folks. Hope to share some more soon, as well as a recipe or two. For now, all the best!

Sharing, Caring and Spider-mites

It feels nice to give, and I got the feeling by donating one each of the tomato, bell pepper and origanum seedlings/cuttings metioned before to a colleague. The garlic chives are also doing better; intially it seemed like only about 4 of the seeds I planted had germinated, but a couple of warm days seems to have brought the total to 10. Perhaps I’ll be giving some of them away too :)

Spider Mite Woes

On a less positive note, my black eyed Susans have been attacked by spider-mite. These little buggers are quite vicious and hard to get rid of. Part of the problem is their very short life-cycle, which frequently leads to resistance against pesticides. Luckily Ludwig’s organic pesticide that I have mentioned before seems effective. I applied it on Saturday (2010-02-20) night, and the following morning the little red specks previously visible on the leaves had changed to black. Interestingly, the concentration of Ludwig’s spray recommended (by the included instructions) for spider mite is much stronger than for just about any other pest, and you also also need to be sure to completely coat the top and bottom sides of the leaves.

A follow-up application will be needed to take care of new hatchlings as the pesticide does not damage the mite eggs. Will probably do that tomorrow night or perhaps even morning, since high temperatures (like Stellenbosch is currently experiencing) leads to a gestation period of as little as 3 days. I saw another organic spider mite specific insecticide in Stellenbosch’s Builders Warehouse Express which claims to be effective against the eggs too. Supposedly it also results in in less colateral damage, but it was quite expensive. I decided to give it a skip.

Yesterday, while collecting herbs for Sunday lunch cooking, I saw that my flat-leaved parsley also seemed to have spider-mites. Since it was next to herbs I wanted to use immediately (Ludwig’s requires you to wait 48 hours after application before harvesting edible food) I squashed them between thumb and forefinger, and tore off the most badly affected leaves. The very flat leaves of the parsely don’t seem to mind the pressure, and there were few enough leaves for it to be manageable.

Seed Collecting

It takes quite a bit longer for the seeds on plants that have bolted to become harvestable that I had imagined. Today I collected some pods from a basil plant that has gone to seed. It seems like it took forever for the pods to turn brown after the petals have droped. Even now only a fraction of them have gone brown.

I’ve been waiting similarly long for a the cos-lettuce that bolted after an aphid attack to produce seeds. Yesterday I got a bit of a surprise when a guest looking at my garden pointed out the Dandelion like parachute balls that had formed on this plant. And attached to the little parachutes were litte seeds! Yay!

I placed the collected seeds in labeled envelopes for storage. They shouldn’t stay there for too long, since I hope to plant them out soon.

The End

I’m getting better at not blogging during times of day that I should be sleeping! In any case, I also wanted to talk about some of my more recent self watering container experiences, but this post is getting too long. But don’t fret, that news will come in the near future :)