All Ready for Spring

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It may seem strange to be organizing my potting area now but there’s actually method to my seeming madness here.

I spent most of Thanksgiving day organizing this tiny space, not so much because I wanted to, but because I really had to. Over the last few years, as I changed my garden style, it had gotten totally disorganized.

I couldn’t find anything;I couldn’t distinguish pots from decorative outer pots; I had no idea that I had so many clay saucers–you get the idea.

But the real impetus driving the cleanup right now is that this area stores my Christmas boxes. And the floor had become so cluttered and strewn with pots and saucers and baskets that I couldn’t even walk, never mind store anything here for a month.

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So the small stuff went up, and the larger stuff got neatly stacked again. Who knows how long it will last? At least a month, though–I am beginning to stack boxes in front of this now.

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Houseplant Pest Habits

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Yes, those are mealy bugs. Generally they are very easy to deal with, particularly when they are located where they are in this photo. A little alcohol on a cotton swab will wipe them right off.

But that begs the question. Where did this large critter come from out here on the end of the leaf? There are a couple of smaller ones with him (it?)–in fact this whole plant was infested at one point. That’s how I caught these guys so quickly. I was watching for more.

You see, not only do mealies have a nasty habit of hiding in the crevices of plants–places like unfurling leaves and stem/leaf junctions–but their eggs can also live in the soil for more than 2 years.

That’s probably how so many of them sneak into our homes to begin with.

And that again is how we know Stephen King doesn’t garden. Eggs that lay dormant for over 2 years and then become a full-fledged infestation? Sounds like a horror movie to me!

Grower’s Results without the Fuss

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Here’s a zygocactus that I recently got from a grower. It’s lovely and full of buds, a few of which have already opened.

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Now here is one of mine that I’ve had for a couple of years–also full of buds. I may have 10 or 12 this size and you’ll see most, if not all of them on my “Wordless Wednesdays,” no doubt over the next few months.

If you’ll notice, mine has a many–or more–buds than the one I got from the grower. While you may say “so what?” you need to remember a couple of things: first I am a totally organic grower and next, I don’t fertilize.

So how did I achieve this? Simple. I put these plants outside this year, something I hadn’t done in the past.

I had never put them outside because they are “succulent-like,” and I was concerned that they would get too much moisture and would rot. But this year, with surgery on my arm, I had a little more time to pay closer attention to my container plants (since I couldn’t do a lot of the heavier work in the garden) so I was able to monitor them closely.

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So they never got too wet–and rainwater obviously did them a word of good. Several shoots are double-budded like this one. This may be my new care regimin–so long as we don’t have a monsoonal rainy summer.

Well, That Escalated Quickly

Whenever I lecture about house plants, I get questions about insects. And I always joke that we know Stephen King isn’t a gardener–and the way we know this is because some of our common garden and house plant insects are so scary that he could write novels about them alone.

I will never forget one of the original X-Files shows. It was about a giant flatworm. The concept doesn’t sound scary but it was enough to make me stop watching the series forever. I said to The Spoiler–nope. I have to garden with those things.

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I was a little appalled when I saw this. I had been closely monitoring this plant. I had seen these flowers wilting one day.

On the second day, the whole plant was wilted. So I gave it lots of water and it revived. Today when I re-visited it to check it for dryness, this is what I found–the entire flower stem covered in webs and spider mites–visible spider mites.

Spider mites are funny creatures. They love warmth, dryness (lack of humidity) and they reproduce every three days. They’re members of the arachnid family–true little spiders.

Some make webs and others don’t. You’re lucky if they make webs–you stand a chance of spotting them quickly.

Still, these are on a plant that’s just a seasonal-type plant that I would quickly discard if it were mine. It’s in my office hallway with several other mums–so no real loss if anything else there gets infected. But I moved them out of the way just to be sure until I have permission to discard them.

What does this tell us? Check your plants–even at times when it seems as if they are not actively growing. Plant pests can become active and get out of hand very quickly–and if you’re not careful, you’ll lose a plant you care about!