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The Gardener's Biggest Nemesis is Also the Smallest
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11 December 2015  
The Gardeners Biggest Nemesis is Also the Smallest

This week I was checking out the first of the seed catalogs on the iPad dreaming of next spring. Gardeners have their core 'Go-To' plants they grow. A favorite pepper that grills perfectly during summer parties. A flower that blooms and blooms in that raised bed better than all others. These are the plants that make gardening consistent and fun. 10% of my gardens are left to the new, unusual, almost funky kind of plants that are a true experiment.

Some of these new varieties end up with an almost mad, scientific effect. A pumpkin took over the back yard this year and produced the most extraordinary fruits that could only be grown by seed. The gardens looked like Jurassic Park, wild, untamed, beautiful. This spark of garden glory leaves me wanting to garden again, to experiment, try something new. That’s why 10% of my garden is left purely for something that I have not grown before.

With the first seed catalog also comes my biggest Nemesis. They are drawn to the light of the iPad screen. They bug you while in your most creative writing zone in front of the desktop. Or, they simply pester while sipping a cup of tea envisioning that empty raised bed and what could be next year.

This insidious little gnat is drawn to inside warmth like their gardening foe. They take refuge in the soils of your houseplants and then breed in unison. My nemesis, the bug that pesters and infuriates is the smallest of all indoor bugs, the fungus gnat.

Fungus Gnats are related to fruit fries and the most common local pest in houseplants. There are two solutions essential to eliminating these gnats. One is to keep this pest from flying around the house and spreading to other plants; the other is to eliminate the pests living in a houseplant’s soil. First is a glorified version of traditional flypaper. Sold here at the nursery, 'Sticky Whitefly Traps' are an organic solution that attracts the flying adult to a brightly colored strip of paper where it gets stuck and dies. Stick a trap on the back of each pot with an infected plant and it will prevent adults from laying more eggs in the plants and keep them from “bugging” you while you’re trying to check email.

Systemic Insect Granules by Bonide are a long-term solution to this pesky problem and a value at $12.99. The granular deterrent is sprinkled at the base of houseplants and watered in by hand. As the water penetrates the soil it kills the maggot stage of this pest. By eliminating the pests from the soil, your plants will be left to thrive; ignore the pests and they eventually take over and kill every plant in the house.

'Pot Poppers' are a safer way to go and this gardener's preferred solution @ $19.99. Gardeners with puppies, small children and mischievous kitties that like to play in your houseplants should use this Watters exclusive fungus gnat control. These microscopic insects are released into the plants soil and hunt down and kill fungus gnats, root aphids, and soil-dwelling thrip. When fungus gnats are gone, so are these beneficial insects.

Plant of the Week

The Plant of the Week is Concolor White Fir $120. In parts of the country where they can't grow this fir they sell them as a cut Christmas tree, but this majestic tree is a local native. Growing wild throughout the higher mountain tops of Arizona this fir makes and excellent landscape tree for blocking cold winter winds, screening the light from a neighbor's bathroom window, or simply as a centerpiece in the front yard and decorated with hundreds of holiday lights. White fir loves to grow in the local landscapes.

Very difficult to find in an instantaneous garden size, we do sell them during the winter season in the perfect tabletop, or living Christmas tree size for the holidays. If you want to start a different family tradition, try decorating with all the lights and trim, and use indoors for a couple of weeks. Then plant outdoors after the New Year. It will grow and grow into your nicest tree with age. This is a personal opinion, but I think White Fir rivals the ever popular Colorado Spruce in beauty, size and shape, only softer, gentler and 100% Arizonian.

Available now and ready for winter planting.

 

With just a couple of days left to Hanukkah, may I wish my Jewish friends a very heartfelt Happy Hanukkah.

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Ken Lain, the Mountain Gardener

Ken Lain is attracted to sunshine, beauty, happiness, success and health through gardening, and wishes to point the way to others. Throughout the week Ken can be found at Watters Garden Center located at 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd, Prescott, or contacted through his web site at www.wattersgardencenter.com

Website: www.wattersgardencenter.com