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Garden Help Desk: Solving the mystery of the sick houseplants

By Usu Extension garden Help Desk - | Dec 20, 2020
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Plants that spend the summer outdoors can bring unwanted hitchhikers back indoors. Consider doing some preventive treatments like systemic insecticides, insecticidal soap sprays or something similar before bringing your tender plants back inside for the winter.

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There are lots of little tricks you can try when you need to protect your landscape from deer, but the most reliable method is exclusion, like this fencing around the yard.

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Good fencing is more work at first, but saves you work in the long run.

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Intense direct sunlight can scorch the leaves of tender indoor plants. Heat can be trapped and build up where there are plants by south or west-facing window causing damage to indoor plants. Checking your plants frequently helps you to deal with small problems before they become big problems.

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Pests can come indoors on tender plants and then spread to other plants inside your home. Inspect your plants frequently and deal with pests or diseases promptly to protect other plants in your home.

Question: A couple of my houseplants look like their having problems. They were fine all summer and fall on my patio, but now, they’re not looking quite right. What can I do to help them?

Answer: Most houseplants do just fine outdoors if they’re kept in the right location, but they need special attention before they’re brought back indoors for the winter.

It’s easy for pests to travel indoors along with your plants. Before you brought your plants back into the house, did you check them carefully for aphids, scale, white flies, spider mites and other pests? If you didn’t, you should do that now.

Carefully, inspect the undersides of leaves, along stems and in flower or leaf buds. If you do find pests, you can use insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to control aphids, mites and white flies.

For scale, you can also try applying rubbing alcohol with swabs or cotton balls. You’ll need to repeat these treatments about once a week for a few weeks. Check to label on your product for the best timing.

Where did you put the plants when you brought them back indoors? Are they near any furnace vents where dry, warm air could be blowing through the foliage and drying the plants out faster than water can be moved up from the soil? Are they close to any windows where the nighttime temperatures might be getting too cold for them? Are they getting intense direct sun at a south or west-facing window, or not getting enough light in a room without any windows? Any of these things could affect the health of your houseplants.

How about your watering schedule? Has the frequency changed or the amount of water each time changed? You should see at least a little water drain out of the bottom of the container each time you water.

Your plants will use less water now that they’re indoors where there isn’t any breeze to dry them out. They may need to be watered just as deeply but not as often. Most potted plants also prefer a little time between waterings to let the soil dry just a bit, so always check the soil moisture before you water.

Are you using cold tap water or water that is about room temperature? Tap water in the winter can be very cold, which is stressful for tender tropical houseplants.

Give them time and good care, and you should see them improve.

Question: The deer don’t come through my back yard very often, but when they do, they cause lots of damage. They killed a couple of baby peach trees and ate all my fall lettuce in my garden.

I’ve wrapped my other baby trees in a vinyl wrap, for now. I tried motion sensing lights, but they didn’t help at all. Do you have any other ideas to keep them out of my garden?

Answer: When you garden where deer sometimes cause damage, it’s important to protect young trees. Mature trees can tolerate some deer feeding, but young fruit trees — like yours — need time to grow up.

Using some kind of exclusion if the most reliable way to protect your trees. Steel posts and tall welded-wire fencing material around each of your trees can be effective. You could also try fencing your entire home orchard area to exclude the deer. The fencing should be at least 8 feet tall.

Tall fencing around the perimeter of your vegetable garden would also be effective, if there is a gate that is always kept closed when you’re not out in your garden. Some gardeners also cover the top with fencing material to provide extra protection.

You could construct low row covers out of welded-wire material to protect individual rows or areas of your vegetable garden next year. If your garden is just a small salsa garden, tomato and pepper plants can be protected with individual welded-wire cages supported by steel posts

There are lots of repellent products and suggested home remedies that claim to provide protection from deer, but most have to be reapplied frequently. If you want to try one of these sprays this winter, apply the spray during the day when temperatures are above freezing.

Make sure the label of any product specifically says it repels deer and it is safe for use on fruit trees. Keep in mind that if deer are hungry enough, they may not be discouraged by any repellent product.


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