Guide to Amendments, Insecticides, and Fungicides
Even the best gardens can run into issues at some point whether it be a problem with nutrients, pests, or disease. Typically this is where gardening inputs such as amendments, pesticides, or fungicides are introduced to the grow to combat these common issues. Since there is such a wide variety of unique situations that a gardener can encounter, and so many products to choose from it can be difficult for even an experienced gardener to know exactly which product they need.
Amendments are used to repair the condition of your soil. Depending on the amendment you choose to use, you can improve the drainage, pH and nutrient levels, as well as the water retention capabilities of your soil. Typically amendments are worked or tilled into your soil at least a few weeks before planting to give the substance time to break down and make a change to the soil structure.
Common amendments and their uses:
- Gypsum - Loosens heavy soil & aids calcium deficiency.
- Alfalfa Meal - Excellent source of trace elements and encourages rapid growth.
- Neem Seed Meal - Helps balance nutrient levels in soil, and helps develop strong root systems.
- Bone Meal - Provides both phosphorus and nitrogen.
- Worm Castings / Bat Guano / Chicken Manure - Very beneficial for increasing soil's nutrient levels which can help reduce the need for alternative fertilizers later down the road.
One of the most frustrating and difficult issues that a grower can face is an invasion of pests. From spider mites and thrips, to caterpillars and aphids, any nonbeneficial insect that is in your grow room can mean serious trouble. Luckily most insecticides work effectively against a wide range of pests, but there are a few key differences to consider when deciding which product to go with.
Organic/synthetic - This is primarily a concern for growers who are trying to keep their garden completely organic. There are many different insecticides and pesticides that are derived from organic, natural sources that work to repel or kill pests. A great deal of these contain Pyrethrum which is derived directly from Chrysanthemum flowers. Synthetic insecticides are very powerful, however they utilize chemicals in order to increase their effectiveness that an organic gardener will want to avoid.
Application types - There are two primary types of application that you can decide between when choosing an insecticide or pesticide:
Foliar spray: This can be made from either a concentrated liquid, or powder that is diluted with water then sprayed directly onto the leaves of your plants. This is a very efficient and fast acting form of application that begins helping fight the infestation immediately. Azamax made by General Hydroponics is a commonly used concentrate for foliar sprays.
Granular: This is applied directly to the top of your soil and works well as a preventative for crawling type insects such as earwigs, ants, and silverfish. A common popular powder based product is diatomaceous earth.
Traps: Sticky traps are an incredibly useful tool for gardeners as they can be hung directly from your plants, or very close to the canopy of the garden. They are helpful not only for reducing flying insects in your garden, like gnats and flies, but can also help inform you of new pests that may be appearing in your garden as the trapped insects remain stuck to the hanging trap for you to inspect.
Concentrate vs ready to use - When choosing between different pesticides you will likely see that you have the choice between concentrate or ready to use spray. All this means is that the concentrated form will need to be diluted with with another liquid, typically water, prior to application, this diluted mixture would then be loaded into a garden sprayer to be applied to your plants. Ready to use products instead come already loaded into a spray bottle, and are ready to be applied directly to your plants immediately.
Unfortunately pests are not the only common and frustrating issue that can disrupt an otherwise healthy garden. Plants are very susceptible to diseases that can be caused by fungus and poor environmental conditions. When facing issues like powdery mildew and mold, a good working fungicide may be the only thing that can rescue your garden.
Just as with insecticides, you can find fungicides in either powder or liquid form, and they can be utilized as both a preventative to avoid disease issues, or as a treatment for plants that are already suffering from such issues. For a fungicide that can help with a variety of issues, consider using this garden fungicide made by Safer Brand, that comes ready-to-use right out of the package.
If you are gardening hydroponically you will also need to be aware of and actively preventing the growth and spread of algae within your system. Utilizing a water chiller to maintain ideal water temperature and a reservoir that is light proof, will go a long way towards preventing any issues with algae or root based disease, however no system is completely immune and a complication may still find a way into your hydroponic garden. An excellent method of both prevention and treatment for these type of problems are products like Florashield made by General Hydroponics. Florashield will not only help rinse and cleanse your roots of any negative issues they are battling, but it will also help prevent the return of the issue as well.
Whether it is your first time growing, or if you have many seasons under your belt, there are always new lessons to learn in the garden. These lessons usually arise when facing a new issue with your plants that you haven't faced before and are not sure how to handle. So don't worry if you find yourself battling against a deficiency, pest, or disease that you aren't quite sure how to handle, it's all a part of the process of learning and growing as a gardener!