In the latest Reaper Growing Camp Event, Smokin’ Ed is back to talk all about one of the most important parts of growing plants, and one of the topics we get the most questions about: pest control. Pest control is important for all plants, especially if your plants live inside of a greenhouse. If you aren't growing in a greenhouse, no problem. Still check out the video—it will give you the inside scoop on how to protect your Reaper plants from destructive critters.
At PuckerButt Pepper Company, the team likes to keep their pest control methods as natural as possible. As Ed says, nature provides a lot of natural pest control remedies, and one of his top choices for any greenhouse or garden is the praying mantis. When you order praying mantis seeds, the company you order from may advise you to keep the eggs in the container until they hatch. However, Ed likes to do things a little differently.
When praying mantises lay eggs, they create an egg case that protects about 200 eggs at a time. The praying mantis will then hang this egg case from a branch. Ed takes a paperclip and runs it through the hole that is already in the egg sac from the branch. The paperclip allows you to easily hang the eggs from any of your plants, a nearby tree or the side of the greenhouse. Praying mantises will eat anything they find, even each other! Releasing them all season long is a great way to keep your plants consistently pest-free.
The next natural pest control option used at PuckerButt Pepper Company is green lacewings. The crew will order a bunch of green lacewing eggs, open up whatever container they come in and leave the eggs near plants to hatch on their own. Green lacewings are voracious eaters, and they do a superior job protecting your plants. Another hungry insect? Lady bugs. They may be cute, but they’re just as ravenous as green lacewings, and they work well with praying mantises, too. Between these three bugs, your garden or greenhouse should be safe from the majority of plant eating-pests.
Out in the fields, the PuckerButt team uses parasitic wasps to take care of pesty worms. Parasitic wasps will chow down on any unwanted pests in your garden, too. In December and January when things are cooling down in South Carolina, PuckerButt Pepper Company often experiences an aphid and/or white fly infestation. When naturally occurring pest controllers can’t take care of the situation, neem oil is another natural option. Make sure you watch the Event No. 5 video to learn more about what neem oil is, what it does, where you can get it and how to use it.
As your plants keep growing, Ed also recommends pinching off the leaves that are at the base of the plant. These are fan leaves, and they will eventually turn yellow and fall off on their own. Removing them ahead of time allows more light to get to new shoots that grow where the fan leaf meets the stalk. These shoots will lead to more branches, which will in turn lead to more peppers. And, removing these leaves gives the plant more access to air while also making it easier to water. Make sure you’re pinching the leaves off, not tearing or ripping them upwards, to protect the stalk. When removing leaves, the highest Ed recommends going is up to the first split in the stalk.
More Reaper Growing Questions and Answers:
- Do I need to buy big barrels and premix my dirt? It’s something the PuckerButt team does, but it isn’t necessary. Skip to 9:33 in the video to see how Ed and Tom premix their dirt.
- Should I use Seven dust? In extreme cases only. Seven dust will kill everything, good, bad or indifferent. It’s also poisonous, so if you have kids or pets, you need to use extra caution. Always make sure you thoroughly wash all of your produce.
- Do you use Seven dust in the greenhouse? No. Ed invests a lot of time and money into his natural pest solutions, and the Seven dust would kill off all of his helpful insects that are tackling the same job.
- What does topping off the plant mean? When they say they top off plants, the PuckerButt team doesn’t mean they cut off the tops of plants. Instead, it means they add additional soil to the plant’s pot. Fast forward to 11:20 to check out the process.
One more tip, don’t forget to water your plants! Ed recommends watering twice a day, especially when it’s hot outside. If you don’t keep up with watering, some of the plants are bound to shrivel up and die. So keep your plants wet, and as always, keep your questions coming to email@example.com! Ed and the team are having a fun time answering them, and we look forward to more Reaper Growing Camp discussions to come.