I may be a granny but this blog is science based garden information with a lot of gardening experience thrown in. There's a bit of reminiscing, ranting, story telling and wishful thinking thrown in too. Have fun reading and don't be afraid to comment.
At last we have had some nice spring weather. It was 70 degrees
and sunny yesterday. Rain is moving in tonight, but it isn’t going to get too
cold so that’s ok.It’s not snow anyway!
I made my first trip to the local greenhouse and bought some
pansies.Pansies are the first plants
you can plant here in the porch pots.And I love pansies.The plants at
the greenhouse looked a little small, a bit behind this season but they were
still tempting. I resisted buying anything tender though.
I did buy two perennials, a creeping phlox in a color I didn’t
have and a new sedum.The sedum has the interesting
name of ‘Sunsparkler Lime Twister’.Sometimes I swear it’s the name that makes me choose one plant over the
other. If I decide I have a place for them I may go back and get some of the
other nice varieties of sedum I saw there.
The daffodils are starting to bloom. Corydalis and early tulips
will soon be in bloom. I bought some new daffodils last year, called hoop
romieuxii ‘Julia Jane’). I knew the bulbs were small,
but I expected something a bit larger flowered than what popped up.These while cute, are barely taller than
crocus and get lost in the place where I planted them.I didn’t heed my own advice and check out the
catalog description carefully and the picture is quite deceptive.
I fixed up the small greenhouse I have on the south side of my barn.It used to be a chicken pen, but I had a
clear corrugated plastic roof on that pen.So, after the bantams I used to raise there were sold I repurposed the
pen.The first year I used it I covered
the mesh sides of the pen with clear vinyl shower curtain liners. They were
cheap and sturdy. Those lasted 3 years but were getting some large torn areas.
This year I recycled clear plastic chickenfeed bags.I slit the bottoms and one side, peeled off
the label and it gave me a 2 x3 feet piece of clear plastic reinforced with
some nylon netting.I stapled them to
the supports and taped the seams with clear gorilla tape.
I moved a few things off the porch into the greenhouse yesterday,
my rosemary, a few geraniums, some potted bulbs.This week I will work on potting up the dahlias,
so they can get a head start in there. The seedlings started inside will go out
This unheated space gives me a place I can put plants I impulse
buy until the danger of frost is over too and relieves the crowding in the
house while hardening off things that have been kept inside all winter.
All too soon the wisteria vine growing on the corner of the
greenhouse will be shading it but by that time it should be warm enough to
empty the greenhouse out.
A tip to protect seedlings from damage
Do you have trouble with cats digging around your new plants or
chickens eating them?Do the kids and
dogs trample over your plants?Here’s an
easy way to protect your young plants, whether vegetable or flowers.
Buy some wire fencing with at least two inch spacing or better yet
re-cycle some old fencing.Fencing
painted green or black may look a bit better, but don’t worry the fencing won’t
show for long.
Instead of putting the fencing around the plants you need to put
it over them.Cut the fencing in strips
about 18 inches longer than your beds are wide.Now bend the fence in a V or C shape.Cut as many pieces as you need to cover your planting area.
Plant your seedling plants and then place the fence pieces over
them.This looks a bit “ugly” at first
but don’t worry, the plants will grow up and through the fence and soon you
won’t see it at all. Your plants are
protected as they grow and even get some support from the fence.When they are very small, and a frost
threatens, you can throw an old sheet over the fence pieces to protect them
without smashing the plants.Win Win.
When plants are still small its easy to move fence pieces to weed
them. As plants get larger and grow through the wire I find that weed problems
are less and can be pulled while they grow through the wire.
This method works best with annual flowers and vegetable plants
that are planted when small.You could
use it on perennial plants, but it might make them harder to care for.
June 9, just after transplanting flowers into the bed.
June 29, wire covers are already hidden
Do you waste food?
Unless you’ve been in hiding you’ve probably heard about the
problem of food waste in developed countries.About a third of the food produced here is wasted.Some is thrown away before it reaches the
consumer, by producers who judge it unsuitable for sale, but a lot of it is
thrown away by consumers. About 75% of food waste is from fresh fruits and
Wasting food also wastes the energy and water used to grow it and impacts
the environment.In a world where many
people are starving it just feels wrong to waste food.Everyone should try to waste less.
As a gardener what can you do to lower your own food waste?For a start don’t grow more food crops than
you can use.If you don’t can or freeze
excess garden produce take it to a soup kitchen, senior citizen center, or food
pantry.Don’t let apples rot on the
ground, tomatoes rot on the vine and beans turn yellow and dry.If they aren’t suitable for human use maybe
someone can use them for feeding chickens or pigs.
All those parts trimmed off vegetables and fruits, the tops and
peels and so on can go to the compost pile but it’s a waste if a lot of what
you grow in the garden ends up there- grow less!You never need more than one zucchini plant.
If you don’t produce your own vegetables and fruit and frequently
find yourself tossing produce think about buying frozen or canned fruits and
vegetables.Not all vegetables and
fruits can be frozen or canned, but a great many can.These preservation methods give you a much
longer period to use them up before they need to be disposed of.
Frozen produce retains almost all of the nutrients fresh produce
has and is usually frozen at the peak of ripeness and flavor.Processing of frozen and canned or pickled
products is usually done close to where it’s grown and saves the costs
associated with long distance transportation, storage and cooling, both to the
producer/consumer and the environment.
This year instead of buying fresh strawberries from Mexico or
South America or across the country from you, buy them when local crops are on
the market and freeze them.They’ll be
ready to be used when you need them and they’ll keep a long time.Buy canned tomatoes for good tomato flavor in
winter, canned at the peak of ripeness and ready to use instead of those gas
ripened, hard, tasteless tomatoes offered in stores in the off season.I use them in salads and they are great, with
so much flavor. Almost all fruit, and a great many vegetables can be frozen or
Think carefully about the fresh produce you use that isn’t easily preserved
and what you commonly throw away because it spoils before you get around to
using it.Maybe it’s time to buy less
lettuce, especially head lettuce.Buy
cabbage and kale instead, which last much longer.Lettuce isn’t very nutritious anyway.You don’t have to eat salad everyday – and
you probably aren’t if you are throwing the greens away.And greens sold in stores are one of the
biggest causes of food poisoning.
For other produce use the buy local, buy seasonal philosophy whenever
possible.Freeze or can to use when it’s
not available locally. If you aren’t interested in preserving your own produce,
buy frozen or canned produce. You’ll waste less of it and it’s probably more
nutritious and tasty and caused less environmental impact than fresh produce
shipped in from far away.
Growing Fruit Trees
Fruit is tasty and healthy.It’s the goal of many home gardeners to produce some of their own
fruit.While growing fruit trees is a
bit harder than growing vegetables, the average gardener should be able to do
it.In this article fruit tree basics
will be discussed.
Gardeners should remember though, that tree fruit production
requires a little patience.Trees rarely
flower and fruit the first year you plant them.Some trees like peaches bear faster and if you started with an older
tree you may get fruit the second year.But most fruit trees will take several years to bear fruit.
You don’t have to have a lot of space to grow fruit trees.Many types of fruit trees come in dwarf and
semi-dwarf size.There are some fruit
trees small enough to grow in large containers.About twenty square feet is enough room for
two semi-dwarf fruit trees.Some types
of fruit, particularly apples, need two trees to produce fruit.
Space is not the only limiting factor when growing fruit
trees.Some types of trees will not grow
well in all planting zones. Some fruit
trees require a winter chill period to set fruit. Above zone 8 fruits like apples, pears, plums
and cherries may not get enough cold weather to produce fruit.There are a few varieties of apples that
have been selectively bred for warm growing areas.
Below zone 8 gardeners will not be able to grow citrus fruits
unless they can bring them inside to a heated green house in the winter. The
arid southwest does not make for good fruit tree growth unless the trees can be
irrigated.Some fruit trees like peaches
and apricots may bloom too early in northern areas and the blooms will be
killed by frost.
Red Delicious apples grown organically
What fruit trees need
All fruit trees prefer to be in full sun.A sunny sheltered spot is ideal.Shelter from wind can come from a building,
hedge or tree windbreak.Smaller dwarf
trees can be grown against a wall or fence.If protection from the wind isn’t available, most fruit trees will still
grow but may be slower growing and require more water.
Sandy loam is the ideal soil, with a pH near neutral.Citrus prefers a slightly acidic soil.Have your soil tested before planting fruit
trees and correct any nutrient deficiencies.Fruit trees are heavy feeders and need good, fertile soil or
Fruit trees prefer well drained soil.The most important part of choosing a site is
to make sure that the soil drains well.Fruit trees will not survive in wet soil.If water stands in an area for more than an
hour after a rain or you dig a hole and hit water, it is not a good place for
Do not plant fruit trees down in a hollow or other low spot.Low spots collect cold air in early spring
and flowers may be killed by a frost that won’t occur on nearby higher ground.
Plant your fruit trees close enough to the house so that you can
water and care for them easily.If you
have lots of land, planting your trees closer to the house rather than far away
may keep animal pests like deer from doing as much damage.But too close to the house is not ideal
either.Fruit trees do not make good
landscape trees.They require regular spraying
and pruning that makes them look less appealing than most other trees but will
result in better fruit.
Fruit trees also attract insect and animal pests with fallen fruit
and ripe fruit.A cherry tree near the
home will result in a lot of bird “stained” items.Rotting fruit under a tree attracts
yellowjackets, a nasty member of the hornet family, and may bring other
undesirables too close for comfort.
Fruit trees may also attract the human element, especially
children, who may destroy or pick unripe fruit.Surely you remember having fights with little green apples.And the limbs of fruit trees should not become
a climbing gym.Fruit trees do not
belong in lawns or near gardens where weed killers and other things may be
taken up into the trees root system.
Pear on tree
Choosing fruit trees
Home gardeners are strongly advised to choose semi-dwarf varieties
of fruit trees whenever possible.Semi-dwarf trees take up less space and are easier to care for and
harvest.They usually produce fruit
sooner than standard sized trees. Semi-dwarf trees will get to about 15 feet
If space is really limited choose dwarf trees.Dwarf trees may need a little more care to
prevent them from breaking from the wind and may need to be propped when loaded
with fruit. Some may need permanent staking.
Almost all fruit trees sold today are grafted trees. This means
that the root part of the tree is generally from a disease resistant, hardy
variety and the top part or fruiting part of the tree is from another
tree.Most fruit trees do not come true
from seed, particularly apples.That’s
the reason most gardeners will want to purchase fruit trees rather than growing
them from seed.
Apples, pears, some plums and sweet cherries will need another
tree nearby to produce fruit.Tart
cherries, peaches, apricots, some plums, and citrus are self-fruitful, but may
produce better and tastier crops if another tree is nearby.
Apples are very fussy as to what can pollinate them. Two McIntosh
apples will not pollinate each other, nor will two Red Delicious.With apples it is particularly important to
pick two different types of trees, but two that can pollinate each other. Some
trees bloom at different times and won’t pollinate each other and others have
genetic incompatibilities.Catalogs and
reference books can help you pick apples that will pollinate each other.
Also check plum and sweet cherry varieties to see if they are
compatible. There are some sweet cherries sold now that will produce fruit
without a second tree.Some plums will
also set fruit as a single tree, but some won’t.Pears of the same types may set some fruit
but cross pollination with another type of pear is better.
Other things to consider when choosing varieties of fruit trees
include whether the variety is suitable for your planting zone.Some varieties may not be as cold hardy, may
bloom too early or ripen fruit too late for your area.Homeowners may also want to pick varieties
that are disease resistant, especially if they intend to follow organic pest
Planting your tree
While different types of fruit trees may have different cultural
requirements and thrive in different plant zones the actual planting of fruit
trees of all types is quite similar.Most fruit trees have similar soil, site, and planting needs.
Heavy clay soil should be amended not with sand, which creates
cement, but with lots of compost and other organic matter.Soil that is sandy and drains too quickly can
also be amended with organic matter.Do not amend individual holes; work the
amendments into the soil before digging holes. Do not add fertilizer at
Current research has shown that holes for trees should be
re-filled with soil that was taken out of them and amendments like peat and
compost should not be added to individual holes.If holes are amended and the surrounding soil
is not as welcoming to plant roots they tend to circle around in the hole
rather than venturing bravely out to find food and water.This can stunt tree growth or even kill
Lighter soil in a hole made in heavy clay soil will attract water
and act like a bathtub, rotting tree roots.No matter what the salesman says you don’t need topsoil or peat for the
planting hole.A yearly layer of good
compost on the soil around the trees will be worked into the soil by earthworms
and other friendly creatures and will eventually improve the soil in the area.
Fruit trees are often purchased bare root.Make your hole just deep enough to
accommodate the length of the root from tip to where you notice a dark ring on
the trunk.This ring should signify the
soil level where the tree was growing n the nursery. Do not plant them deeper
than that. Trees should be planted with
the first lateral – branching root- just beneath the soil surface.
Potted trees and balled and burlapped trees should have pots and
all burlap and any strings and wires removed. Gently wash most of the soil off
so you can examine the root system.Potted and balled trees are susceptible to circling roots, where the
roots go around and around inside the pot or ball.If planted like that the growth pattern will
likely continue and it will eventually kill the tree.
If the roots are circling you’ll need to try and straighten them
out, sometimes they will need to be pruned so that the cut end faces either
down or to the side.If there are a lot
of bunched roots at the bottom, try to gently pry them apart and flare them
out.Plant the tree so that the top
branching root is just below the soil surface, 2-3 inches deep.
Holes should be deep and wide enough so that no roots are crowded
together. You can make your holes as wide as you want, it helps to loosen the
soil around the new tree. Never wind long roots around in a hole.This encourages circling roots and sometimes
they will strangle the tree, cutting off water and nutrients to the trunk.
Look for the graft union on your fruit tree.Most fruit trees are grafted on to different
root stock.It is important that the
graft union is well above soil level.If
soil covers the graft union, the tree may send up shoots from the roots, and
the less desirable root stock may overtake the desirable top stock.Graft unions are a slight bulge, or scar like
area on the trunk about 18 inches from the top of the roots.If you planted the tree correctly you should
not have to worry about this.
Refill the hole with the soil you took out and water the plant to
settle the soil.Do not tamp the soil
down.You want your tree in a loose,
gentle environment.Some people like to
make a dam around the tree with soil so the ring it creates can be filled with
water that will seep into the soil.
You may have heard that it’s good to remove some of the branches
or to cut the trunk back after planting by a third and so on.Modern research has shown you should not do this. Don’t remove any branches
unless they are broken or dead and don’t cut the top of the tree back.
Fruit trees can be mulched after planting. Mulch has advantages
and disadvantages.It keeps down weeds
that compete with young trees and preserves soil moisture.However, mulch can hide fruit tree pests such
as insects and voles, which nibble at the trunk.Mulch should never be more than a couple
inches deep and should not actually touch the trunk of the tree.If you do not mulch keep the area beneath the tree mowed
short but be careful not to damage the tree trunk when mowing or weed wacking.
Standard and semi-dwarf trees should not need staking.Staking encourages weak trunks.Dwarf trees however, may need a stake to
support them or they may need to be tied to a trellis or fence.
The trunks of newly planted fruit trees do need protection from
animals who are very fond of tender bark.If animals eat the bark off completely around the tree, called girdling,
it will die.You can use circles of
fencing with small openings, called hardware cloth or wrap one of the spiral
plastic tree wraps around the trunk. The cages should be as tall as the bottom
limbs of the tree.Areas that get heavy
snows will need taller cages as animals will feed from the top of the snow
Water the newly planted trees once a week if it is dry, more often
if the soil is sandy and the weather hot and windy.Once trees are established fruit trees can
stand some drought.However, you will
get larger and better tasting fruit if they can be watered.
Fruit tree care after planting
Fruit trees take a little more care than other garden crops. You
will need to prune, spray and eventually harvest your trees.Most fruit trees need shaping and training
in their early years to produce a good fruit crop.They will need pruning every winter to help
them maintain their size and shape.
Proper pruning is a hard subject to explain in text. There are
different methods of pruning that experts recommend.Different types of fruit also need slightly
different pruning methods. I highly recommend gardeners try to attend a pruning
demonstration, many county Extension offices and garden clubs sponsor these
demonstrations in late winter.
Here are some sites that can show you how to prune fruit trees.
In general, anything growing beneath the graft bulge or coming up
from the roots should be removed.Remove
a branch crossing or rubbing on another.Cut long side branches back by a third.Remove little branches coming off a main branch that are growing
For most fruit trees you want branches that join the trunk at a
good right angle and not like a V.These
support loads of fruit better.Young
branches can be weighed down so they develop a better angle or the improper
angled branches can be removed.They can
also be spread downward by using a board between the trunk and branch, called a
To get your fruit you may need to protect it from birds and other
animals.You can cover the smaller
trees with netting or you can use a variety of “scare” devices that are on the
Fruit trees should be fertilized once a year.Do not fertilize at planting.In the early spring of the following year
apply a general-purpose fertilizer such as 10-6-4 or you can use a fertilizer
labeled for fruit trees.A fertilizer
higher in nitrogen is recommended, you may not need phosphorus and potassium.
Have a soil test done at planting and then every 5 years to determine if there
are any soil nutrient deficiencies. Some trees like citrus may require some
nutrients in greater quantities.
Remember not to use fertilizers with weed killers in them on fruit
trees. Also if the fruit tree is in a lawn area keep lawn weed killers away
from them, at least as far as the drip line.
Apply fertilizers in early spring.Read the label directions for the amount to use as formulas vary. Here
is a basic guideline- you are trying to get about a ¼ pound of actual nitrogen
to the tree the first year after planting and increase it by a ¼ pound each
year for five years. Then stop increasing the fertilizer amount, but keep
fertilizing each year.
The actual amount of nitrogen does not mean the actual weight of
the fertilizer.The first number on the
fertilizer bag is the nitrogen by percentage based on 100 lbs. of fertilizer.For a 10-6-4 fertilizer a fifty-pound bag of
fertilizer would have 5 pounds of actual nitrogen, a 25 pound bag would have 2
½ pounds.You’ll need about 2 ½ pounds
of the complete fertilizer to get ¼ pound of nitrogen.
Spread the dry fertilizer over the soil evenly around the
tree.Make about a 2 feet wide circle
around the tree the first year and in the following years spread the fertilizer
out to the drip line of the tree. Don’t let the fertilizer get up against the
tree trunk. Water the fertilizer in well.
To get a nice crop of fruit a preventative disease and insect
spray program will need to be followed.There are now some products considered organic and of low toxicity for
those who do not like chemical pesticides.While these products help, they are not as effective in preventing
disease and insects as other chemical controls and the fruit produced may not
be as perfect.If you use no
preventative pesticides you may end up with small, wormy or diseased fruit.
To make it simple for home gardeners I recommend a dormant
horticultural oil spray in early spring, before the buds swell for all types of
fruit.Plums and cherries should have a
second dormant oil spray when flower buds show a ½ inch of green.Dormant oil is considered to be an organic treatment
and is one treatment all homeowners should use.
Next choose a good home orchard spray, which you’ll find at garden
stores.These sprays contain both
insecticides and fungicides for disease prevention.Follow the label directions.Generally, you will spray the trees just
before the buds open, after the petals fall and at about ten-day intervals
after that.This would not be an organic
method, but modern fruit tree sprays are pretty safe.
There are products considered to be organic such as Surround®, a
clay coating for fruit and sprays made with sulfur and other compounds that you
can purchase.Organic controls are not
as effective as some other pesticides and fruit may still show signs of disease
or insects.Some people are fine with
that and some use no treatment other than dormant oil on fruit trees.
Don’t apply any sprays while fruit trees are in bloom, organic or
otherwise, as this will affect pollination and can kill pollinators.
Since diseases of fruit trees vary from region to region and
treatment timing may also vary contact your local county Extension office for
advice on fruit tree spraying.I’m not
going to describe diseases and pests because this article would become very,
very long.Once again, the county
Extension office should know what diseases are present in your area and tell
you what to look for and when and how to treat problems.
If conditions are very dry fruit trees will need to be watered for
proper fruit development. Weeds should
be kept away from under fruit trees.They
can hide pests and compete for soil resources.
Every year clean up the leaves beneath
the trees and any fallen fruit as these can harbor insect pests and diseases
from year to year.
While fruit trees are more labor
intensive than other garden plants the labor should be rewarded by a good crop
of tasty and nutritious fruit.Home
fruit growers can also grow varieties of fruit not often found on the
market.If you have the space fruit
trees are a good addition to the garden.
MG lesson part two - Houseplant pests
Houseplants don’t suffer as many diseases as outside plants, but
they do suffer from several types of insect pests.The most common insect pests are whitefly,
aphids, mealy bugs, spider mites, and
scale.There are several species of each
type of these pests, but control is usually the same.Another pest often found with houseplants is
the fungus gnat.This is more of a soil
pest and a nuisance although they can damage plant roots in some cases. I have
a good article about fungus gnats on the pages to the right of the blog so they
won’t be covered here.
Before you bring a plant home inspect it carefully for insect
pests.It’s always a good idea to have a
spot where new plants can be quarantined for a week or two.And if you notice insects or suspect them on
plants you already have it’s good to quarantine them too.The quarantine area should be a room separate
from other plants.You may have to use a
grow light there.
Houseplants get insects from the greenhouse they were grown in and
from summering outside.However, putting
insect infested plants outside will often cure the problem since outdoor
conditions and natural predators will help control insects.Of course, tropical plants can’t go out in
winter and some people don’t have an area to put plants outside.
Some species of plants are more likely to insect pests than
others.Plants that aren’t being cared
for properly are also more susceptible. Signs of insect infestations like
yellowing or curled leaves can also be signs of poor cultural conditions.Other things like fumes, things dumped in the
pot, pet or child damage are sometimes mistaken for insect damage too.
Signs of insect pests are seeing the insects and also seeing
honeydew, a sticky substance that insects poop out after sucking sweet plant
juices.Aphids, scale, mealy bugs and
whitefly can all cause honeydew.You’ll
see it on plant surfaces and also on windows, pots and things the plants are
sitting on.It sometimes gets a black
mold, called sooty mold.Sooty mold
doesn’t harm plants, but it’s a sign you have insect pests.
The most common diseases of houseplants are botrytis or gray mold
and crown and stem rot. Root rot is also
common. All of these are fungal diseases
and while they are contracted from other diseased plants they must have the
right conditions to develop and that’s usually overwatering in cool
environments with poor air circulation.Botrytis looks like a gray fuzzy mold on leaves, usually on begonias,
African violets and some other soft leaved plants. The rots look just as you
would suspect, brown mushy rotted areas on plants.
To control these diseases trim off any infected parts if you
can.Repot in a clean potting medium and
scrub pots in hot water and soap if you reuse them. Improve growing conditions
and don’t over water. If too much of the plant has rotted, you’ll probably just
have to discard it as there is no cure.
Some species of houseplants are susceptible to viruses.They probably had them when you bought them,
or they were given the virus by pests like aphids.Viruses usually cause distorted growth, white
streaking on flowers, and oddly blotched yellow areas on leaves.Plants appear stunted and grow poorly.There is no cure for viruses and plants
should be discarded.
Other diseases of houseplants include some leaf spot diseases,
both fungal and bacterial and a few other rare disease problems.If you suspect them have the plant diagnosed
by your county Extension office and follow the recommendations given for
Aphids are big enough to see with the naked eye and they can be a variety
of colors.Usually they are pale
green.Aphids have a plump body and tiny
wings. They can fly but usually don’t, they crawl to new feeding places. They
may cluster on stems and the back of leaves.They like new growth, the tips of stems and flower buds.Aphids suck plant juices and leave leaves
looking yellow and often curled.The
plants are weakened and stunted. Aphids also carry diseases from plant to
plant.Honeydew is a good sign that
aphids may be present.
Aphids give birth to live young that are tiny versions of
themselves but without wings. The populations can rise rapidly.Outside aphids are the favorite food of many
other insects and often moving a houseplant outside can drop the aphid
population down or eliminate it.
Aphid giving birth
Whiteflies are teeny, tiny white moth -like insects.They produce tiny green larvae that suck
plant juices, leaving behind that lovely honeydew. They cluster under leaves
and in leaf joints, with the larvae usually on the backs of leaves. When you
lightly shake a plant, the adult whiteflies may fly up in a cloud.Like
aphids they cause yellowed leaves and weak, stunted plants.
Mealybugs look liketiny bits of
cotton fluff in the leaf joints and underside and along the veins of leaves. The
adults have white waxy hairs that cause them to look fluffy. They too suck plant juices and cause leaves to
yellow and fall. Eggs are laid in a bit of fluff on the backs of leaves. This
fluff covering protects eggs from some forms of pesticides.
Spider mites are very tiny red, yellow or olive colored insects barely visible
to the naked eye. With a hand lens they do look like tiny spiders. What is
visible is fine webbing, like spider webs, that may appear at branch tips, on
the back of leaves and along plant trunks.They cause yellow stippling of leaves and leaves that dry up and
fall.Heavy infestations can kill
They are most often found when the environment is hot and dry,
with low humidity.To see if they are
your problem place a white sheet of paper under some leaves and tap them.If you see tiny dots that fall on the paper
and move around you probably have spider mites, especially if you also see
Scale insects look like tiny brown oval scabs along plant stems and on the back
of leaves. Some people may mistake them for bark or natural parts of the plant.
They attach to the plant and their hardened shell protects them from
insecticides and other insects.They
have a larval stage that is mobile and moves from plant to plant.They cause lots of honeydew and once again
yellowed, falling leaves and weak stunted plants.
Scale can be seen along leaf vein and on stems.
When you scrape off a scale insect with your fingernail the
backside is usually pale colored. They are pretty easy to scrape off and it’s a
good control, but they are often missed.Because adult scale insects are protected from sprays systemic
pesticides should be used on them.These
are pesticides that are poured on the soil and taken up internally by the
plant.The crawling stage can be killed
by insecticidal soap or pesticides.
People often get very upset when a houseplant insect pest pops
up.It isn’t the end of the world and
most can be saved.Some people simply
throw out the plant and that’s an option, but if the problem is noticed early
and the proper treatment started most plants can be saved.Houseplant pests don’t harm the house, other
than the honeydew, (which can be cleaned off windows and other things with soap
and water), and they don’t infect people or pets.
With houseplants one should take a IPM approach to control.That means identifying the pest and starting
with the safest solutions for control and working “up” from there if more
radical steps are needed and desired.
The very first thing one should do when insect pests are
identified is give the plant a shower.Yes, a shower.Move the plant
outside or to the shower or basement laundry tub and spray them with a strong
stream of warm water.You don’t need
soap, just water. This will dislodge most pests except scale insects, and it
will even help with scale. Hit the underside of leaves and along stems and
branch joints with the stream of water.If you are worried about soil washing out of the pot or it getting too
wet, cover the pot with a plastic bag.Repeat the shower every few days until the problem seems to have
The second thing to try if showers aren’t correcting the problem
is an insecticidal soap spray.Use a
commercial product, not homemade concoctions which may harm plants.This is most effective on aphids, mealy bugs,
spider mites and white fly.
For whitefly and aphids, you can try yellow sticky traps, which
are hung close to plants and which attract insects, which stick to them. You
can buy these or make your own by coating bright yellow plastic or cardboard
with petroleum jelly.Replace them
whenever they have a lot of insects on them or get dusty.
For scale insects you can try removing them by scraping them
off.Give them a warm shower first if
you can to wash off the larval stage and soften the scales. You can use your
fingernail or a pocket knife blade to scrape them off.Or you can use cotton swabs dipped in a
little alcohol to remove them.Try not
to get alcohol on the plant tissue.This
is a tedious chore and you will miss some of the scales, I guarantee it.Removing most of the population will increase
the plants health.You will need to
repeat the treatment at least a few times.
If the more natural remedies don’t work and you are not averse to
chemical treatments I will offer some suggestions here.Remember to follow label directions
exactly.It’s a good idea to take the
plants being treated to an unused room or outside until sprays have dried.Systemic treatments can sometimes be
used.If you have pets that eat plants
or for some reason, kids that eat plants, you may not want to use pesticides,
although some are pretty safe even with consumption of a small amount on the
Don’t worry about pesticides harming good insects if the plants
are inside, or even if they go outside but are not blooming plants.
Remember that pesticides regulations change so this pesticide list
could be outdated when you read it.Look
for products that mention they can be used inside and that control the pest you
have identified.Always follow label
directions and keep pesticides out of the reach of kids in pets. These are not
brand names, look for the ingredient listed below on labels.
Pyrethrins, resmethrin, and permethrin will work on most insect
pests except spider mites. Bifenthrin will work on most pests including spider
mites.Imidacloprid will work on mealybugs, scale, and aphids but
is used in special potting mixes that can be hard to find. Neem oil will work
on whiteflies and aphids.
And while we are talking treatments you know I have to caution
about some of the oddball home remedies that float around.Dish soap solutions are one of the most
popular home concoctions.Dish soap
should not be used on plants. They have chemicals that strip natural oils and
waxes off plant leaves. An insecticidal
soap, one you purchase, has a different formula and doesn’t remove the
protective waxes and oils.Dish soap may
cause leaf yellowing, drying up and curling also.Many of the dish soap “recipes” I see are so
diluted they won’t harm the plants, but they won’t harm the insects either.
Other remedies that don’t
work on houseplants are Epsom salts, diatomaceous earth, alcohol sprays
(very bad for plants), coffee or coffee grounds, cinnamon, baking soda, onion
or garlic oil, and other grocery items.Also, not recommended for inside are predators, like lady bugs or frogs.
(Don’t laugh, people suggest this, but house conditions are not good for them
and its rarely effective control in a home.) But if you leave regular spiders
alone near your plants they may control some pests.
Houseplant pests don’t need to destroy your plants or keep you from
having houseplants.Keeping a watchful
eye on your plants and moving quickly to control pests will keep your plants
healthy and growing.
Sorry no recipe this week, I just wrote
Get outside and soak up the sun if you
can- it’s spring at last.
is the Lapeer County Gardeners facebook page)
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