Mom's yard infested with spider mites

jenn(SoCal 9/19)October 10, 2012

My mom (in Glendale) had her big beautiful backyard re-landscaped early last year. Lots of new plants were added around a lawn. Her landscaper told her the plants are infested with spider mites, and her apple tree with aphids (I think it's 'fuzzy apple aphid') and wants to spray everything. I told her I would do some research to find some less toxic organic methods of controlling these pests before her landscaper drops an insecticide bomb on her entire backyard. I suspect the plants (including the apple) may be stressed in some way.

So far I've read that blasts of water from the hose and insecticidal soap are effective in controlling the spider mites. Then, I found an interesting article saying that Alyssum attracts an insect that preys on the apple aphid.

I suggested she ask her landscaper to delay any spraying for now (and also said her landscaper should learn and know other less toxic methods). Are there any other tried and true methods I can share?

My mom was flabbergasted when I told her we have no aphids, spider mites, tomato horn worms, or other such pests in our yard, and I explained since we went organic about a decade ago the birds take care of them for us. She had no idea, so I want to teach her about other methods.

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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Daily spray of water (wet the underside of the foliage thoroughly) will take care of spider mites--they hate wet foliage. Aphids, a couple of sprays of water a day are best. Then the predators will arrive to take care of the stragglers. Predator population always lags behind the badies. But they will show up.

For spider mites, the spray guy has to spray with miticide, not insecticide, which does not affect spider mites since they are not insects (they are arachnids). Miticide is pretty lethal stuff.

Mass pesticide spraying only makes things worse, because you are killing off the beneficials as well as the badies.

I'm all for spraying pesticides for pests such as termites which can destroy your house and cost tens of thousands of dollars of damage, or hornets or yellow jackets which can be a physical danger, but otherwise, it's hard to justify for an ornamental or mostly ornamental garden.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 3:03PM
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jenn(SoCal 9/19)

Thanks, hoovb, I forwarded your message to her.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 7:19PM
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I only use soapy water for aphids,and i check for them every other day or so.

Anyone have any tried and true remedies for skunks?? About 5 years ago we had new sod laid in the backyard and it has done real well til this year.This year the skunks have destroyed it.We put down stuff for grubs and that been over a week ago and they are still digging everynight.The yard looks like HE**

We've been in this house over forty years and this is the first time we've had this problem.

I"ve been over to the lawn forums as well and think i also posted there,

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 9:14PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

I use a Scarecrow motion-detecting sprinkler for skunks.

I second the hoovb's advice. It's not worth spraying miticides. Parts of my yard are infested with them at certain times of the year and I just hose away until the population dies back. I use a small squirt bottle with water for aphids and just hit them hard. If you get them when they first show up in the spring you can usually wipe them out for the year.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 11:57PM
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jenn(SoCal 9/19)

Renee, I am interested in that sprinkler for skunks, maybe it would work with our nocturnal critters. I would like a scarecrow with the face of Clint Eastwood and a voice that says "Get of my lawn....." when it detects a critter nearby.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 11:49AM
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jenn(SoCal 9/19)

I shared your comments with my mom who shared them with her landscaper, who said it will take a lot more than just water to get rid of them and that she does use 'organic' sprays. I suggested she have the apple tree removed rather than treat it for the aphids; it grows in shade and may not have resistant rootstock, and may be too stressed to be worth rescuing.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 8:10PM
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Yes I am interested in the motion sprinkler also...for the racoons and neighboring cats.

I had a motion sensor that emitted ranges of sounds that should have been undetectable by humans but sometimes I could hear it. I have very sensitive hearing and can hear cell phones vibrate 4 offices down the hallway.

So Renee, please share. Thanks

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 9:34PM
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buddyben(z9 CA/Sunset 20)

Your mom's landscaper has a financial interest in recommending that the entire yard be treated.

And if the plants are treated with an insecticide, the beneficial predators will be killed and her yard will never be in balance from an ecological standpoint.

By the way, one of my plants had spider mites one year but hasn't in subsequent years. I sprayed them with a hose.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 4:08AM
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jenn(SoCal 9/19)

buddyben - she is now my mom's former landscaper. We all suspected the financial interest, and that my mom might have been overly anxious about the spider mites so the woman suggested bringing out the big guns. I will keep an eye on things and take care of her plants myself .... IF she will let me.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 11:20AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Here's what I bought. I used two to keep the neigbor's goats from eating my ivy fence. They work well, but will go off if the wind moves leaves in front of the sensor. You just attach them to a hose, turn it on, and set the duration of hosing you would like the critter to experience.

Here is a link that might be useful: Scarecrow

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 11:13PM
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Thanks Renee. I googled and found that also. It's always breezy here so I guess might not be the best for me.
I think I'm gonna try nightguard sensors. I just need something to protect the little bit of grass I have from getting dug up...since sevin doesn't always work on the grubs.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 2:35PM
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