This week in the Flog:
- Still harvesting, but mites are everywhere!
Spider mites, broad mites, you name the mite I got it.
The spider mites are terrible here in Asia. This is one of those things that creeps up on you. At first you see one or two plants with some spots and some mite damage. You turn around a week later and half your garden is infested, leaves turning yellow from the damage already. Many leaves are just crawling with the spider mites. These voracious pests are one of the worst agricultural pest insects globally. Well, welcome to Patrick’s garden. Hrmph.
The worst vector for the spider mite expansion? Ants! I’ve observed ants “farming” the mites, carrying them, hovering around them, moving them, but not eating them like they should. It’s an amazing cooperative effort to observe, tragically to the detriment of my garden and pest control efforts. With ants supporting the spider mite population, control is a major issue.
And my pepper plants have a major problem! I didn’t realize what it was at first, all the new growth just shrivelled and died on the stem. The pepper plants grew amazingly and then just crimped and stopped. All the old leaves are fine, the whole plants are fine except for the new growth which is just shrivelled and dead.
So it took some time to figure out. This is such a warm climate, it’s perfect for mites. And it was a mite to blame. Broad mites! Not common except in warm climates, these things inject a toxin into the plant as they feed. They love the young fresh leaves, and the toxin mutilates them as a consequence. Ugh, what a bummer.
At first I wasn’t sure if that was really the problem – I don’t see anything with my naked eye. Mites are small but I have excellent vision! I can see the spider mites easily enough. Well good thing I have a microscope. It just took a quick look at the underside of a crinkled leaf to see, broad mites crawling around like little semi-transparent automatons, mechanically lumbering about their business under my giant gaze – oblivious.
So many mites. The Neem oil is working ok but I’m still seeing a lot of mites. So we need to amp it up a bit. Time to take out the toolkit – plants. I’m brewing a deterrent specifically for mites in an effort to thwart their advance. I’ll ferment each of these things separately:
- Cilantro (Coriander)
- Labuyo Chili
- Parsnip (unavailable in Phil)
- Fish (for the oil)
- Coconut meal (for the oil)
I already have a batch of fish fertilizer, so I’ll skim a little off the top of that for the fish oil. I hope the fish oil helps with delivery and coating of the spray. I think it will – after fermenting, I noticed the fish oil rises to the top if you let it sit. If you shake it up, the solution is completely mixed and takes days for the oil to separate out again. This miscibility is a big factor in how well the oil will work in solution.
Coconut meal is a byproduct of the coconut oil industry here – it is the meat leftover after they squeeze all the oil out. It’s an incredible feed for animals and plants. It still contains around 10% (dependent on process used but mine is around 10%) oil, which has all the benefits of, well, coconut oil! But the oil is locked up in the coco meal flakes:
How to get it out? Ferment! This not only separates the oil out, it also makes it miscible with water (emulsion). This is huge since it will help with delivery. Now that it’s fermented, you have to leave it sitting for a few days for the oil to rise to the top. One good shake and the oil is back in solution and you have to wait again to get this:
I’m so choked I can’t get Parsnip here in the Philippines, or at least everywhere I looked. It’s the only ingredient in my list that’s proven to contain mite-killing compounds, ha ha. The Dill, Cilantro, and Chili are known to deter mites. The Philodendron is a wildcard, I’m using it since it’s known to contain toxins and I’ve never seen it have pest problems. Here’s a shot of the remaining fish hydrolysate, dill, and pepper fermentations. You can see the red of the chili and green of Dill.
They smell incredible. The Dill smells wonderfully dilly, the Cilantro smells like Mexico, the Chili smells hot (also kinda like Mexico), and the Philodendron smells….umm…aromatic? It has a strong smell but hard to place it. It’s pleasant though.
Several of these still need to finish fermenting so I’m still two weeks away from using these. In the meantime my garden will just have to wait a bit.
In a few weeks I’ll write a post on how to combine them and apply. Then we get to see how the mites react.
As you can see, I’m still feeling my way around this stuff too. I’ve been playing with it a long time but there is always more that I want to try, more experiments to do and things to learn. That’s why I started this site, so that I can bring people together who have these weird ideas also. I hope you share this thirst for knowledge and discovery – it’s what the unconventional farmer is all about. Start your own studies and let us know how they go.