An Embarrassing Admission….

spider mites

Do I have your attention?  What kind of embarrassing thing do I have to admit too?  Well, I could think of countless things:

I am a bit clumsy

I am a very picky eater

I like to grow vegetables more then I like to eat them 😉


I am not a perfect gardener

There, I said it.  I am not a perfect gardener, or a horticulturist, for that matter.  In fact, I make lots of mistakes.

But you know what?  Most gardeners do.  That is how we learn.

Now, I am not a perfectionist by nature.  But, I do have some pride when it comes to my garden.  So, I was mortified when I noticed that my vegetable garden had a severe case of spider mites.

Admittedly, I missed the early signs…..

 spider mites

The speckled leaves of my cucumbers and the webbing along the edges of the leaves.

Actually, my corn stalks and tomato leaves had a similar appearance.

But, what really caught my attention, was my basil.

I warn you, it isn’t a pretty sight…

 spider mites

You can see my basil peeking out from my cucumber leaves.  See the tips of the leaves?  I had a very bad infestation.

My first reaction, was one of embarrassment.  I mean, how could I have let things get so bad?

Well, I could think of a million things that tend to occupy my thoughts….

my husband

my 5 kids

my father-in-law’s health

planning our 25th wedding anniversary trip

massive car-repair bill led to new car purchase

landscape consults

gardening articles to be written

last day of school for the kids

painting our kitchen & hallways

My second reaction was to rush out to the store as fast as I could to purchase insecticidal soap, which was listed as safe to use for vegetables.

I sprayed my little heart out as soon as I returned from the store.  I made sure to not only spray the upper leaf, but the undersides as well.

I will have to reapply in 5 days to make sure that all newly hatched spider mites are killed as well.

So, how did I get spider mites in the first place?  Well, they love warm, dry weather AND I do live in the desert.  Spider mites ride wind currents like aphids do.  They create webs which protect the mites themselves and their eggs.  They puncture the leaves with their mouths as they feed on your plants.

If you have speckled leaves or see bits of webbing, hold a piece of white paper underneath a leaf of the affected plant and shake the leaf.  Spider mites will fall to the paper and look like small brown dots that are moving about.

If your problem is not too severe, you can introduce predatory insects to the garden, such as lady bugs, which will feed upon them.  Also, a periodic spraying of the foliage with your hose will help as well, since it will remove some of the mites and will also increase the humidity, which spider mites dislike.

But, if you are like me and you have a severe infestation, then more serious intervention is needed.  I decided to use insecticidal soap since it was safe for my vegetables.  There are other products such as horticultural oil, which is safe for vegetables and some miticides are said to be safe as well – but be sure to read the label of whatever product you use to make sure that it is safe for use with vegetables.

Thankfully, my vegetables should be okay.


I must admit, that when I first saw how bad my spider mite infestation was, I was actually glad that you all could not see it.  I was afraid that if you could see my mistake that you wouldn’t take my gardening advice seriously anymore.

But then I realized that there is no ‘perfect’ gardener or even horticulturist.  I have made quite a few mistakes throughout my career and learned quite a lot because of them.  So, I hope that you can be helped by telling you about my mistake(s) in the garden 😉

Contrary to what some may believe –

“There are no ‘perfect’ gardeners, just those who aren’t afraid to make mistakes in the garden and learn from them.”   

Too Much Salt Isn’t Good For You OR Your Plants…

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
14 replies
  1. catmint
    catmint says:

    dear Noelle, great post – my sentiments too about not being perfect. I noticed black dots all over an acacia today. Ignored it hoping it would go away. But reading your post I guess I need to understand what the spots are and do something about it. Although maybe in time they will go away without killing the tree???????????? Unfortunately we do need chemicals on occasion.

  2. FlowerLady
    FlowerLady says:

    Dear Noelle ~ What a nice honest post. None of us are perfect in any area of our lives and to admit to our imperfections makes our lives easier in the long run. Putting on perfection airs, is just air, no substance.

    Thank you for sharing with us your gardening knowledge and your humaness.

    Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

  3. Nell Jean
    Nell Jean says:

    We would make a fine team: you like to grow vegetables, I like to eat them. I even eat the ones I don't like in case you are growing brussels sprouts.

    I could watch for bugs; you could combat them. They will sneak in while you are doing other things.

  4. Packer Family
    Packer Family says:

    Shame Shame! LOL Kidding I just had to take care of an aphid problem on my corn:( I'm a phoenix Gardener too! I love your blog if you want to check out mine it's

  5. Liz
    Liz says:

    Spider mites are very easy to overlook. It was fun at the extension office to take a leaf and put it under the dissection microscope and see the spider mites crawling around.

  6. biobabbler
    biobabbler says:

    LOVE that message. SO true. A friend when I was in Washington state practically had to hold a gun to my head to get the freakin' seeds in the ground. Another friend taught me "Any thing worth doing is worth finishing" so I DON'T get stuck in perfectionist spirals.

    That's also part of what I love about gardening. It's NEVER the same. EVERY year is different, weather, conditions, timing, what I plant, bugs that appear, etc.

    I think that's partly why it's so good for your brain and kept great minds like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson interested. It's TERRIBLY complex but fascinating and rewarding.

    Good for you! =)

  7. rosiemomma
    rosiemomma says:

    Love your honesty! I tell all my friends who swear they have black thumbs "It's not that I don't ever kill anything, it's just that 'm not afraid to plant it again." That's what makes one successful at anything, not giving up right? Now, off to check my basil….

  8. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Congratulations, you are one of us! Nobody knows everything and attend to everything all the time. You just admitted you are normal Noelle!

  9. David
    David says:

    Oh yes, I've had this same battle with these spider mites. Don't worry about being perfect. The 6 billion others of us aren't perfect either. 🙂
    I'm at a 'not perfect point' myself in that I am trying to show more REALITY garden shots on my blog instead of just 'perfect' garden shots like in the magazines. It's hard and it takes courage.
    David/ 🙂

  10. villager
    villager says:

    I've certainly had my share of plant mishaps, and killed more plants than I can count. Spider mites, whiteflies and aphids are frequent pests here.

    You are so right – successful gardeners ARE the ones who learn from their mistakes, and press on forward!

  11. Ellyn
    Ellyn says:

    There are probably more bugs in our backyards than there are people in the world, so if a few of them find their way onto your plants, not to worry! I frankly don't know how you do all that you do! – Ellyn Deuink

Comments are closed.