Fall Gardening

The fall tends to be a bit more relaxed for us. We spend our time thinking about the following year and getting things cleaned up from this year. Customers are normally not part of the equation. One exception is customers asking about what they should do with a plant that they bring in the house from the garden.

Many people put out large house plants in the spring to let them grow outdoors during the summer. An example of this might be Hibiscus. It is a great strategy. It allows the plant to be exposed to maximum light levels that can help it a great deal especially if you are trying to shape it. If the pot is sunken in the soil it can mean that the maintenance of the plant is less demanding over the summer especially if you go on vacation.

A challenge to this plan is in the fall when you try to bring the plant back in the house and discover it is invested with harmful insects. This challenge is not nearly as bad as it may look a first glance. Many insects are no where to be found in the cool temperatures of the fall. An example are spider mites. Spider mites thrive during the hot temperatures of the summer and their populations wain as it gets cool and rainy in the fall.

What do you do if you have something like aphids covering a plant? The aphids populations are likely starting to lag a bit but it is very common to see them still on plants they like such as Hibiscus. The key to handling them is multi-faceted. The first is to try and reduce the numbers on the plant. By hosing off the plant with a strong jet of water you can knock many of them off before you move them into the house. In fact anytime you have an excess of harmful insects on a plant you can hose it off and greatly reduce the load. This works well in the shower in the winter. Some of the most difficult to control aphids such as foxglove aphids respond very well to this since they tend to drop off the plant when disturbed. It is also a good time to do any pruning of bad foliage hopefully further reducing numbers of insects.

After to have physically reduced the number of insects it is time to think about how to deal with the balance. Most people tend to make a basic mistake here by treating the plant once and then seeing that 2 weeks later the plant is the same or worse. The problem is that the treatment may have worked on adults but perhaps not as well on immatures or eggs. With time those juveniles turn into adults, lay eggs and start the cycle over again. Sounds a bit like a lost cause but that is not so. If you think about it you just have to go back and repeat the treatment before the juveniles mature and become reproductive. This often takes several treatments (I would recommend at least 3) spaced 3 to 4 days apart. The key is to keep scouting the plant to try and treat before any adults mature.

For most insects treating with a 2% insecticidal or dish soap solution is the one to use. I usually recommend spraying thoroughly making sure you cover the bottoms of the leaves and growing tips and then about 1 hour later going back in with a plain water spray to rinse the detergent off. The soap can be a bit phyto-toxic and has no residual insecticidal effect after it dries so you get the good effects of the soap while reducing damage to a minimum.

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