Larvae of Fungus Gnats

TheGardenLady received the following question from Mattie:

About two weeks ago I got a Peace Lily. Everything was going great. But then the leaves started to droop. So my friend has been giving me advice. Today I was pulling the cutting the dead roots and there were milly worms (?) in it. What should I do to prevent this and help save my plant?

Since there are no photos of the “worms” you describe, TheGardenLady thinks that you may have the larvae of fungus gnats in the soil of your Peace Lily. You either brought the plant with the larvae in the soil or your other house plants may have had the fungus gnats in the soil but the infestation may not have been so bad that you many not have noticed them.  Fungal gnats can be a major problem with indoor plants and can be difficult to get rid of – but we will try.

You are doing the correct thing in getting rid of the dead or rotting parts of your plant. Since your plant has been taken out of the soil to accomplish this, get rid of the soil completely. Do not compost the soil. Throw the soil in the trash. (Had you not removed the plant from its soil, you should still discard at least the top two or three inches of the soil.) Wash the roots of the plant while it is out of the soil and repot it in sterilized potting soil. You can add some sand to the potting soil. The larvae do not like gritty soil.

You can buy and use a fungicide for fungus gnats – there are many different brands, so follow directions for their use. This Garden Lady does not like to use chemicals indoors and has heard that many of the safer fungicides really do not do a good job in getting rid of fungus gnats; but many sources still suggest using them. So you have to decide whether to go this route or not.

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Fowl in the Garden

One way to eliminate insects and insect larvae is by having poultry in your yard. In the United Kingdom it is very popular to have fowl in the garden. One interesting structure for the garden is the chicken coop. Some of them are quite attractive. Google up English Chicken coops and hit the Images button to see some creative designs for chicken coops.  Here in the US, gardeners who have a large enough space are now also adding chicken coops to their gardens. Not only do chickens eat ticks and other insects but they can really be another  interesting element in your garden. If you pet and play with the chicks from an early age, they can become like pets.  A cousin in Maine had some chickens that their daughter always played with so they became friendly. These chickens laid Easter egg colored eggs. And because the chickens ate ticks, the property was free of the pests.

TheGardenLady was raised with fowl on her parents’ farm. I loved when we got the baby chicks each spring. Nothing is cuter than a baby chick. However I found that more friendly than chickens are ducks. Ducks do what is called imprinting on the person who plays with them. Ducks really make loyal pets. Read this to learn about what it means when ducks imprint. And watch this video to see how cute a duck can be.

 If I had room on my property to have a place for poultry to roost and overwinter, I would absolutely buy some poultry for my yard. Of course, I would also check with the city where I live to see if it is legal to have fowl.
When I was in Scotland, one garden I visited had what are called Runner Ducks. I had never seen this comical type of duck before. Watch this.

To check out the different types of chickens and ducks available go online or look at this or read this.

Helping a Sick Peace Lily


TheGardenLady received this question about a Peace Lily from Janet.

I just moved my Peace Lilly to a room with better light to discover why my leaves were turning brown on the tips then turning black. What I discovered were little white worm-looking bugs crawling in the soil. I have not found any help on the Internet and am praying for any help you can give me. Please any help will be greatly appreciated.

Not seeing the white worms in your Peace Lily plant soil it is impossible to be 100% sure of the pest you are describing. That being said, hopefully we can still save your plant if it is not too sick. I hope that I can answer your prayers, but sometimes plants cannot be ressurected.

Peace lilies are strong hardy plants, but like every living thing, it does have pests that attack it. Here is a professional website that talks about diseases and pests that harm Peace Lilies.

Sometimes people buy plants that are infested with some pest but do not see it when they bring the plant home and the pest multiplies. Sometimes a healthy plant gets insects or diseases or pests from a nearby plant.

Whatever happened to your plant we will try to help it.

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How To Control Pests – Part VI

There are, of course, some insect pests that NO one wants. One of those insects is the Japanese beetle. Japanese beetles like over 275 plant species. For TheGardenLady Japanese beetles are especially awful on the roses.

To get rid of Japanese beetles, one should start early in their life cycle when Japanese beetles are in their grub stage living in the soil of your lawn or garden. Milky spore is considered safe to use. For answers to questions about milky spore read this.

Milky Spore’s effectiveness can be enhanced by the use of beneficial nematodes – specifically NemaSeek. Read package instructions for best time to apply in your area.

If you did not kill all the grubs in your soil with the milky spore or if some fly in from your neighbors yard, there are some other organic remedies that one can use.

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How To Control Pests – Part V

So what should a gardener do if there are insect pests in the garden?

There are too many suggestions to write just one short article about how to prevent or get rid of insect pests, but TheGardenLady will give some suggestions in this brief post.

This garden site is for the person who is a garden hobbyist, not a person making a living from the garden: but even farmers might find some good ideas on how to get rid of garden insect pests- or recommend some great ideas to the readers of this blog.

Here are just a few of TheGardenLady’s suggestions:

First of all don’t be so stressed over your garden. Expect insects to feed off your garden just as you feed off its beauty. The garden should be fun and help you relax and get rid of your stress, not cause more stress. Perfection isn’t the name of the gardening game. Remember that Nature or God made it so that all can live together: man, beast and insect.

Today more and more gardeners are going organic. It is no longer a fad or something just hippies are doing. Even the government is recommending less use of toxic chemicals and have even banned many. Going organic means using no toxic chemicals on plants. But if you feel that you can not go all the way to organic then there is a strategy called IPM or Integrated Pest Management that tolerates a little use of insecticides. IPM encourages the use of the minimum amount of pesticides after having used all the other strategies to get rid of insects- those other strategies are organic. If you are organic or using IPM, you will tolerate some insect damage in your garden. (see here)

Plant plants that attract beneficial insects that will kill insect pests. Or you can even buy some beneficial insects like lady bugs for your garden. For photos of 10 beneficial insects read this.

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How To Control Pests – Part IV

This post is the fourth in a series of posts on the control of pests.

When it comes to pests, the last question you should ask yourself is, “Are insecticides the best overall management tactic?”

Insecticides have strong and sometimes dangerous chemicals in them. After all they are designed to kill. Some of these chemicals not only kill insects but are toxic to humans and animals. Some of the chemicals get into our skin, nose and mouth. Some of those chemicals get into the soil and water and last for generations if not hundreds of years.

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How To Control Pests – Part II

This post is the second in a series of posts on the control of pests.

The second question a gardener has to ask when seeing pests or pest damage in the garden is: “Are the pests still actively damaging the plants or have they long since left or matured?”

Many pests have a brief lifespan. They do their damage and in a few weeks of damage their eating-part of their life cycle is finished. In that brief period when they are eating the plants they may do what seems like a lot of damage because they eat a large number of plants including flowers and herbs. Their damage is ugly. Then when the move on to another phase of their life cycle, they might not need to feed on the plant leaves or stems.

This spring the the four-lined plant bug did a job on my mint and my Russian sage. Almost all the leaves were eaten and affected. But I knew that when it was time for the flowers to emerge, they would not be eating and the flowers would look fine. My flowers and plants recovered. But I am not a farmer, so I can be tolerant. And in my garden the plants they ate were mostly weeds, so I did not have to be concerned.

Get to know the insects in your garden. By knowing about the the four-lined plant bug, I knew that in my garden I did not have to do anything drastic like use any strong pesticides (see here).

If you want to ID the insect and learn about it but cannot find the information online, take the insect in a closed jar to your local Master Gardener office or agriculture extension office. Do NOT squish the insect. To kill it put the closed jar into your freezer overnight.

How To Control Pests – Part I

One of the challenges of gardening is how to control the pests that like your garden as much if not more than you, the gardener. Some of these pests’ lives depend on your garden for their livelihood- literally eating to remain alive to repeat their own life cycle. So when you have insects on your plants you have to decide “How important is the damage to the overall appearance of the flower in my garden?”

Some insects that eat plants in the garden are good and helpful insects. We all know that bees are beneficial insects. Yes, they might sting us, but basically they are helping to pollinate the flowers or to get nectar to make honey. Without bees we wouldn’t have most plants. So we allow the bees to remain in our garden and don’t use insecticides to kill them.

But there are other equally good or beneficial insects that come to our plants that even do damage to the plants. But because we like these insects, we don’t want to kill them. For example, everyone seems to love butterflies and no one wants to kill them or eliminate butterflies from their gardens. But before they become the butterfly that we love, they were caterpillars that had to eat plants so that they could become (metamorphosis) that beautiful insect fluttering in our garden. Caterpillars need some of the plants that we grow and can become a pest especially if you are a farmer whose livelihood depends on your crops. For example, among the plants butterfly caterpillars need, depending on the type of butterfly, are parsley, or dill or fennel or even carrots or black-eyed-Susans.

Most of us are gardeners who do not rely on our crops for a living, so do we really care if caterpillars eat these plants in our gardens? To rephrase my original question: How much damage is being done by the insects in your garden and are you willing to live with that damage?




This cold winter has a good side for gardeners and farmers


Are you enjoying this amazing winter? Or are you, like this GardenLady, ready and eager for Spring weather?  I guess I was getting spoiled with the milder winters we have had for the last few years.

The Farmers’ Almanac had predicted that this would be a frigid winter.  Who wanted to believe? They do claim 80% accuracy.

This extreme cold weather does have a good side for gardeners and farmers. It can kill off some of the insects that attack plants. Fewer insect species survive temperatures that drop into the teens. With the frigid temperatures that we have had over the past few weeks, many of the insect pests will have died so that they will be less numerous in the spring and summer. Hopefully this will mean that less pesticides will have to be used on lawns, gardens and crops. Sadly, however, this frigid weather will also kill many of the beneficial insects.

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How to Deal with Bagworms

bagworm moth by teejaybee

TheGardenLady received this question from Carolyn about bagworms:

It is mid July in steamy Charleston, SC and I have just discovered I have bagworms on 2 of my 45′ Leland cypress trees. I am not getting call backs from people who could treat this. Maybe it is too late in the year and they know it is hopeless. I am too old to be out in the 104 heat index to hand pick the cone sacks and I can’t get up high enough anyway. The worms are spreading to roses and other shrubs. What should I do?

I am sure that you are correctly identifying bagworms. Because by the time you are seeing them, they are happily living in their bags and are quite obvious. And when they are dangling like ornaments on the trees, other than hand picking the cocoons, they are difficult to kill by using any insecticide that will effectively kill them.  Insecticides are most effective when applied during the early stages of bagworm development which is in the early spring.

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