OUTDOORS + RECREATION

KSL Greenhouse: Protecting your garden from spider mites

Jul 6, 2024, 7:05 PM | Updated: 7:21 pm

Spider mite damage on a plant....

Spider Mite damage. Note the discolored leaves and webbing.(Larry Sagers)

(Larry Sagers)

SALT LAKE CITY — Roses, green beans, cucumbers, even grass; few plants are truly safe from spider mites. Spider mites are a common garden pest that range from a minor nuisance to a serious problem. And they can be notoriously tricky to control. 

But there is hope. Taun Beddes, host of the KSL Greenhouse show, shared tips for spotting and handling these challenging pests.

Prevention

Plants become particularly susceptible to infestation when they are water-stressed. The dry summer months are a common time for mites to appear in gardens. While no gardener can control the weather, making sure your plants are properly hydrated can help reduce their vulnerability.

Identifying spider mites

Spider mites are incredibly small. So much that they appear as little more than dots to the naked eye. These little bugs are arachnids, distant cousins to spiders and ticks. And, while they can be seen through close observation, there are other signs that show when you might have an infestation.

This microscope image shows a spider mite feeding on a leaf while surrounded by several of its eggs. (Joshua Steffen, University of Utah)

One such sign is discoloration. Many plants, such as green beans and roses, will experience discolored leaves. Look for a dusty light grey-green color.

Spider mites feed on plants instead of other mites and insects. They attack almost any garden plant, causing discolored leaves, reduced yield, and sometimes death. (Larry Sagers)

When a population of spider mites has grown large, you may notice webbing on your plants. Much like their namesake, spider mites spin webs. But, instead of catching prey, the purpose of these webs is to protect them from predators.

How to get rid of spider mites

There are a handful of tried and true ways to get rid of these garden pests. If they’re not too severe and the affected plant is isolated, then sometimes even just a stiff stream of water from your hose daily for several days will knock them off and reduce the population.

Another effective method is using horticultural soap. Horticultural soap is a specialized type of soap used as a plant-safe insecticide, and easy to make at home. While most insecticides are ineffective against spider mites, this specialized soap is consistently capable of clearing contamination.

But, above all, the most important tool against these pests is quick, consistent action. Keep an eye out while you’re in your garden. Watch for the signs. Today it may be on a few leaves, but in less than a week it can spread to every plant. So, proactively removing mites when they’re first spotted is the best way to get rid of them.

Related: KSL Greenhouse: Everything to know about tomatoes

Taun Beddes is a host for the KSL Greenhouse show. You can hear more from Beddes by listening to the The KSL Greenhouse, live every Saturday from 8 a.m.-11 a.m. or by checking out the shows podcast episodes. You can follow the show on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and on our website.

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KSL Greenhouse: Protecting your garden from spider mites