Master gardeners learn that getting rid of garden pests should proceed along the principles of IPM – Integrated Pest Management. Plants in the high desert are stressed to begin with, from low water, high heat and desiccating winds, to name just a few sources of trouble. Organisms that feed on plants go after the weaker ones. Beating pests into submission doesn’t start with chemicals – in fact, most of the common pests that attack marijuana plants can be managed or annihilated with low-impact methods. That’s one of the main ideas that IPM is based on – first, try the gentler methods.
Prevention is key. Most gardeners would rather keep pests away than deal with an infestation. Here are a few common pests, some preventative measures to deter them and effective but eco-friendly ways to get rid of them.
Slugs and snails: They love to munch on tender buds and their slime trails can kill the leaves.
Prevention: Rake moldy leaf matter away from the base of the plant so you can see the little buggers and they can’t climb on the old leaves to get a boost up the stalk.
Good riddance: Go out at night with a flashlight and gloves, pick the stoned snails off the leaves and fling them into your neighbor’s yard. It’ll take them a while to find their way back to yours. If there are too many snails to pluck, put a plate (not a bowl; they need to crawl in easily) of beer at the base of the plant. They’ll get to the beer before they get to the plant. And you will find a plateful of dead, bloated slugs in the morning. Gag me, but it works.
Animals: Deer, elk, cattle and squirrels can strip a plant or two in one night.
Prevention: Fencing, of course.
Good riddance: Sprinkle predator urine around the plants, including your own pee, because animals know we are carnivores. You can also purchase predator urine from hunting supply stores. The best method to fight off smaller pests like squirrels is fox or coyote scent, the odor of their natural predators, usually sold online.
Spider mites and aphids: Usually a problem if you’re growing indoors, but can show up on outside plants, too. (Don’t ask me how I know.)
Prevention: These little rascals reproduce like crazy (especially the red mites) but they don’t like to get wet. Mist your leaves with water every other day so they don’t accumulate, especially on the backsides of the leaves where these insects hide.
Good riddance: Signs of spider mites include tiny webs and little black or red dots on the backs of leaves. Steep some garlic in hot water to make a tea and use that as a spray. Bugs don’t like garlic. Use frequently. It won’t harm the leaves or change the taste of the buds.
If you’re unafraid of karma, these pest-deterring ways will help you sleep at night. If you’re terrified that Mother Nature will avenge her offspring, you’re going to need to burn some sage before bedtime.