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A Long Row To Hoe

(A Gardener's Letters)
by Ken Beattie
by Ken Beattie


Ken Beattie has hosted a number of gardening-related programs for WTN.

Ken is currently working with the Canadian Wildlife Federation and is also the author of an informative gardening book series.

July 9, 2006

Dear Sis;

1pt.gif (86 bytes)Well I guess that you are over the holiday rush and things have settled down a tad at your household. How many Poinsettias did you end up with this year? I am so tired of ours, that I am secretly delivering them to the compost bin today, sort of freeze drying them. They are great for the holiday season, but so many fungus gnats appear with them that I am constantly battling bugs. You had a problem this fall with them too, remember those tiny black flies about the size of a fruit fly? I know that you tried the various dusts and powders with some degree of success, but here is a great way to control these pesky critters.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)First of all, you must consider that all your houseplants are affected, not simply the plants where you see the bugs. Secondly, the fungus gnat has three stages to its life cycle, egg and larvae both which are soil borne and then adult, the fly that you see everywhere. In order to treat the egg stage, I suggest that you drench the soil with a solution of insecticidal soap. Enough so that the liquid actually drains out the bottom of the pot. This ensures that the eggs are coated with soapy solution sealing their fate. The larvae, which feed on the decomposing bits and pieces in the soil mix, will ingest the soap and die off shortly thereafter. Now, using a Fungus Gnat killer, Diazinon or Chlorisect product will surely kill the larvae, but the eggs will still hatch and another generation of insects will emerge.
Finally, you may not realize that these fungus gnats also lay eggs in the drains. Some gardeners suggest that you put a few drops of cooking oil into the drains before you retire at night. The eggs which may be in the traps will be coated with the oil, much like the soap does in the soil, and they will die.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Other than the embarrassment of so many wee flies buzzing about, they really are not a big problem, at least for the plants. Don’t feel too badly, we all have them from time to time, particularly if we have lots of plants. Good luck with your extermination and please throw out your Poinsettias. If it will encourage you to do so, I will send you some great new Gloxinia next month.


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