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Cleanliness 102

Integrated pest management (IPM)
By Adrian Turner & Ben Owens

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is imperative to a clean grow and works hand-in-hand with a clean mentality to ensure you have the tools to prevent and address any issues that could arise in your grow. Preventative IPM that targets roots and foliage multiple times a week makes it easier to avoid problems before they start.

While we would all love to create a perfect situation to grow in, the real world still happens. When you have issues, you have to be adaptable. If you’re watering extra because of a problem, you have to be ready to adapt and transplant if needed. I’m big on adaptability, especially as it relates to IPM, and it isn’t as easy as simply saying that you are adaptable; you have to have experience handling issues and using the tools in your tool belt. If you don’t know what to do, the tools won’t help you. Knowing what to do when you have to do things in real time comes from experience.

Acting in real time requires a mentality of cleanliness, the ability and knowledge to deal with a situation, and having the right tools at your disposal. Developing an IPM will reduce the chances of a problem while also giving you the tools to deal with problems in real time should they pop up.

"Keeping a plant healthy is not difficult, once it becomes unhealthy in any way it becomes more susceptible to threats,” adds Colin Gordon.

Proper Care + IPM

Real life happens, but having the proper tools and maintaining proper care of your grow area to the best of your ability are key to mitigating issues. I have 2 kids and a dog, and my garden at home is by no means a lab situation, but I always keep a few products always on hand and I have experience using them which allows me to treat for the main threats: bugs, powdery mildew, and pythium.

PM and other spores can be everywhere, and paying close attention to all possible vector of contamination, including the grower, can often prevent issues from happening. An attitude of cleanliness with the proper preventative process combined with very healthy plants are the best overall defense.

A few tips:

• Healthy plants have a thick, waxy cutin layer on leaves that helps prevent spores from taking hold.

• Defoliating and being mindful of your canopy will ensure proper airflow reaches inner parts of your canopy.

• Make sure your roots have proper aeration and oxygenated substrates. Root infections are common in anaerobic conditions that prevent roots from taking in enough oxygen. Over-watering and excessively wet substrates can hamper root growth and give rise to bacteria and pathogens like pythium (root rot) which can cause a number of other issues.

• When watering in as part of an IPM, ensure equal coverage within substrate, otherwise pockets that go untreated can cause issues to come back.

Recommended Tools:

• Azaguard - Foliar

• Green Cleaner - Foliar

• Monterray Garden Insect Spray - Foliar

• TerraGrow, OG Tea, Recharge, or other beneficial microbial inoculants

• Zerotol (Biosafe) or H2O2

• Carbs/Sugars/Plant Sweetener

• Venerate XC

• Guardivo

• Sufficant

• Des-X

• Captiva


The IPM that we follow at our commercial facility (pictured below) is a three-part system:

• Foliar Treatment to prevent bugs, molds, and mildews. (3x/week)

• Teas & Sugars to reinoculate the plants and protect roots. (1-2x/week)

• Curative treatments to target and resolve issues that occur in spite of preventative efforts. (As needed)

Alternatively to the foliar applications listed, if you are a home grower who does not have access to or need for all of the above sprays, you can also alternate Green Cleaner, Azaguard, and Monterray as needed to take care of all mites, PM, thrips, and aphids. These are all foliar sprays, which means you can apply them in veg and early flower until bud sites develop. Once bud sites produce pistils, cease all foliar sprays and focus on root zone health.

Late Flower IPM

During flower, your goal is to keep the roots as healthy as possible. Make sure that you have an aerated substrate that allows for proper draining and breathability of the root zone. Periodically sterilizing the substrate using H2O2 or Zerotol will help to kill off most everything except certain fungus. Products like Terragrow and other beneficial microbial teas can be added in to target the larvae and other microbial infections. Once you have sterilized, it is important to reinoculate your substrate with microbials. I recommend products like OG Tea, TerraGrow, and Recharge. Specifically, you’re looking for beneficial bascillus including bacillus subtitles, bacillus licheniformis, bacillus amyloliqufaceans, and streptomycin griseus (found in products like Armory).

If you notice a foliar issue (like PM), Zerotol or H2O2 can be sprayed as a foliar and will kill these spores, but preventative IPM is the best approach to avoid the need for sprays once bud sites have developed. If you are noticing PM in flower after bud sites are visible, it is best to mist the affected area(s) with a watered-down Zerotol or H2O2 mix to moisten spores before removal to prevent further spread. VERY IMPORTANT: Never spray mildew or any other fungus spores with just water! If you notice mildew or fungus on your bud sites, spray with H2O2, Zerotol, Double Nickel, or Green Cleaner before touching or moving the plant. This will help with minimizing the spore dispersal when removing infected areas from the plant.

Keep in mind that preventative measures minimize the occurrence of issues; When problems still arise, having a curative IPM gives you the ability to respond correctly in real time.

Curative IPM: Once There’s a Root Issue

If your preventative IPM didn’t catch everything and a root issue has popped up, there is a simple process for dealing with most root issues. In order to tackle these problems, follow this simple process:

• First, you need to sterilize. Use 7-15ml Zerotol (or H2O2) per gallon of water. Water your plants with this. Then, let your plants dry out to at least 80% dry (minimum) before the second step (you don’t want them totally dry, but you don’t want to overwater).

• On your next water, you want to add beneficial microbes as well as some sort of carbohydrate (I.e. molasses, cane sugar, or carbohydrates in your feeding system such as Carbonaria from New Millennium) or plant sweetener. Sterilizing agents will kill everything, good and bad, leaving your roots exposed, and sugars will help re-coat your roots and feed microbes that will further utilize whatever is left in the substrate. Again, allow your substrate to dry at least 80% minimum before step three.

• Repeat your sterilization on the third feed. Water your pants with the mixture and let them dry out before the fourth treatment.

• On the last treatment feed, you will again use a microbial-carbohydrate mixture, this time adding a rooting agent such as CloneX Rooting Solution or New Millennium Lightning Start. This will help catalyze rooting.

Most importantly, if it seems like the plants are being overwatered, then let them dry to the suggested 80% dry minimum before watering again. Just make sure that you are not letting the substrate go completely dry. With these four consecutive water-in treatments, one can overcome most root borne pathogens.

Curative IPM: Once There’s a Foliar Issue

If you’re dealing with a foliar issue, I recommend a four day consecutive foliar spray for bugs and mildew/funugs. This is used when there is an issue present or when moving plant materials from one space to a new space. Some call this treatment a “Quarantine” when they receive new plant materials from outside sources, though quarantine can also happen in isolated environments, too.

• Day 1: Green Cleaner

• Day 2: Azadachtarin

• Day 3: Green Cleaner

• Day 4: Monterey Garden Spray

* You can add a day or more as needed, the most important part is that you are rotating the Azadachtarin and Monterey with Green Cleaner treatment applied in between them.

With each application, spray and cover every part of the plant above the soil level including the stems, limbs, and the undersides of leaves. Do the foliar treatments under low light conditions or when the lights are off and make sure to have good airflow.

The four day treatment is done to break the lifecycle of pests that have laid eggs before the treatment and for the ones that might still be around to lay eggs after the first treatment. This approach works due to the ~3 day gestation period of the eggs from most of the bug pests that we deal with (assuming you have had complete coverage of the applied treatment). Some pests will acclimate themselves to a treatment if it is repeatedly applied over time, so a steady rotation of at least three different products as a foliar contact spray is highly recommended.

Proper IPM involves both preventative efforts as well as preparedness for curative efforts should issues arise. ETHOS employs both preventative and curative IPM procedures to ensure our grows stay as clean and free of issues as possible, while also allowing us to handle issues if needed.