Thursday, November 17, 2016

Time to Bring Tender Plants Inside

The weatherman is saying that cold weather is on the way, arriving Friday night, so yesterday I started the process of de-bugging the few pots of tender plants that spend the summer on our patio. First, I inspect the plant itself for signs of pests, and if I see any, these are usually easily eliminated by hosing the plant off or by using insecticidal soap. 

The more common problem I have is with insects that claim the soil in the pot for a summer home, and then start crawling out into the house when the pot is moved indoors. So before I move them indoors, I try to encourage all those squatters to find a new home. One way to do this is to prepare a soil drench containing insecticide, but a more environmentally friendly way is simply to submerge the pot in water. This is very easy when you are dealing with small pots but I have two large ones that present a bigger challenge.

A few years ago, I discovered that those large plastics tubs are ideal for this purpose (and very useful for all sorts of other gardening applications). This picture shows a tree fern submerged in a green plastic tub. It barely fits but barely is good enough since the goal is to saturate the soil in the pot. I added enough water to the green tub to make the water level in the bin equal to the soil level in the pot. I left it about 20 minutes, then took the pot out. (Actually, I had to get Jack to lift it out since a big pot saturated with water weighs a lot.) This particular pot is one of those self-watering types that has a water reservoir and no drainage holes in the bottom. I had to tilt it to let water escape from the water reservoir, then let it sit for awhile so that water could drain from the soil into the reservoir. I had to repeat this process a few times before all the water drained out.

This picture shows the tree fern draining and a rabbit's foot fern in the green tub. The rabbit's foot fern is planted in a normal pot, with drainage holes in the bottom. After about a 20 minute bath, the pot came out of the water and drained for awhile on the patio.

Perhaps you've already brought your plants inside (after all, next week is Thanksgiving!), but if not, you might want to give this method a try. It is a simple, cost-free and chemical-free way to avoid bringing earwigs and fungus gnats into your home.

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