Showing posts with label indoor gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label indoor gardening. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

What's Bugging Your Plants And How To Solve The Problem

Winter has set in for the long haul and if you live in Canada or the Northern United States, the plants you brought indoors for the winter months are probably showing some signs of distress.

Why does that happen and what can you do about it? 

Simply put, your indoor space as nice as it may be, is not the "great outdoors".  All gardeners wish they could just bring the summer inside so that they can survive those crazy cold winter months.  Alas, that is not possible.  We all have some plants that we love and want to "overwinter" in our homes.  I know I have a few that I just love and I always start early in the fall to get these favorites ready for their move indoors.


Olivia's Brugmansia

This is my all time favorite flower.  It is really more like a tree and in the southern states it grows to be as big as a tree.  Here in the north, with proper care it can also become quite large, but keeping a plant this big indoors over the winter months is not an easy task.  So I prepare early to bring in cuttings from this amazing plant.  It roots easily in water and once the cuttings have a good root system I plant the cutting in soil and bring that indoors.  You can also go through the process of keeping these in a cool cellar over the winter months, but that is another whole process.  I find it easier to keep just a few cuttings and watching them grow ever so slowly in the winter.  

What's the biggest problems with keeping plants indoors over the winter?

There are really three problems that will cause plants to decline over the winter months.
  1. Light, not enough of it.
  2. Water, too much of it.
  3. Pests, hitchhikers that you didn't expect to give a home to.
Today we are going to discuss the "Hitchhikers"!

There are six common pests that can attack indoor plants and most often they hitchhike in the soil.  They may be dormant for a little while, but once January comes around they seem to explode on the scene.  Let's find out more!

The six pests are:
  1. aphids
  2. soil gnats
  3. scale insects
  4. white flies
  5. spider mites
  6. mealy bugs

There are a few pests that can literally take over in a matter of a few days.  In the summer months when the plant is outdoors, it has the advantage of natural pest controls.  Ladybugs, praying mantis and just better growing conditions can make these pests less of a problem.  Once indoors the natural controls are no longer there.  Additionally, if you bring in the plant with it's soil from outdoors, you are probably giving the hitchhikers a first class ride into their winter residence as well.

Whenever you bring a plant from the outdoors in, you should take steps to make sure the pests are not coming in with them.  There are several ways to do this.  One is to drench the soil with neem oil products (natural and organic controls).  Spray the leaves and undersides especially to knock off the aphids and wipe out any eggs.  Or you can take cuttings that will be rooted and planted in fresh soil.  

If you notice a plant not doing well, leaves that are falling off, discolored leaves, tips that are browning and not growing, you know you have a problem.
The next step is to isolate the plant (most pests will gladly jump from one plant to another if they are in close proximity), and seek out information on what kind of problem you have.  Some of these pests are easy to find if you know what to look for.  Others might be a little harder, but you can get help if you need it from a reliable nursery.  Bring in the plant, or a leaf and see if they can help you identify the pest, then you can also purchase what you need to help control or get rid of your "problem" before it becomes an all out infestation.

Most people know about aphids, controlling them is rather easy.  You must be consistent but a good blast of water will dislodge aphids and within a few weeks your problem should be over.  Every three days check your plant, if you see aphids, get them into the shower and give them a good hard spray with lukewarm water.  Wash them all down the drain.  Keep your plant segregated until you see no more signs of aphids.  

Soil gnats are not really a "problem pest" in that they won't kill your plant.  They are rather annoying though.  When you disturb the plant, you will see little black flies come out of the ground and fly around and then go back into the ground.  Water your plants with neem oil added to their water and keep the soil on the dry side until you no longer see these little flies.  Over watering is one of the biggest mistakes made when bringing plants indoors.

Scale insects are much more difficult.  They are sneaky and if you don't know what to look for, you will miss them completely.  Scale insects like to hid under leaves and in the meeting of stem and leaf.  They can also attach to flowering stems.  One of my orchids has a scale problem and what set me to find this was a stickiness on the leaves.  This stickiness is from the scale excreting honeydew after sucking the plant juices.  Scale look like little bumps on a stem or leaf and can look like part of the plant.  If you scratch the edges of the scale, you will find it will lift off of the plant.  The easiest way to get control of scale insects is with rubbing alcohol and a Q-tip or cotton ball.  The rubbing alcohol will damage the scales outer shell and expose the bug for removal.  It is important to watch a plant with scale as they will suck the life right out of the plant in short order.  Check the plant weekly and remove any scale using this method.  
Scale insects on leaf and stem. (Picture from WikiCommons)

White flies are also a nuisance.  They attack the undersides of the leaves of many plants.  They also multiply readily, so an infestation is quite possible in a few days time.  Like aphids the best way to keep these under control is to knock them off with a good spray of water.  Do this every 2 to 3 days and then treat the soil with neem oil so that any eggs that may have fallen into the soil will die.  You can also purchase Yellow Sticky traps for these pesky white flies.  They seem to be attracted to the yellow color.

Spider mites as their name implies are very much like spiders, but they are tiny(almost microscopic) and you could need a magnifying glass in order to see them.  What you might see before you actually see the bugs, is a webbing all over the ends of the plant stems.  Imagine tent caterpillars in miniature.  The effect is similar.  When you see those webs all over the plant you will have to get that plant into the shower and wash them off.  Again the undersides of the leaves and the ends of the plant are favorite spots for this pest.  

Mealy Bugs like scale are harder to control and require that you actively search your plants for their presence.  They like the scale have a hard outer shell that will keep them firmly attached to the plant.  Using rubbing alcohol will dislodge them and kill them as well.  

If you want to know more about houseplant pests a great website is from Colorado State and you can find it right here!  They also have some great pictures of these pests if you want to know what they look like or you are not sure if what you are seeing is a pest or not.

I personally have a great collection of Rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs and cotton balls for my houseplants.  Once a month I water all of my plants with Neem Oil added to the water as a preventative measure to keep my plants happy.  Spring and Summer are on their way, but until then, keep a close eye on your favorite plants.  Make sure that no pests will spoil your indoor gardening period.

For your convenience I have included my must haves for over-wintering my favorite plants and keeping them healthy until they can go back outside again in Late Spring and Summer.  Hope this helps you keep your favorite plants happy too!










Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How to Grow Your Way to Happiness and a Great Garden A Review

Growing My Way to Happiness!  A Review!


Many studies have shown that Growing a Garden reduces stress and increases your happiness with just getting your hands dirty. As I review this idea of growing seeds for the garden, I agree that these studies are true.  I know that in my own life, as February is coming to a close, I start to look for those little signs that spring is indeed on it's way.  Little sprouts coming out of the ground are cause for me to jump for joy!  My husband still doesn't understand that completely.  Oh well, I can't explain it any more than to say my heart does indeed leap with joy, and I know that better days are ahead.  No more Seasonal Affected Disease and no more need to sit under lamps to get us out of our "funk".  The countdown is on for when we can really get our fingers into the ground and just feel wonderful.

galanthus bulbs, snow bells, spring bulbs
Snow Bells in Spring
https://pixabay.com/en/flower-rod-snowdrop-garden-nature-2080981/


So now that February is almost done and we can honestly say that Spring is just around the corner, it's time to get those seeds started that we saved from last year.  Just to be on the safe side though,  don't start just yet.  It is still February!

Preparation is the Key to Successful Spring Seed Growing

All of my die hard gardening friends have already been to at least one "Seedy Weekend".  What is that, you might ask?  Well, for anyone who lives in an Urban area with either Greenhouses or a Botanical Garden nearby, most of these will have a late winter get together called a "Seedy Saturday or Sunday".  The whole point of the weekend being that gardeners get together to share the abundance of seeds that they have saved from their own gardens and share with others for seeds that they might have.  It increases the number of seeds any gardener has and let's them share stories of their own particular gardens with like minded people.  It really is a social for gardeners who have missed being outdoors during the winter months.  If you are in the Toronto area for a visit, this weekend is the Toronto Botanical Gardens Seedy Saturday(Feb. 25),  so come on over for some fun and some great new seeds.

Back to preparation for Seed Sowing

Make sure you have purchased new seedling soil for your seeds. You never want to reuse soil from previous years, as they might be harboring bacteria that will be harmful to new seedlings.  This special seedling soil is composed of  a mix that contains very little "soil or dirt",  rather it is made up of moss, vermiculite and perlite.  These can be purchased separately and mixed together one part of each, or you can purchase it premixed.  You can fill up your home made containers, using newspapers, or half egg shells, or half a toilet paper tube.  All of these would be perfect for seed starts and are bio-degradable. It also makes it so much easier to plant in the garden afterwards because you just plant the whole thing into the ground.  No need to disturb young forming roots.

seedlings, starter tubes, repurposing toilet paper tubes
https://pixabay.com/en/macro-nursery-plants-seedlings-1840261/

Have whatever containers you choose to set up for your seeding, on heat mats. You are trying to make the seeds think it's May with nice warm soil to grow in.  Warm soil and lots of light are the two most important things you need to start your indoor seeds off right.  If you just plant seeds into little pots and set them on a window sill, you will surely get the seeds to grow, but they will suffer in a few weeks time.  Why?  Well it's really just too early for them to growing without some added help.  Warming the soil with heat mats is akin to being outdoors in May.  The sun warms up the soil outdoors so that seeds will germinate and grow.  The days are getting longer with more hours of sunshine available than in March, so that the seedlings that are growing in the ground will be hardy and strong.  Indoors we need to mimic the garden in May as much as possible if we want strong seedlings.  Without the added attention of heat and light, your seedlings will be tall, lanky and very spindly looking.  Most often they will fall over because the stalks are not strong enough to hold them upright.  Once that happens you can almost count the days to total death of the seedling.  All that work is gone and you have to start over again, if you have enough seeds.  If you don't you will be buying more seeds in short order to start all over again.  

Indoor Gardening Done Right

If you decide that you really want to grow your seeds from scratch in the early months of March and April, then be prepared to have the right set up in place.  Yes there is a bit of effort involved, but  the end result will be well worth the effort.  You can purchase an indoor garden set up with shelves, heat mats and lights all in one unit.  This is usually more than enough for your average home gardener.  You are not going to become a commercial greenhouse operation, but you will have lots of seedlings for your garden and maybe some friends too.  Doing it this way is a little expensive, but you would have the unit for years to come.  I prefer the doing my seeds with heat mats and grow lights that I have purchased separately.  For my garden needs, this is more than enough space to grow seeds.  You have to decide for yourself which set up is right for you!


With some of these choices you can start your own indoor gardening center and have some really good success with it too. The heat mats are inexpensive and will provide that much needed warmth at the soil level. The grow lights are also inexpensive and will help to keep your seedlings compact and strong.  The additional light with at least 8 to 12 hours of light, will mimic the days in May and June. Or if you really want to guarantee success, you can try one of the Areo Grow Systems for indoor herb gardens.  They have the lights and warmth built right into the unit, so that your success with these is almost a given.  Gardening is a joy especially for us northerners.  We love our changing seasons, but the change from Winter to Spring is the one that we seem to love the best.

Happy Gardening and Seed Sowing to all of you!


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.