While we’re taking the soil out of the equation and moving the gardening operation indoors, it doesn’t mean that the threat of invasive and damaging insects are gone. Many people get into hydroponics because it’s environmentally greener and the last thing they want to do is cover their plants in chemical insecticides. There are many different ways that a hydroponic gardener can take care of bothersome insects.
No Soil Doesn’t Mean No Bugs
Many times soil-based garden have pests start out as larvae in the soil and then hatch to become the thrips and fungus gnats of our collective nightmares. Just because there’s no soil, doesn’t mean these larvae can’t propagate your aggregate. Rockwool is a popular aggregate choice in hydroponics as is coir coco fibers, but they are also the preferred home of these pests.
The porous aggregate makes a great place to incubate, but even aeroponic systems can have pests. Root aphids have been known to attach to the bare hanging roots and suck out the nutrients like a hydroponic Slurpee.
Fight Fire With Fire
Since chemicals are not an option, some gardeners are taking a hint from Mother Nature and turning their garden into an ecosystem where survival is the fittest. They are bringing in natural insect predators to kill the pests. The great thing about predators is they eat the insects, but leave the plants alone.
The biggest downside to this is you’re adding even more insects to your garden area. This might not be a problem for hobbyists with their backyard greenhouses, but large companies seeking to turn a profit may find it unseemly to have so many insects in their growing area.
While it may not be the most humane way of pest control, the use of Diatomaceous Earth is effective. Diatomaceous Earth is created from the fossilized remains of diatoms that lived millions of years ago. They are ground into a fine powder and used on the plants as an insecticide. It is incredibly abrasive and absorbs the fat from the exoskeletons of the insects, making them brittle.
Ironically, it can also be used as a growing medium as well. The powder absorbs water and nutrients and allows for greater oxygen circulation.
The best way to make sure no pests show up in your hydroponic garden is to clean up your planting area on a regular basis. Gardeners should not leave dead leaves or debris on their plant or they risk infestation and all materials should be sterilized after each crop. This prevents contamination from one crop to another. If the pest issue is large, then draining and sterilizing the medium will be necessary.
Bugs are a fact of life with any garden, it doesn’t matter if is hydroponic or in soil. Your crops are a food supply and they’re hungry. With chemical insecticides an environmental no-no, it’s important to find environmentally friendly ways to prevent and get rid of them. It defeats the purpose of hydroponics to douse your crops in toxic chemicals.