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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 😉
AND
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…..
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…
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.

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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.”