One of the reasons people choose Tower Garden over traditional soil gardening is because of the reduction in bugs. Now I’m never going to tell you it’s bug-free because I would be lying. But pest control on a Tower Garden is pretty straightforward really.
First, as there is no soil, you completely do away with soil-born pests like nematodes.
Second, as the Tower is vertical, bugs are a lot easier to see at a glance. It’s easier to spot bugs on your Tower as you are walking past versus spotting bugs on crops in an in-ground garden by your feet!
So let’s dive in and learn 3 simple steps to simplify pest control on a Tower Garden!
1. Check Your Tower Daily
At the end of the day, Tower Garden is still a garden. It’s not a case of “if” you’ll have pests on your Tower, but rather “when”. If you start you’re gardening adventure with this mindset you will be much better off, and better prepared.
Check your Tower daily for pests. Pests are much easier to get under control in the early days. If the problem has been going on unnoticed for weeks it can be an uphill battle that will often result in defeat.
Now, don’t think you have to go over your Tower with a magnifying glass, because you don’t. Just glance over it when you’re walking by, harvesting, cleaning, snacking or just enjoying the Tower.
We often see growers post pictures of infestations in Tower to Table on Facebook, and these infestations have clearly been brewing for some time.
2. Spray Down with Water
I learned a great tip from Tim Blank around 2010. He told me that he sprays his towers daily with the hose. Take your garden hose and use the gun/nozzle to spray it down. You want enough pressure to dislodge any pests and eggs, but not enough that you are going to damage your plants or young seedlings. This is a great first line of defense! If you can’t do it every day, once or twice a week is better than not at all.
3. Treat As Needed
There are really only a handful of different pest control solutions we recommend keeping on hand. Something for Caterpillars and something for virtually everything else.
There are dozens of different types of caterpillars but they all have three things in common.
- They will eat holes in the leaves. If left to feast they will eat the whole leaf leaving just the stems behind.
- They will turn into moths or butterflies.
- Most broad-spectrum pesticides are not effective in controlling caterpillars.
The color and size of the caterpillar will depend on the type of caterpillar. They can range in size from a ml thick to a little thicker than a ballpoint pen!
Different types of caterpillars will eat different crops. For example, you’ll only see the Tomato hornworm on tomato plants.
Neem oil and most other broad-spectrum pesticides are not effective at controlling caterpillars so they will need to be treated with something with the active ingredient Bacillus Thuringiensis. Look for Thuricide, or BT to treat caterpillars/worms.
Follow the directions on the bottle when it comes to dosage and application frequency. Different products can have different oils and additional ingredients, so the dilution directions for one may be different to another similar product.
Look out for a future post that dives a little deeper into Caterpillar control.
Broad-spectrum pesticides are great at controlling a wide range of pests. Many will control Aphids, whiteflies, thrips, mites and more. Neem oil is often recommended online because people know it’s a pesticide that is safe to use on food. However, I’m not a huge fan of using it by itself. It works much better when mixed with insecticidal soap. Think back to science at school. Oil and water do not mix, so in order to use Neem OIL and water, you need an emulsifier. Insecticidal soap is a great insecticide, but it’s also an emulsifier. WIN WIN! Again, follow the directions on the label when mixing and applying. Just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean you won’t kill your crops! Spraying too often or not diluting the pesticide enough is a recipe for disaster and you’ll only get away with it for a short period of time.
Organic Pest Control Spray
- In a glass jar or shaker bottle, mix 1 c. warm water: ½ Tablespoon Cold Pressed Neem ½Tablespoon of Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds or Insecticidal Soap.
- OPTIONAL: ½ Tablespoon of Thuricide if caterpillars or armyworms are present.
- SHAKE WELL.
- Add the mixture to a 32 oz sprayer, and fill up the sprayer the rest of the way with water.
- Spray the plants well in the evening, thoroughly coating the plants.
- Rinse the plants off in the morning with a hose.
Some other useful tips when using Neem and Soap.
- Never spray when the sun is up. The oil and sun can burn the leaves. Always spray near sundown or at night.
- Beneficial bugs can be harmed by neem oil, so spraying at night ensures they are not around.
- Neem oil is an oil and it must be emulsified with soap. Otherwise, it simply floats on the water.
- Neem works by disrupting the hormones of insects that eat your crops and by suffocating soft-bodied insects.
Leafminers do the very thing the name suggests. They mine their way between the top and the bottom leaf. Because of this topical applications of pesticides rarely work. Here is a really cool video that shows the lifecycle of leafminers.
Organic pesticides dissipate in around 8 hours usually, so unless the adult is laying eggs and then eating the sap after you have applied pesticides, it’s a complete waste of time. What you need to do is break the life cycle.
To do this you can use sticky traps to trap the adults while flying. The sticky traps work like fly paper, catch the adult leafminer and it dies. Sticky traps also work for other flying pests too.
You should also remove and dispose of leaves that have leafminer damage as there’s a good chance the larvae are still inside the leaf. Disposing of the leaf will break the life cycle and stop the same thing from happening again and again.
Those are some pest control basics. We’re going to dive into each one in more depth, so keep an eye out for those posts.
Do you have Powdery Mildew on your crops? Read What is Powdery Mildew and 4 Ways to Treat it To Grow a Healthy Garden.