Controlling your environment is the key to a healthy growroom, and cleanliness is the most important factor. Here are a few common plagues and how to rid your garden of them properly.
Dust in the Wind
Your plants don’t like a dusty environment. It clogs the pores on the surface of the leaves, making the plants work harder for the necessary stuff of green life. Green is good, and photosynthesis can grind to a halt without fresh air reaching the leaves. A good way to keep the dust down is by doing some simple cleaning (of your area, not the plants). Use unperfumed soap and water and a good, thick rag. I’ve found that unperfumed dish soap works great; normal soap will kill most of the cooties that can pop up. Some growers like to use antibacterial soap, and that works great too. Wipe down everything, including whatever gardening utensils you use.
Keeping your area dust-free will minimize the chances of mold or fungus growing in your environment. A dust-free area also lends itself to preventing insect infestations, since most insect eggs are small and light enough to be carried around along with the dust.
Any appliances you’re using, such as fans and pumps, will also last longer if they’re clean. Dust gets into everything, and most gadgets used in a hydroponic environment have many moving parts. Get those parts dirty and they’ll stop working eventually. This is something you absolutely don’t want to have happen in the middle of a growing session! Think preventative maintenance.
Spraying the plant down with plain water during the vegetative stage is a great way to reduce dust buildup on leaves. You can add some mild nutrient solution to your spray bottle as well for foliar feeding. Clean leaves produce more sugars, and more sugars mean bigger flowers and heavier harvests.
In every environment on earth, there are insects to contend with. Some are good. Many are bad. They can live pretty much anywhere — and sadly, this includes your growing area.
The first step in keeping your growroom free of infestations is a tightly controlled air intake. If you take in air from the outside (or from another room), make sure it’s filtered. A run-of-the-mill furnace air filter works great. They’re usually pretty big, but you don’t have to use the whole thing — just cut it to the size you need, then stick it over the intake hole with some good old-fashioned duct tape.
All it takes is one aphid to start an infestation, since aphids produce hundreds or even thousands of offspring. Once an infestation begins, it’s only going to get worse, so you have to jump on it and act immediately. If you see one little winged critter in your grow area, bust out the insecticide.
Some people will frown on using insecticides, but the fact remains that you have to use them sometimes. You simply don’t have a choice, because one aphid can mean the death of your entire crop in a matter of days. And it doesn’t take a lot — spraying for a second or two will do the trick, and there are many organic solutions to choose from. If you’ve ever gardened, you probably haven’t even thought twice about spraying the critters on your tomato plants, right? Most marijuana growers use a leaching process at the end of the grow cycle anyway. This leaching process gets rid of any chemical that is foreign to the plant’s biology, so spray away.
That’s how to prevent the onslaught of an aphid infestation (or any other creepy critters). But what if you didn’t notice in time and they’ve already taken over your growing area? The answer is more complex and requires a bit more work. We’ll use aphids as an example, and a mixture of peat and perlite for the growing medium.
So you’ve just discovered that your growing area is deluged with tiny winged demons. The first thing you need to do is seal the area and run for the insecticide. Start spraying at the furthest point from the door or opening and work your way out. An hour later, a majority of the critters will be dead, but not all. To get all of them, you have to do some digging, scraping and wiping.
Digging, you ask? Well, critters such as aphids like to burrow into any tiny crevice, and this includes the uneven and porous surface of your peat-and-perlite growing medium. You’ll have to take off at least an inch of medium from the top of the growing container and seal it up in a plastic garbage bag.
But don’t replace the medium just yet. The next step is to scrape any smooth surfaces to remove the eggs and droppings your critters left behind. Then get yourself a rough rag and some insecticidal soap. Scrub everything, and I do mean scrub. Aphid eggs are tough and will probably be stuck to everything. After that’s done, back out of the growing area, spraying the insecticide again. An hour later, come back and replace the top layer of medium. Make sure you’ve moistened it with pure pH-balanced water (i.e., no nutrients) before you lay it on.
It should be business as usual now, though you might have to spray again. Maybe next time you’ll keep a closer watch, right?
New Pot-Plague Alert:
Tobacco Mosaic Virus
This is the bane of every tobacco-smoking grower. Tobacco mosaic virus shows up as a brownish spiral rash on your foliage and buds. As the name suggests, it’s a virus that originally became famous for attacking tobacco plants (in fact, it was the first virus ever to be discovered), though it has since moved on to other plant varieties.
Once TMV has established itself on your plant, it spreads fast and must be cut out. The only thing you can do is to take a hit in terms of growth and trim off all the leaves that show spots. (I’ve used a hole-punch and it worked great.) TMV can spread from plant to plant by contact, including via the grower, so wash your hands frequently between plantings and be careful not to spread it around.