High Brix gardening observation #1

I went to check on one small pot of mint which I’d added the sugar to.

I noticed potential red spider mites coming back to infect some other mints. But this particular one is still clean.

However, one can smell a very slight pungent smell from the soil, if I hold the pot close to my nose. I suspect it’s the sugar feeding the bacteria which is producing some stuff. It’s a very slight smell, and I’m not bothered about it.

Now, to observe some more…


Edited to say:

I went to check on my sawtooth coriander, since the leaves are large enough for thorough examination (I’ve decided to use this for a more proper test), and it’s placed away from my mints so that I can check on my area for mites as well.

Despite having had sugar placed in its soil a few days ago, I’ve observed no good effects on the plant, since I saw today that it got re-infected with A LOT of spider mites.

I have two guesses:
1. The sugar got washed away from my daily top-watering;
2. The sugar has no effect.

Suspecting #1, I’ve filled the pot with four spoonfuls of sugar again. We’ll see.

Various updates

Red spider mites

I finally went Petunia’s method and spent over two hours soaping all my mints down and then rinsing them off. They’re a bit limp now, but will perk up soon.

Gonna repeat this over the weekend.

High Brix Farming

After reading Kelmund’s thread on high brix farming, I went to put about two tablespoonfuls of raw sugar into six pots of mints and into my sawtooth coriander.

The mints are all placed together. I’m going to see if when the RSMs next attack, will the mints with the sugar in the soil be affected or not.

This was how much sugar I put in the pot of my sawtooth coriander.

Green mint – mentha verdis

Growing well after three months. Leaves are getting bigger. They seem happy.

Tea tree seedlings

Some have grown true leaves already. They are still really tiny though. Less than 4mm tall.

Semi-hydroponics lettuces

Not bad going.

(Blooming) Vitex trifolia | General updates

My vitex trifolia’s flowers have finally bloomed. For a plant which is reputed to be a superb mozzie repellent, its flowers are delicately-plumed and a graceful purple. And they’re pretty tiny!

I pruned the plant the other day and gave three cuttings to a fellow GCSer. Methinks they’d root pretty well.

Articles to a village in Samoa using the plant to combat dengue:
Making mosquitoes buzz off, the natural, traditional way

Warding off mosquitoes

I’ve cleared A LOT of plants which were either dying, dead, or too sickly from the RSM attacks to be of use. So far, I have cleared:

1. Totem cherry tomato – I suspect it’s my small planter box, with a lack of certain fertilizers, and then an overdose of fertilizers that killed it;

2. Old pots of chocolate mints – too scarred by RSMs; still have some rebel forces of RSMs hiding beneath some leaves;

3. Two pak choy plants – the ones in the water reservoir started lagging and not doing well, even after so long. So off they went;

4. Suspected black peppermint – took cuttings to root; threw away mother pot;

5. Original pot of lemon balm – this was from ONE single stem cutting I took from my first pot of lemon balm, which my dad killed. Got too attacked by RSMs;

6. Lemon basil | Sweet basil | Italian Genovese basil – I’ve let all of them bolt. Since I don’t use basil at all, might as well collect the seeds for future planting, and clear out the parent plants;

7. Piper sarmentosum – so battered by the rain.

I think that’s about all for the moment. I’m currently doing a lot of stem cuttings to root new plants, so that I can throw away the parent plants which are/have been attacked and scarred badly by red spider mites.

Lemon myrtle is growing like…I dunno. O_o It’s huge, and definitely top-heavy.

(Pest control) Red spider mites and mealy bugs

After doing months of pest control in trying to eradicate the red spider mites, I finally got tired (yups, I’m way too impatient) and hosed down all my mints to get the RSMs away. So now they’re clean. But the leaves have a lot of stains from my seaweed emulsion though. Heh.

Also, found two lone mealy bugs pestering one of my mints. So I flicked them off and drowned them in water. It’s fun to see them on their backs, their wriggling legs thrashing around, and drowning.

Yes, I am mean.

But my mints are now pest free.

(Pest control) Dealing with pests

Since around late March, my red spider mites (RSMs) problem escalated till many plants were infected like crazy. I had to throw away a lot of my hydroponics spinach seedlings; I had to watch out for my lettuces; my mints and basils were exceptionally infected.

I’ve come to learn now that for dealing with the common pests, small daily prevention is better than spending weeks or even months on trying to contain the situation once the pests have gotten out of control.

It is exceptionally troublesome for edible plant growers, especially if they want to take the organic path. For myself, I don’t trust in using commercial pest killers (until things get totally crazy). I have a few spray bottles filled with different kinds of home-made solution for pest control:

1. Diluted seaweed extract with drops of tea tree essential oil – this is more of a daily prevention thing. The seaweed extract provides growth hormones for the plants. At the same time, I also spray beneath the leaves, and the tea tree oil helps to suffocate them.

2. Home-made white oil – solution of water with cooking oil and diswashing liquid, with a drop or two of tea tree oil. Used as a direct attack. If sprayed on plants before the plants are watered, it causes pretty severe leaf burn.

3. Water with a few drops of white oil – kept in the fridge to keep the solution cold.

With the daily spray of #1 and the alternate sprays of #2, my RSM problem has started coming under my control.

A week or more and I expect to see my plants more or less clear of these pests.

(Updates | Pest Control) Vitex trifolia; mulberry cuttings; red spider mites

Vitex trifolia

I got these as cuttings from a local nursery. The mother stock was a large tree over two meters tall. Since I’d been a regular customer at the nursery and one of the bosses knows me, he gave me some cuttings.

It’s supposed to be a pretty effective mosquito repellent. The leaves can be burnt for that purpose too.

I treated the cuttings I got (some time back in March or so) the same as mulberry cuttings – I stripped off the outer bark about one inch in length from the bottom of each cutting, applied rooting hormone, and firmed the soil around the cuttings; after which they were left in a bright but shaded area. They root surprisingly easily.

The plant now.

Healthy leaves.

Another set of leaves.

Mulberry cuttings

Got these mulberry cuttings from Chawanmushi of GCS (very kind lady!) The ones in the pictures are their second time sending out shoots. I think it should be safe by now to let the shoots form instead of snipping them off to direct energy to root development. But if not, well, give them a few more days, and I’ll snip them off for my dad’s tortoises.

Red spider mites

Still around, but getting them firmly under control. I saw that my vitex trifolia’s lower set of leaves were infected, so I snipped them off, sprayed white oil on the mites, then did a photo-shoot of their tiny carcasses.

Insignificant-looking red dots – killers of plants.

Leaves scarred by the mites.

Compared with the healthy leaves.

(Updates | Harvesting | Cleared)

Sharp-leaf spinach

Cleared two hydroponic bottles of sharp-leaf spinach plants because they were so deformed by the red spider mites’ attacks. Kept one bottle and one vermiculite one.

The picture shows a leaf scarred by the mites.

Butterhead and local lettuces

Harvested since they got toppled from their hydroponics bottles by the wind and rain anyway.

Piper sarmentosum

Pruned the piper sarmentosum heavily because it was top-heavy.

The leaves are almost as big as my palm. What HAVE I been feeding my plants with?!

Lemon myrtle

I forgot about my surviving lemon myrtle plant for months, and it was only when it half-toppled from the rain and strong winds today that I took notice of it when I went to rearrange plants and clear dead ones.

It. Is. Huge.

Not as huge as my lemon eucalyptus (I don’t know why I’m comparing…) but still.

What have I been feeding them?!

(Pest control) An all-out war

Great. I placed my mints all where they can get maximum sunlight for growth, and the next thing I know, 90% of the red spider mite infestation migrated there, happily building webs and stuff. The mints towards the inside of the corridor are fine – they’re not baked nor dried so much.

I’ve been on a weird mood lately, so what I did was water the plants, spray ice-cold water on them within five minutes to allow a thin layer of protection for the leaves (too lazy to wait for 30 minutes), then spray homemade white oil on them to torture the mites, and then cut off half the length off ALL my mints. They now look botak.

It was an intense and brutal prune. But the mints were getting so unruly anyway, so it was time. Fewer leaves = less space for the RSMs to hide in.

Mints are very resilient. They might lose all their leaves but will bounce back given enough water and sunlight.

(Pest control) Battle plan – one step farther

After using refrigerated seaweed extract didn’t seem to deter the red spider mites, I have gone one step farther – made my own white oil using a combination of vegetable oil, dishwashing liquid, and water.

I’ve watered the plants to build up their protection, and have just sprayed the mixture on the RSMs.

I still don’t want to buy any kind of pesticide…yet. But am looking at two – Liquid Deris Plus (which breaks down upon contact with air and light); white summer oil. Both are safe for edibles because they break down.

We’ll see how this home-made concoction goes.

I hope the RSMs suffocate.

I’ve left the little spider on my basils as alone as I can, though.

(Pest Control) Still an ongoing fight

I’ve been spraying my plants almost religiously with seaweed extract these few days in an attempt to get rid of the red spider mites. I’ve been misting my plants (and especially the undersides of their leaves) about four to five times everyday.

This morning, I realized that the originally infected plants seem to have gained more RSMs on certain leaves. From being simply scattered around, there seems to be a clear infestation now.

I went to google on RSMs and saw this page on how to deal with them. Apparently, just misting might not be good enough. Off goes my spray into the fridge.

This is a war I will win.

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