SULFUR SOAP FOR PESTS CONTROL

This article is written by Dr. Wilson Wong on how to use sulfur soap to kill mites. He is also the creator of GREEN CULTURE Singapore group in Facebook.

The picture shows the sulfur soap product most commonly available in Singapore.

How to use sulfur soap for pests control

ABC Shops and most provision stores

Sulfur, in its elemental form (as a molecule S8) is better known as a fungicide where it is used to manage fungal diseases such as powdery mildew, rust, scab, brown rot, and so on. It is often sold as wettable sulfur, which is micronized sulfur powder with a dispersant and sticking agent added. Lime sulfur is another product that has the same properties, made from reacting lime with sulfur. Both products are not readily available for sale in Singapore.

What is less well known is that sulfur can be used to control spider mites and broad mites. Both are common horticultural pests. For control of mites, the size of the sulfur particle is important. Sulfur flakes that are used for deterring snakes in the garden are too big to be of use. Due to the lack of wettable sulfur and lime sulfur in Singapore, the next best product that can be used is sulfur soap.

How to use sulfur soap for pests control

Spider Mites spread by webbing

Sulfur soap contains micronized sulfur (often up to 10%) in a soap base (a typical ingredient list of a sulfur soap includes soap noodle (Sodium palmate, palm kernelate), sodium chloride, water, fragrance, sulfur, coconut fatty acid). As one can see, it is made of saponified vegetable fats that are used to make soap. What is beneficial is that the soap base can be used against small sucking insects like aphids, mealy bugs, scales and so on, which kill by suffocation, mites included.

RECIPE

To use make a spray of sulfur soap for pest control, grate the soap bar into fine flakes and dissolve a level teaspoon of these flakes in small amount of hot water. When totally dissolved, top the solution up to 800 mL or 1 L with tap water. Shake vigorously before spraying. This solution can be kept for up to a week. Ensure all the soap bits are dissolved so as to not clog your sprayer.

Sulfur is known to be of low toxicity, and poses very little if any risk to human and animal health. It is harmless to bees. Note that sulfur is toxic to all mites, including predatory mites, so caution is needed in its use to not upset the ecosystem. Sulfur is allowed in organic agriculture. The rest of the ingredients in the sulfur soap bar are quite harmless – saponified vegetable fats.

Always test a small portion of your plant before spraying so as to ensure the dose is suitable for use on your plant without causing phytotoxicity. Make a more dilute solution if required. Avoid breathing in the mist or letting it get into your eyes.

Before consuming your plants, give the harvested parts a good soak and rinse. For heavily infested plants, prune away badly infested parts. Repeated applications on alternate days may be necessary. Spray during the cooler part of the day.

Sulfur soap seems to be suitable for use on plants that had previously been sprayed with oil-based pesticides like neem oil and summer oil. This is probably due to the soap component washing away the oils from plants. Wettable sulfur on its own is not suitable for use on oil-sprayed plants without having to wait for at least several weeks.

For more info, please refer to the following:

http://adjuvants.com.au/Assets/1205/1/MicroSulfPIB.pdf

http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/…/pyrethrin…/sulfur-ext.html

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Customize Soil Mixes

We all know that plants have different preferences for where they rest their “feet” (roots). Some plants preferred very dry medium, like rosemary and lavenders, while others thrived in moist but well drained mixes . Generally, plants do not tolerate having their roots soaked all the time. Thus, it is important to know how to customize soil mixes or at the very least, how to adjust ready mixes for different plants’ needs.

Seasoned gardener, Guanster Guan, shared his soil formula for dry loving plants which need very well drained soil. By this, he meant that water need to drain out very fast, it does not sit in the soil. His ratio is 1:1:1 of the following :

  1. LECA balls (small ones)
  2. Rice Husks
  3. Baba Organic Vege mix (suitable for edibles)
Customize soil mixes for different plants needs

Ratio 1:1:1 of leca balls, rice husk and vege soil mix or other organic compost

Customize soil mixes

Close up look at Guanster 1:1:1 ratio for non-water retaining soil

Guanster also advised gardeners to adjust this ratio according to the garden’s environment. For example, if  the garden is located in a high rise where it is dry and windy,  to add more vege mix (or other good quality compost) so that the medium do not dried up too fast.

Customize soil mixes

Baba Vege Soil Mix (Organic) or other good quality brands

On the other hand, if the garden’s location is humid, where the air flow is bad and stale, it is advisable to add more LECA balls which allow aeration for the roots.

For soil mixes that contained compost, perlite (volcano ash that had been dried in 1200C heat), cocochip etc, his ratio advice is not more than 30%  of each because this media will become acidic over time. Plants such as lavender and rosemary which preferred alkaline PH do not thrived in acidic soil.

On super soil mix for most other plants, his preferred formula are these with lecca

Customize soil mix

Plants which preferred more moisture – Naturegro Compost and Garden Formula Potting Mix

For edibles, add in Baba Vegemix (picture is third one from the top) for a potent formula. Another gardener, Ooi Shirley, enjoyed good harvest with this Baba Vegemix for most of her plants. Jaimie Lim used Garden potting mix for seeds and rosemary plants. Guanster used Baba vegemix to germinate seeds.

For succulent n cactus, Guanster’s formula is Baba cacti/succulent mix , volcano sand and lecca at the ratio of 1 : 1: 2

Soil for cacti and succulent

Customize soil mix for cacti and succulent

Cacti and succulent soil

Ratio 1:1:2 of Baba cacti, Volcano sand and lecca

Mix thoroughly and remove any coarse particles.

cacti and succulent soil mix

Cacti and succulent soil customize and mixed thoroughly

On burnt soil, Guanster advised this will break down into a powdery form over a year. This prevent aeration and thus choked plants’ roots. He preferred to use dried rice husks (non carbonated) which break down into plant food instead.

On volcanic soil, he felt that as it has a sticky texture, it is best to mix with volcanic sand rather than compost. Or volcanic sand with compost.

Guanster stressed that this is his preferred soil formula that he hopes to share with fellow gardeners.

Don’t have to follow 100% ! “. 🙂

There are more than one way to garden and customize soil mixes. Most seasoned gardeners have their own formulas. It is important to understand the WHY’s and use this information as a guideline for available options only.

Regarding feeding, his advice is reduce dosage and increase frequencies. Plants suffer shock when gardeners do the opposite, that is feed once a month but increased dosage than recommended. This applied to every fertilizer.

Still unsure ? Fret not , workshops are available, where we will start an edibles garden and teach from scratch !

How to check plants health when buying from nurseries –

  1. Check the base of the stems (especially for rosemary and lavender). DO NOT buy if the lowermost stems are black or browning. This indicate roots rot already. Plants in this condition will die soon.
  2. Check the color of the leaves. Stressed plants showed distress in leaves as well, for example, brown and discolored leaves.
  3. Check the soil for fungus or algae.

Most of local nurseries plants came from Cameron Highlands or other parts of Malaysia. The reasons why most of these plants suffered stress are the following :

  1. Weather – our local weather is hot compared to the plants’ growing environments in Cameron Highlands.
  2. Transportation and time – Plants from orchards in cooler Cameron Highlands are packed in a) peat based media to retain as much moisture as possible during their long journey to Singapore. However, this media is not suitable for humid Singapore. b) The plants are also wrapped in plastic and packed in boxes, to prevent spill in the cargo. This increased the heat stress on the plants. 3) Long queues at customs put these plants in extreme stress conditions when they finally reached our nurseries.

Knowing how to customize soil or media for different plants’ needs increased the survival rate for these plants. For rosemary and lavender, as we found out in earlier posts, Guanster also gave the same advice, that is change the media from nurseries’ coco peat base to very well draining media. He preferred formula is 1:1:1  (lecca, rice husks and vege mix). Other gardeners from the above 2 hyperlinks, have other formulas.

Less severely stressed plants can be treated. Once media is changed to a more suitable type, these plants’ are slowly acclimatized.  First placed plants in partial sunlight or filtered bright area (afternoon sun). The best is 4 to 5 hours of morning sun. Water as prescribed to the plants’ needs.

Last but not least, remember there are workshops and SHOP to start a beginner’s edibles journey now !

 

 

Mr. Green Fingers

You guess right , Mr. Alan Tan ! 🙂

And who would ever guessed this amazing garden of international sunflowers varieties and wild organic edibles garden existed at all, if Alan had not shared pictures with the gardening communities of Singapore?!

It existed not in some plush location, but a corner of a construction site office where he work! 🙂

Awesome Gardeners in Singapore

Alan Tan with his dragon fruits

Singapore awesome gardeners

Jan 04 2016 – Alan’s Sunflowers varieties from around the world

Amazing Private Gardens in Singapore

Alan Tan’s Giant Sunflower

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Alan’s Sunflowers basking in the sun

Singapore amazing private gardens

Alan’s Giant sunflower

Sunflowers were not the only crop that he grew well.

Where he worked in the middle of an industrial park, Alan Tan tend to a lush organic garden of amazing edibles. He grew a variety of gourds, beans, melons, pumpkins, papaya, dragon fruits, okras etc so well that he often shared his vegetables with colleagues, passers-by and every visitor to his garden.

Awesome Urban Farmers in Singapore

Alan Tan’s organic edibles garden

Awesome urban farmers

Alan Tan’s cucumbers

Singapore amazing private gardens

Jan 6 2016 – small bittergourds like these are claimed to treat blood disorder n diabetics

Amazing private gardens in Singapore

I liked it that Alan Tan recycled used construction materials to grow his crops. This is such a good idea for climbing plants!

Amazing private gardens in Singapore

Alan Tan’s bitter guords

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 2015 – Look at the size of this bitter gourd from Alan Tan’s Boon Keng site!

Amazing private gardens in Singapore

Sept 15 2015 – Regina Fok from USA, was awed by Alan amazing garden!

Singapore amazing private gardens

Can’t believed this is in the middle of an industrial park in Singapore, right?

Amazing edibles gardens in Singapore

Oct 16 2015 – Snake gourds

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 4 2015 – Alan’s Japanese Melons

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Jan 18 2016 – Many types of long beans are also grown here (Alan Tan)

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 21 2015 – Another variety of long beans from Alan Tan’s garden

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 26 2015 – Alan Tan’s Long beans

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 24 2015 – Even a “giant” butternut squash! (Alan Tan)

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Alan Tan harvested his butternut squash on Jan 5 2016

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 26 2015 – White gourds from Alan Tan’s garden

Organic okras

Priceless okras from Alan Tan’s garden

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 18 2015 – Alan’s okras

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Jan 02 2016 – Alan Tan’s Red Okras

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 26 2015 – Red Okra

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Nov29 2015 -Alan Tan’s Japanese Pumpkin!

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Nov 29 2015 – Bountiful Harvest from Alan Tan’s garden!

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Alan Tan buried raw greens for compost too!

His office is not the only place where we can find crazy cool plants ! 🙂

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 13 2015 – Passion Fruit vines outside the elevator’s landing of his apartment!

Amazing private gardens in Singapore

Jan 21 2016 – Pretty wild lift landing ! 🙂

Amazing private gardens in Singapore

Nov 22 2015 – Grape Vines almost obscuring the view 🙂

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 30 2015 – Alan Tan’s Grape Vines

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

June 2015 – Rare chocolate mint!

Singapore awesome gardeners and amazing private gardens

Dec 2 2015 – Sick strawberry plants thriving again under his excellent care!

Not only did Alan Tan grew plants well, he is very willing to share his 10 years gardening knowledge and fruits of his labour 🙂

Singapore gardeners who shared and gave generously

Jan 13 2016 – Harvesting seeds to share with fellow gardeners

Singapore gardeners who shared and gave generously

Dec03 2015 – Old Cucumber left to ripe for seeds

Singapore gardeners who shared and gave generously

Jan 02 2016 – Cucumber seeds collected and dried for sharing

Singapore gardeners who shared and gave generously

Jan 16 2016 – Everything that he grew, Alan shared his seeds with fellow gardeners.

Many who visited his garden in Boon Keng Road, were amazed with his garden and I am sure, touched with his generosity.  🙂

Amazing private gardens in Singapore

Jan 14 2016 – Alan Tan (waving hand)

I am sure there are two phases that Alan Tan heard very often.

” Wow! Amazing!!! ”

and

” Thank you” 🙂

Singapore gardeners who shared and gave generously

Alan Tan shared his vegetables with passers-by 🙂

These ladies will miss your organic edibles garden at Boon Keng Road soon .

Can’t wait to see what Alan will be planting this year at his new work site!!! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SG WINDOW FARM

Ever reminisced about what we were doing when we were 21 years old?

Certainly mine was not even close to what I love doing now – growing strawberries!!! My hobbies then were stars away from what this young man loved doing! 🙂 Thinking back now, I must have been quite an airhead!!!

I am still in awe by what this young man built in his parent’s kitchen, an aquaponic “farm” to grow vegetables!!

Singapore amazing private garden

Sept 16 2015 – Bai Choy and Red Pepper

Singapore amazing private gardens

Sept 16 2015 – Bai Choy and capsicum seedlings

Just 21 years old, he built the complete setup by himself and through trial and errors, improved on the initial set up to grow a lot of organic vegetables by September 2015.

Singapore amazing private gardens

September 7 2015 – Cherry Tomato

Singapore amazing private gardens

Sept 16 – Cherry Tomato

 

This is the design of his set up :

Aquaponics

How Xi Zhe built this awesome aquaponic system

Aquaponics

How a bell Siphon work, to discharge excess water from the grow bed

 

In my layman understanding of his sketch, I think a series of pipes drew water from the fish’s waste tanks below the “farm” to feed his vegetables –

Aquaponic window farm

Upgraded fish tank

Aquaponic Window Farm

July 2 2015 – Bio Filter

And somehow, his vegetables fed the fishes 🙂

Aquaponic Window Farm

Filtered fish water feeding his vegetables

Aquaponic Window Farm

Xi Zhe – Red pepper seedlings

In November 2015, Xi Zhe and his parents moved to a smaller apartment and there was no room for his farm.

I wrote this post to share this young man’s incredible farm and enterprising DIY spirit.

Even though the physical set up is gone, we will remember his “farm” and  will cheer for his future one!

Aquaponic window farm

Shade to protect his vegetables from the too hot sun

PS. If anyone likes to understand more of Xi Zhe’s design, he is a member in our Facebook group, “SG Farming in Apartments”. I am sure he will explain better than me how his set up work ! 🙂

Aquaponic

Summary of Xi Zhe’s completed aquaponic system 🙂