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Protecting Your Plants

Carrot Hat We could easily write a book on How to Protect Your Plants from all the various threats, but instead we'll focus on a few specific solutions that have worked for us and pertain to the fruits, vegetables, and herbs found on this website.

  1. Creative ways to defeat Florida heat
  2. What to do about Florida Whitefly?
  3. Iguanas! How do we control them?
  4. Hornworms & Geometer Inchworms
  5. Tomato & Pepper Blossom End Rot (BER)

1. Creative ways to defeat Florida heat

Hats -
Protecting your plants from blazing summer, or even winter, south Florida heat requires some creative thinking. For example, as you can see from the photo here, "Plants like hats too!" A hat on a stick works nicely, and if you also put chicken wire or a plastic sleeve around the inside perimeter of your pots, just tall enough to be slightly above your tallest plant (pick short plants like carrots), and then place the hat on top, you'll protect your plants from both the mid-day sun and iguanas searching for food.

This particular carrot pot fell victum to iguanas before we had a chance to add a plastic sleeve. Click here to see our "improved" carrot pot with hat and plastic iguana barrier sleeve.

Ollas -
Protecting your plants from extreme dry conditions is critical to vegetable and fruit yield. If your vegetable plants and fruit trees are stressed due to lack of water, your vegetable and fruit yield will be significantly diminished. So, if you live in a region where the conditions are arid, ollas (oy-yahs) should mean "Oh Yeah!" Why? Because irrigation by seepage from buried unglazed clay pots is more efficient then modern irrigation systems, even modern drip systems. When ollas are used properly, plant roots will proliferate around the moist clay pot, intercepting water before it can move through the soil by capillary action. This water intercepted by plant roots will then be used in the plant transpiration stream.1 Ollas virtually eliminate the runoff and evaporation common in modern irrigation systems, allowing the plant to absorb nearly 100 percent of water.2

In our patio garden we have self-watering buckets on the patio and raised beds along two sides of the patio edge. Within the raised beds next to our tropical plants (banana tree, kumquat tree, and pineapples) we buried four 1 gallon ollas, which we fill about every 4-5 days. We cap our ollas with rubber sink stoppers and large corks. You'll want to cap them to prevent evaporation and misquito population. Follow these links for more information...

1. USING OLLAS by Anais Dervaes
2. Ollas: Unglazed Clay Pots for Garden Irrigation

Iguana Shield -
It's a terrarium too! If you've ever worked with a terrarium then you know that terrariums trap evaporation moisture in the form of condensation. Similarly, when we developed our "Iguana Shield" (see below) to keep the lizards out of our self-watering cantainer buckets we found an added benefit, the white plastic sleeve acts like a terrarium, trapping moisture and preventing the surface soil from drying out. With Iguana Shields there's less need to "water from top" and therefore we can water buckets with shields almost entirely from the reservoir fill pipe.

2. Florida Whitefly

The bottom line is, whitefly is here to stay. Left unchecked whitefly will eventually severely stress and even kill certain young plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Plants overrun by whitefly will of course produce lower yields. But there is hope - diligence will prevail.

The trick to keeping whitefly at bay is to routinely mist the undersides of leaves with organic liquids that discourage whitefly populations. Essentially, don't give the little buggers a place to live. Perhaps you've heard the expression, "A fly can't live on a waterfall." Rightly so. What we have found to be successful is a "4 Days On, 3 Days Off" rotation, misting tops and rinsing the undersides of plant leaves with mild concentrations of...

  1. Day 1 - Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap or Murphy® Oil Soap Original Formula
  2. Day 2 - OFF
  3. Day 3 - Neem Oil (Available in most Garden Stores)
  4. Day 4 - OFF
  5. Day 5 - Cedar Bug-Free, 100% All Natural Plant Spray
  6. Day 6 - OFF
  7. Day 7 - Organocide 3-in-1 Garden Spray
  8. *If whitefly persists, REPEAT. If not, discontinue, but be sure to keep checking for their return.

You might also try Earth-Tone® Insecticidal Soap, or a mixture of boiled garlic chive and water. Yellow Sticky Traps are also effective at reducing flying insect populations, but really it's a combination of all these items, used routine. One caution - Neem Oil should be use only when whitefly is most active because it will harm useful insects so keep the concentration low, and only use Neem Oil when you need it most.

3. Iguanas Control! It's about "reducing your exposure"

If you live in south Florida and you garden, chances are you've had an iguana attack and destroy your plants. These lizards eat anything and everything, but they particularly like young pepper leaves, eggplant leaves, collards, sweet potato leaves, and carrot tops. The bigger they get, the more damage they can do. They're protected and have no natural preditors. But, there is good news! There are ways to keep them away from your patio garden plants. It's takes a little bit of planning, but once you have implemented a few barriers, you'll "reduce your exposure" to their threat significantly. You'll probably never keep iguanas away entirely, but just keeping them under control is a HUGE step.

Iguana attacking an eggplant

4. Hornworms & Geometer Inchworms

Hornworm One of the advantages of self-watering container "bucket" gardening, especially on patios, balconies, and porches, is that hornworms and inchworms can't hide for long. Not long after these leafeaters start to devour vegetable plants their pellot droppings start showing up on the ground around the container. And if your vegetable container happen to be out on the open ground, simply place a sheet of cardboard underneath, large enough to catch droppings and expose the threats above.

As soon as the first hornworm or inchworm is discovered, search the underneath of every leaf for several days, snipping off the worms until non can be found and those pellot droppings are no longer showing up on the ground beneath your plants. Done!

Again, diligence is essential here because where there's one hornworm or inchworm, there's surely more, and they grow very quickly often destroying healthy plants in a matter of days.


Tomato Hornworm
Organic Seeds - Where to buy
Water Water

Buried Gallon Olla


The Vegetable Gardenerís Container Bible

Iguana Shields for Self-watering Buckets