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Mite recovery

I just started growing herbs (Oregano, Basil, Thyme, Rosemary) in my apartment last year. The first year went very well.
Location: Wisconsin, USA. Plants are indoor only and sit on my kitchen table.
I started over after the winter with all new plants, but unfortunately the oregano I purchased was infested with mites. I was told to try neem oil (because it is food safe...so I could still eat the herbs), but after a month the oregano was ravaged. The mites were in all of the plants, but moved the majority of their population to the rosemary next . I threw all 4 plants out a couple of weeks ago as it was only getting worse, and I couldn't use my kitchen table because of the mites crawling about.
They looked like small red (sometimes white, or in-between the two colors) spider mites....but I never saw them on the leaves of the plants. They tended to burrow down into the dirt and attack the roots of the plant (I could smell the root-rot when I threw the plants out).
2 questions if I may:
#1: I'm worried that if I purchase new plants, they will just be re-infested. The 4 herbs were the only plants I had, so there is no plant-life in my apartment currently, and hasn't been for 2 weeks now. Any idea how long these things can live without a plant to feed off of?....or is there something I can spray/apply in the apartment to ensure they're all gone?
#2: If they do return, does anyone have a suggestion better than neem oil that would still allow me to eat the herbs afterward?
Thank you,

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Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 7:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Mite recovery

I'm thinking you had two different issues.

Red spider mites on the plants (and tuning around on the containers and counter) and maybe springtails in the soil. Oregano, rosemary, and thyme are particularly vulnerable to red spider mites.

If there was root rot then the rosemary and probably oregano and thyme, too, were probably getting overwatered. Either the potting mix was not well-draining or they were allowed to sit in water that drained out of the pots in the catch tray....

I think with a hard surface area like a table or a counter, regularly wiping down with soap or dish detergent will be sufficient to eradicate any remaining stragglers in the area. But they tend to (magically) appear, so you'll just have to deal with them when that happens. Red spider mites are easier to prevent by raising humidity and weekly rinsing (just) the foliage with water using the kitchen sink sprayer if you have one or in the sink with a trigger sprayer.

Don't be discouraged. Get your new plants, and then post for growing tips. Most of us enjoy growing herbs and will have ideas to share. :D

Oh! "Sit at the kitchen table" doesn't sound like they would get enough sun/light unless your table is up against a south facing window.... Maybe we should talk about where to put them and what herbs you have the right kind of environment for first. :wink:

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