One of the most annoying problems the Knight has faced in the Cottage Garden is spider mites. The chemicals farmers used to use for these sorts of pests are no longer available, and besides, we want a more natural solution.
The Damsel was going to show you a magnified picture of a spider mite but they gave her nightmares. So no.
Last year the garden managed to still produce fairly well but many plants were really stressed from spider mite attacks. By this time last year, our potatoes were pretty much dead, with just a fraction of the yield we’d hoped for. The Damsel felt sad about it. She knows how it feels to be picked on by little creatures. So this year the Knight has been trying something new, and so far it’s working.
Soapy water has been used for over 200 years to control insects, and with the new interest in “going green” and growing organically, people like the Knight are giving it a try. A little soap has long been used by farmers to make water “wetter” by breaking its surface tension. Apparently it’s also lethal for little bugs. Too bad!
How can you tell if you have a spider mite problem? Take a piece of white paper out to the garden, hold it under some leaves, and tap the leaves briskly. Stuff will fall onto the paper. Some of it will be dust and other garden debris. Look closely. Do any of the dust specks move? They’re probably spider mites–after all, they are super common.
Put some soap (we used cheap dishwashing soap) in a dial sprayer. Set the dial for 3 ounces per gallon, connect your hose, and the sprayer will automatically mix the soap with the spraying water in the right dilution.
These spray dealios are really quite neat. You can of course use them for other things you might spray…just make sure it’s clean before you use it for the soap. (The Knight likes him some Roundup now and then, for example. You don’t want any of that kind of residue)
Spray the plants, trying to hit the undersides of the leaves as much as you can. That’s spider mite hometown. Then spray the tops.
You can dial it back to 2 ounces–just use enough that you can see a light amount of suds on the leaves. Too much isn’t good for the plants.
In the interest of full disclosure, some internet sources say that dishwashing soap isn’t the best choice, and there are special soaps made for spraying in the garden you ought to pony up for. Apparently some plants don’t care for cheap dishwasher soap at all. The Knight has used it on potatoes, tomatoes and roses and things seem good. Your mileage may vary. Why not try the cheap stuff on a small percentage of your garden and see how it goes?
In order to get rid of a spider mite infestation, you have to do this every two or three days until they seem under control.
Soap–a good thing, in more ways than you thought.