by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
This week I was checking out the first of the seed catalogs on my iPad, dreaming of next spring. We gardeners have our core ‘Go-To’ plants we always grow: A favorite pepper that grills perfectly during summer parties, a flower that blooms and blooms in that raised bed better than all others. These are the plants that make gardening consistent and fun. However, 10% of my gardens are left to the new, unusual, almost funky, kind of plants that are true experiments.
Some of these new varieties end up with an almost “mad scientist” effect. A pumpkin took over our back yard this year and produced the most extraordinary fruits that could only be grown by seed. The gardens looked like Jurassic Park: wild, untamed, but beautiful. This spark of gardening excitement left me perusing my seed catalogs in search of something new to experiment with this coming year.
Aggravatingly, with the first seed catalogs also comes my biggest nemesis, the bug that pesters and infuriates, the smallest of all indoor bugs, the fungus gnat.! These gnats are drawn to the light of the iPad screen. They bug me while in my most creative writing zone in front of the desktop, or they persistently pester me while I’m sipping a cup of tea envisioning that empty raised bed and what could be next year.
These insidious little gnats are drawn to indoor warmth. They take refuge in the soils of our houseplants and then breed prolifically.
Fungus gnats are related to fruit flies and are the most common local pests to houseplants. There are two solutions essential to combating these gnats. One is to keep them from flying around the house and spreading to other plants; the other is to eliminate the pests living in a houseplant’s soil. First is a glorified version of traditional flypaper. Sold here at the nursery, ‘Sticky Whitefly Traps’ are an organic solution that attracts the flying adults to a brightly colored strip of paper where they get stuck and die. Stick a trap on the back of each pot with an infected plant and it will prevent adults from laying more eggs in the plants and keep them from “bugging” you while you’re trying to check email.
Systemic Insect Granules by Bonide are a long-term solution to fighting fungus gnats. Simply sprinkle the granules at the base of houseplants and water in well. As the water penetrates the soil it kills the maggot stage of these pests. By eliminating the pests from the soil your plants will be left to thrive; ignore the pests and they eventually will take over and kill every plant in the house. A good value at $12.99.
‘Pot Poppers’ are a safer way to go if you have small children, puppies, and/or mischievous kitties that might interact physically with your houseplants. This fungus gnat control, available exclusively at Watters for $19.99, is preferred in our household. These microscopic insects are released into a plant’s soil where they hunt down and kill fungus gnats, root aphids, and soil-dwelling thrips. When pests are gone, so, too, are these beneficial insects.