The first rule in keeping your garden healthy and happy is to keep it pest free. The simplest way to achieve this is to keep it clean and free from debris, especially when gardening indoors. Outdoor gardens are subject to the forces of nature like rain and wind that help to keep pests off your plants. Outdoors problem pests are also kept under control by natural insect predators, as well as birds and small animals. Since environmental conditions are not within the outdoor gardener's control, one must keep in mind that extended periods of rain, cool weather or extreme temperatures can weaken a plant's defenses and trigger an outbreak or infestation. If such conditions exist or become persistent, you may be forced to take steps to protect your plants from the environment until the inclement weather passes. If you live in a geographic area where such conditions are frequent and unpredictable, you may even want to consider investing in a climate controlled greenhouse.
When gardening indoors, many of the natural pest controls that exist outside are no longer available to your garden, so additional steps must be taken to prevent infestations, as well as the breakout of disease and fungi. Keeping the indoor garden clean should be your highest priority. Many pests find their way into the indoor garden on the soles of muddy feet and the fur of the family pet. You must be diligent in removing any and all debris, dust, dead or dying leaves, sickly plants and so forth. Look for anything that can act as a breeding ground for mold and mildew, or as potential food for insect larvae or maturing adults. While most plants have built-in natural defenses against disease and pests, they are only as strong as their overall health or vigor. Over or under feeding, excessive humidity, or lack of ventilation can all contribute to reducing the vigor of your garden and can open the door to disease and infestation.
Tools used around the garden should be cleaned with a 10% bleach solution after every use to prevent transferring disease causing pathogens. Never share tools between indoor and outdoor gardens, and make sure you store your outdoor and indoor tools in separate areas! Excessive humidity and condensation allow mold and mildew spores to flourish, so be sure to keep the air circulating quickly enough to remove excess humidity. When plants are grown too close together, moisture from transpiration can build up between leaves and provide the perfect breeding ground for molds and fungi. If you spill water (or nutrient solution) on the floor, clean it up immediately. Hard, smooth surfaces provide no cover for pests and allow the easy removal of mold and mildew. Avoid using carpets and cloth indoors, they are both excellent substrates for culturing fungi and harboring insect eggs and larvae. You may be tempted to "share" your indoor garden's HID lights with potted plants. Don't. The healthy indoor hydroponic garden is a pristine soil free environment, and you'll need to keep it that way to avoid bringing problem after problem on yourself. Adopt the motto, "laboratory clean," and succeed!
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