Pests and Disease Problems

  1. Fruits Have Sunken Areas at the Blossom End

    This is called "Blossom End Rot" and is a condition caused by a calcium deficiency, but is usually found on plants in a drought condition or with inconsistent watering. This is most often found in tomatoes, but it can effect peppers and eggplants also. Taking control of watering and moisture levels can often solve the problem. Place a mulch down to help keep moisture levels consistent, and be sure to water deeply and infrequently versus frequently and shallow.

    Often plants grown in containers will suffer from this condition. Eggshells burried in the hole with the plant will release calcium as they break down and can also help prevent Blossom End Rot.

  2. Small Greenish Bugs on Plants

    These are most likely Green Peach Aphids. Also known as "plant lice", aphids are found in every part of the country. They are probably the most common pest to attack young transplants. Aphids reproduce like crazy, as females do not need males in order to reproduce!

    Often plants grown in containers will suffer from this condition. Eggshells burried in the hole with the plant will release calcium as they break down and can also help prevent Blossom End Rot.

    Outdoors:Ladybugs and predatory wasps are wonderful predators of aphids and will probably keep them under control on plants grown outside, once the weather has warmed up a bit. For low levels of aphids, knock them down with a strong spray of water. For higher populations, use Insecticidal Soap. They key for success is doing multiple successive sprayings.

    Indoors:Bugs love to come indoors, especially aphids. They can be easily controlled with Insecticidal Soap. They key for success is doing multiple successive sprayings. Spray your plants once or twice before you bring them in, and then another 1-2 times indoors. The shower makes a good spray-down location.

    Pests are attracted to "weaker" plants, those that are malnourished or are under some sort of stress. Be sure that your fertilizing regimen is adequate.

    For higher levels of aphids outdoors, or if the insecticidal soap is ineffective, beneficial insects may be the answer. We use them exclusively for pest control in our greenhouses. These are insects which occur naturally, but because our greenhouses are enclosed they don't readily find their way in. Beneficial insects are killed off by the use of synthetic pesticides - while synthetic insecticides do kill the "bad guys", it also kills a lot of the "good guys". Unfortunately the "good guys" take much longer to bounce back than the "bad guys". Our recommendation is NEVER to start with synthetic pesticides, as it sets up problems all along the way. Some great beneficials for aphids include Ladybugs, Lacewing larvae, Aphidoletes, and Aphidius.

  3. White Bugs Flying Around Plants

    These are most likely Whiteflies. While they may be somewhat controlled with Insecticidal Soap, the best solution here is for the use of Encarsia formosa, a Whitefly parasite. These are tiny wasps that attack only whiteflies, by either eating the scales or laying eggs in the scales. The parasites are shipped inside whitefly scales that are attached to cards, which you hang among the infected plants.

    The best news with Encarsia formosa is that they will stay around if you have Whiteflies, so it is fine to use outside. Ladybugs are prone to flying away, but these will stick around!

    At the first whitefly sign, we set out 1 card of Encarsia formosa per 3 square feet, every week for 3-4 weeks. For greater numbers of whitefly use 1 card per square foot. For best results you need to make consecutive weekly releases to get the parasite established. This is not a cheap quick-fix solution, but once you have Encarsia established they will continue to reproduce and keep your plants Whitefly free.

  4. Something is Eating my Plants!

    First step is to determine whether the attacker is animal or insect.

    Deer and rabbits eat the leaves off of plants, with deer occasionally ripping the plants completely out of the ground. Rabbits tend to eat lower leaves of plants, with deer nibbling the tops. They usually do not eat the chile pods however.

    Insects include caterpillars and hornworms. Their droppings are small (approx 1/16th of an inch) which at times is the only way to tell, because the insect themselves can be camouflaged with the plants.

    Fencing is a good way to keep deer and rabbits out of your garden. Sometimes just wire or string strategically placed can discourage them from entering. For deer, place lines at 6", 12" and 24". For rabbits, place lines at 3", 6" and 12". While this might not completely solve the problem, it has worked for some, and is a good first "line" of defense! The plastic mesh type of fence is a more permanent measure, works well, and is pleasing to the eye - it practically disappears from view. Just be sure to secure it well to the ground as deer would prefer to scoot under than jump over.

    For caterpillars and hornworms, try the simplest solution of finding and removing them. Be very carefully of the horn of hornworms, it is very sharp and can sting badly! These are nasty critters and can completely strip your plants of leaves in a matter of days. Bt, a natural bacteria, works well to rid plants of caterpillars, and is harmless to other insects or people. It is a powder mixed with water and sprayed on the leaves of the plant. It takes a few days to work, while the caterpillars ingest the bacteria. Do not spray if the caterpillars are covered with small, white, rice looking projections, as these are parasitic wasp cocoons and are highly beneficial at attacking and killing hornworms!!

  5. Plant Leaves are Turning Yellow

    his could either be a nutrient deficiency, or more likely, the plants are being overwatered. Overwatering leaches nutrition from the soil, and it stresses the plants by being too wet. Plants need a lot less water than we think. Try fertilizing with fish emulsion and seaweed.

  6. The Flowers on my Plant are Turning Yellow and Falling Off

    Buds will turn yellow and fall off (abort) if conditions are not right, usually due to high day or night temperatures. This will also happen if the plants are too wet or too dry, or if there is too much nitrogen in the soil. We tend to hear this complaint in the middle of the summer when temps are high and soil moisture is not consistent.

    Be sure to mulch you plants as this offers a layer of protection from the hot sun, and helps keep the soil moist. Generally buds will remain on the plant once temperatures cool down, especially as we go into September.

  7. The Skin on my Peppers or Leaves are Turning White and Smooth in Patches

    Most likely, this is sun-scald. This happens on chiles that are not being protected by leaf cover, and the fruit is being exposed to long periods of sun, which is causing a scald of the fruit. The first way to prevent this is to get your plants to a good size before you allow them to produce. Usually fruit is held under the canopy of leaves, but small plants will not have a large canopy for the fruits to hide under!

    This also happens in areas that tend to have many cool and cloudy days, followed by very hot and sunny days. This sun-scald usually does not affect the flavor, but if the fruit is left on the plant, the scalded areas will develop into holes, which may then lead to rotting. We recommend removing all sun-scalded fruit to ripen indoors.

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