Pesky Black Knats Seek Refuge Indoors

11/14/2012 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Flowers, Houseplants, Uncategorized

The timing was perfect! A couple of weeks ago we dispersed the final applications of plant food and winter weed preventer; so there they were, lying on top of the ground ready for this week’s precipitation to wash them into the soil. Now our dormant plants can draw on these storehouses of nutrients through the winter months ahead.

If you haven’t fed your garden yet, it’s not too late. Everything in the yard should be fed with an organic All Purpose Plant Food, 7-4-4, before the next storm arrives. Think of it as laying out a Thanksgiving feast for your plants. Then, in spring, you will enjoy a richer-looking landscape, especially from the early spring blooms like lilacs, forsythias, and camellias.

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This week’s “Plant of the Week” is the Bloomerang Lilac, one of the new plants created for today’s gardens, and it truly is amazing. It really is new, so I guarantee you haven’t seen this plant in Arizona. A revolutionary new lilac, it blooms in spring and then flowers again and again for season-long color. This compact new variety fits easily in any sunny mountain landscape that needs more fragrance. This lilac is striking in a glazed container with a foundation of mixed winter flowers, but perennial beds, too, are improved with this boomerang bloomer. Come spring, that classic lilac fragrance will fill the air for months!

The Bloomerang Lilac is a welcome newcomer to Prescott landscapes, but because it’s a new introduction, it is a very small crop. There are a finite number of these plants and they are small in stature, standing only a couple of feet tall. The good news for gardeners is that the small size means that a new plant variety is available for under $20.

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Furnaces and space heaters got a workout with this week’s winter weather. Any heat source not only warms our living quarters but also dramatically lowers indoor humidity. You will find that the more our heaters run the faster houseplants’ soil will dry. Make sure to check indoor plants frequently until you get used to the rhythm of winter watering. A moisture meter helps.

Since this column likes new introductions, let me tell you about an incredible new moisture meter I’ve discovered. (Technologically savvy readers will love this one.) This newest WaterStik moisture meter has a computer chip driven LED. I love it because it’s left in the soil at the base of a plant and when additional water is needed a small LED light emits a reminder that the plant needs water. Put one in each plant with a different moisture requirement and the question of indoor water needs is a question no more. . . ingenious new technology.

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Garden Alert! This first of the winter’s storms had many of us scrambling to bring plants indoors to protect them from the cold. Unfortunately, a pesky little black gnat came in seeking refuge as well. Fungus gnats love to live in houseplant soil and since they are drawn to the lights of a computer screen, the I-Pad, bright windows, and any other light source, they become nuisances to household residents. Plus, if left unchecked they can spread and kill a plant. What to do?

There are two solutions essential to eliminating these gnats. One is to keep this pest from flying around the house and spreading to other plants, and the other is to eliminate the pests living in a houseplant’s soil. First is a glorified version of traditional flypaper. Sticky Whitefly Trap is an organic solution that attracts the flying adult to a brightly colored yellow strip of paper where it gets stuck and dies. 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 are a long-term solution to this pesky problem. The granular deterrent is sprinkled at the base of houseplants and watered in by hand. As the water penetrates the soil it kills the maggot stage of this pest. 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.

Until next week, I’ll see you at the garden center.