Friday, May 22, 2009

Saying Goodbye to the Basil

It was kind of a sad day today in the Indoor Gardener World. Remember the basil that started off this blog, which we'd raised from nothing and then transplanted into pots? Even until today the plants were still going strong, but at the end of the day, the whitefly infestation was just so large that I had to say goodbye to them.

I did get the Whitefly Traps from Gardener's Supply Company, and they worked really well. They come as yellow cards wrapped in plastic. You unpeel the plastic, which reveals a super-sticky surfact. You then attach to a metal stake. Whiteflies are attracted to the yellow color, fly right into it, and get stuck there.

This picture is not for the squeamish, but here you can see it worked. Just after a day, there were a couple dozen whiteflies stuck to two traps I put out.

Unfortunately, when I examined the basil plants further, it seems I set the traps up too late. Every day after I shook the plants free of flies, I would come back the next day to see more of them. They say that a female whitefly can lay up to 200-400 eggs at a time, and I don't doubt it. When I looked at my precious basil against the light, I can see they already sucked the juice out of a lot of the leaves, leaving blotches. While it was probably still safe to wash and use for cooking, I was too repulsed to do that.

So, I took the final "Class Photo" of the Aerogarden Class of 2008 (this reminds me of the photo they took in the movie The Untouchables before everyone started getting killed :P

And then, I proceeded to start throwing out the plants. The Red Rubin basil had been one of my strongest plants, but it was the first to grow. Notice here how since I transplanted it into the pot, the root system grew very nicely.

Similar story for the globe basil

I also threw out the Thai basil, leaving me with two Genovese basil plants. I'll check tomorrow to see if the flies are back, and if so, those will have to go too. All in the name of ridding my apartment of all whiteflies before starting the new Aerogardens, which I've decided will be 1) Mesclun Mix, 2) Snow Peas, and 3) the Classic Aerogarden Herb Kit.

Needless to say, it's now personal. My basil is gone, and now I just have to see if the flies have gotten to my prize gardenia or other ornamental plants.

When I set up the new Aerogardens, I will be following these steps:

A) setting up whitefly sticky traps everywhere
B) setting the light to go on during the day and go off at night so as to not attract them during the dark hours
C) At the first sign of whiteflies, spraying with anything I can find. I've heard that soapy water works well. I also have a bottle of natural essential oils I got from Williams Sonoma that I can try out, although as natural as they are I'm still squeamish about using it on edible plants. Finally, there's an interesting recipe for garlic spray, which I hear whiteflies hate.

Here's a great page of suggestions from others who share this plight.

Wish me luck.

By the way, my plan to plant the Aerogardens is on temporary hold while I wait for a new replacement pump from AeroGrow (I bought it for $9.95 on the official Aerogarden site).

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