2013-09-12 / News

The Island Garden

Start preparing for the fall
By Roger Marshall

It might seem early, but now is the time to start preparing for the fall season. One of the first things you will want to do is to bring the plants that have summered on the patio inside.

But wait: You could be bringing disease, insects, slugs and snails indoors. So your first step is to get a decent insecticide. If you want to go organic, use neem, pyrethrin, bacillus thuringiensis or insecticidal soap to spray your plants.

Insecticidal soaps smother insects the others kill them. Bt is aimed at leaf-eating insects and caterpillars. There are broad-spectrum insecticides that are more powerful than these organics, such as Ortho’s Flower, Fruit & Vegetable Insect Killer, if you wish to use them.

Make one application outside on a warm dry day then wait up to two weeks before making a second application. The second application is to kill off insect eggs that might hatch after the first application wore off. Be sure to first test your insecticide on a leaf or two. There are some plants that don’t like insecticides. If the plant can stand the spraying, be sure to spray under the leaves where bugs such as whitefly reside. Shake the entire plant while you are spraying to get any flying insects into the air where you can spray them.

While you are checking your plants over, knock one or two out of their pots and check to see if they need repotting. If they do, repot them into a container one or two sizes larger. If you put your plants into larger pots, it will make more roots at the expense of top growth.

For plants that don’t need to be repotted, give them a shot of fertilizer and make sure they are fully watered. Do not let water sit in the pot or in the tray under the pot – it is not good for the plant roots. Just before bringing your plants inside, give them a dose of fertilizer at half strength. When you bring your plants indoors, the plant sees it as being moved from cold overnight temperatures into a warm temperature. Consequently, it will put on a growth spurt.

In addition, any insects that you missed with your two sets of spraying will hatch out. You will need to watch for both the growth spurt and the insects. Tender new growth on your plants is a target for hatching insects, so you might want to wait for the growth to begin. Then, on a mild day in fall, take your plant outside and spray one more time to clear insects for the winter.

To make sure that you don’t transport slugs and snails inside, check under the rims and bottoms of your plant pots. Anywhere dark and moist is where these pests might live. You might also wipe the outside of your pots down before bringing them indoors. Any dirt clinging to the pot that gets inside will eventually dry out and drop on the floor. In addition to wiping down, it gives you the chance to inspect the entire pot.

At this stage, around about Oct. 1, stop fertilizing the plant. As evenings draw in through October and November, plant growth will slow down naturally and they may even go dormant. During the winter months, keep the soil around your plants moist, but test it with a finger before watering. The finger test is quite simple: if your finger comes out moist, don’t water. If your finger comes out slightly damp, don’t water. If you finger is dry, water. If your finger is broken, the soil has dried to a rock and your plant is probably dead.

If you have orchids such as phalaenopsis that you bought at one of the big box stores and it has dropped its flowers, simply snip off the flower stalk and repot the plant into medium orchid bark growing mixture in a pot with plenty of drain holes. Soak the medium overnight before repotting your orchid. Put the orchid near an east-facing window and keep the medium moist until the plant shows signs of a new growing spike.

As soon as a growing spike appears, begin fertilizing the plant with orchid fertilizer. Start at 50 percent of the recommended level and increase to 100 percent on the second or third fertilizing. Your orchid will require fertilizer every three weeks to a month and enough water to keep the medium moist. As soon as the plant comes into flower, enjoy it and fertilize until the flower spike dies back, then just keep the medium moist. That’s about all you need to do to keep your orchid going through the winter.

Of course, if you don’t want to do that, call me and I’ll take it off your hands.

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