Friday, January 18, 2013

White flies are back :( Day 16

Back in 2009, I recounted my woes with fighting whiteflies. Whiteflies are little white flies (not to be confused with little white lies) that are harmless to humans but can infest plants and become really, really annoying as they feed on the underside of plant leaves and lay eggs and larvae.

As I was looking at my new baby sage plant, I noticed little white specks. When I shook the plant, they flew all over the place. Amazingly, it only took a few days for whiteflies to find it. I have no idea where they came from--it's the middle of winter here in New York and you'd think they'd have the decency to wait until spring. My only guess is that they came through a crack in the window and were attracted to the Aerogarden lights. Either that, or they hitched a ride on some clothes or some other plants we brought into the house.

Well, I didn't freak out. Whiteflies are actually a little less invasive than other critters I've dealt with in my indoor gardening such as aphids or spider mites. They're wimps, in that a little shake of the plant will send them flying for dear life, rather than other critters that sink their sharp teeth into the plants and refuse to let go.

It's always tricky treating herbs for pests, as you don't want to use chemicals for anything you will end up eating. Here are the steps I took and would recommend:

1) Use a vacuum cleaner to suck away as many free-flying flies as I can. I had to be careful to keep the nozzle away from the plants, as they're still very fragile.

2) Take some mildly soapy water and wash the underside of the leaves each day, which hopefully will kill any larvae or eggs down there. 

3) Put up Whitefly Traps that I had left over from Gardener's Supply Company. These are basically really sticky pieces of paper that I taped to the side of the AeroGarden. The bright yellow color attracts whiteflies, and they get their little legs stuck on the paper. I'm happy to say that so far they seem to be working just fine: this morning I checked after 12 hours and the Whitefly Trap had 1 whitefly compared to zero on the leaves.

In other news, here was the latest "tip" from AeroGarden Ultra:

Hmmm...yet another "non tip". But it's a good description of what the plants look like.

I'm a little concerned with the sage, which is a bit droopy (it doesn't seem to be related to the whiteflies, as the leaves still look healthy--it seems that the leaves just grew a little too heavy for the stems to support). I'm also concerned with the cilantro, as some of the leaves appear to be getting burned by the light. Still, we'll see if both of these recover in the next few days.

Thyme and oregano are both looking good and almost hitting the plastic domes, but I'll keep them on for as long as I can until I know the whiteflies are under control.

Still waiting on the parsley...according to the seed pod we can give it another 8 days before I start to panic. 

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