A couple days after I completed planting out my two first community gardens in Dade City, my tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplant started to show signs of pests or disease damage. Figure 1 is a picture of one of my pepper plants. Most of all the damage (the damage on the edges) is mechanical; wind damage and other non-predatory methods. One of the leaves showed small signs of crinkling, which could result from a pest that pierces and sucks the leaf.
Tip: One of the biggest mistakes a gardener/farmer can make is too assume. Never assume that you have x pest or disease because the symptoms appear to be so. Always identify the pest or disease by checking under the leaf for live pests (or collect a leaf for disease). If you cannot identify found pest/disease, contact your local extension office for additional help. You cannot get rid of a problem until you have correctly identified it.
I scouted for pests by taping the leaves of my plants on top of a white paper, and collected what fell onto the page. I took the samples into the Dade City Extension Office and asked them to help me identify them. I found thrips (http://bit.ly/2nEfJbc) on my bell peppers, spider mites (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in307) on my eggplant, and aphids (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in1054#FIGURE1) on my tomatoes; oh my.
Tip: Eggplants tend to be a good indicator plant for spider mites, as spider mites favor it. Sunflowers are also a good trap plant for aphids. Sunflowers will attract the pest, and then you can spray that particular plant.
Immediately, to help control the populations, I sprayed all the plants with soapy water. (http://bit.ly/2nElF3U) About a week later, the final frost of the occurred and hopefully killed off most the populations. Regardless, I will continue to scout my garden for pests and stay on top of them to prevent a population boom that would have to be controlled with a hard chemical.
From my garden to yours,
Our next blog: Fertilization and Calculations
Down the road: Anticipating and bouncing back from the elements. What can I do about a last minute frost?
Future topics: Pest Prevention
Eden Santiago-Gomez is the Community Gardens Program Assistant, with UF/Pasco County Extension Office. Eden is creating community gardens throughout the county, starting in little ol’ Dade City. The program is designed to help low-income communities grow their own food to diversify and increase their nutrition intake, while also increasing financial security.
Deciding to start a community garden, or a smaller garden at home, is always a great decision. So many marvelous things can derive from it like fruits and veggies (of course;) and less obviously, positive community development. But, what happens when your beautiful plants become diseased, infected with bugs/insects, or simply struggle against the elements of nature? The following is an observational narrative of my personal struggles and remedies throughout the central Florida season. I focus on what to look out for (aka warning signs and symptoms), most common pests, gentle solutions to get rid of pests, and how to prevent disease.