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applestar
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Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Discovery and mixed feelings about my new (indoor) GP member

Here in zone 6 my "gardening" focus migrates inside with the container plants between mid to late October and for the subsequent 6-7 months until we're free of frost and the overnight lows warm up enough for the tropicals.

While they are outside, the Garden Patrol of beneficial organisms usually take care of pests on the container plants. In fact, I often send plants that have become infested during the winter outside as soon as weather permits in spring so they can be "saved" -- from scale insects, spider mites, and aphids in particular.

I'm determined to try to keep the soil food web alive in the microcosm of these containers, so I don't "sterilize" them with chemicals, etc. when I bring them inside in fall -- just physically knocking out and removing from the outside and bottom of the containers and repotting and up potting as necessary before the fall migration. So, during these cold months, all kinds of pests can make their appearance -- emerging from their hiding places in the container soil and foliage of the plants. I'm used to that and deal with them as needed. Occasionally predator/beneficial insects are found among the plants too -- I saw robber flies and wasps earlier on -- but they are generally not numerous and are solitary hunters. Spiders, too, are occasionally seen hunting or settling down in their web, and I sometimes catch and put them among my plants.

Close inspection and appropriate physical removal to keep down the tomato leafminer moth caterpillars have been necessary and scale insects also make their appearance. Some of the inevitable regular pests are aphids and fungus gnats.

This fall had some unusually warm temperature days after frost and few freezing days, which led to ants making their way inside, and bringing their aphids to pasture on my plants (I'm wondering if they bring scale insects as well). Before I was able to get them sufficiently controlled, the aphid population had exploded, overshadowing the fungus gnat problem I was trying to get under control.

Then last week, I noticed some little black winged flyers that we're not acting like fungus gnats... then a few days ago I was trying to assess the extent of the aphid problem -- there were a lot more than I thought on plants that were hidden behind others. So I reached into the foliage and pulled off a dying aphid infested leaf -- and discovered an empty aphid mummy -- tan-colored mummified aphid with a hole where Aphid Mummy Maker wasp had emerged. Wondering if this is a leftover from being outside even though the plant was brought in over a month ago, I plucked another leaf and found ANOTHER aphid mummy... And another.... :o

...it seems not all the tiny black flying insects are fungus gnats. :() 8) :twisted:
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Discovery and mixed feelings about my new (indoor) GP me

Too cool! You are very advanced in your attitude toward the indoor ecosystem. I get creeped out by stuff easier indoors than out. I didn't love the idea that your indoor peppers were being chewed on by slugs (probably neither did you :) ). But aphid mummies are less than 1/8" long, so seem pretty tolerable indoors and great control of the aphids. I was excited when I discovered (with your help! :) ) this summer that I had aphid mummies outdoors.

I'm always surprised you have a much trouble as you do with aphids and fungus gnats indoors. I think you do leave things out as long as you can. Leaving the house plants out until lows get in to the 40's, I think helps get rid of insects before they come in. And of course all my house plants I only water twice a month or so, so no fungus gnats. I know you can't do that, growing tomatoes and peppers indoors. But you might be able to slow down a bit, once the plants are big and sturdy. Even my geraniums and coleus that I bring indoors tolerate the twice a month routine (helps that pot sizes are generous). I have to admit the mint isn't liking it much and may or may not make it through the winter at this rate. Sweet potato vine and moonflower don't love it, but are hanging in there.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Discovery and mixed feelings about my new (indoor) GP me

Incidentally my indoor rosemary is doing really well this year, thriving on the combination of very little water, but daily misting. Brush my fingers along it and it is intensely fragrant, more than when it was living outdoors in more abundance.

I have two rosemary plants now, the indoor one and a hardy one, which has already been through one winter outdoors. It didn't love the past winter and I can't really call it thriving, but it is surviving, sitting out there being snowed on. It is in a pot, perhaps would be better in the ground.
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applestar
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Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Discovery and mixed feelings about my new (indoor) GP me

That's great! Yep rosemary loves to be misted. In fact all container plants do better when misted thoroughly -- I like to do this in the morning when I turn their lights on, but sometimes have to postpone the daily ritual until later. But I try to get it done by mid day so the leaves can dry by (their) nightfall. (I need to buzz the tomatoes and peppers for pollination, so I need them to be dry for that, too.)

I actually used to mist in the morning and at night, and some plants do even better with this treatment, but I had to stop when I started growing tomatoes among them, and also in some areas, my furniture and carpeting started to suffer from too much moisture despite everything I did to protect them. :roll:

Aphids are unquestionably being brought in by the ants. When and where I have been able to get to the baseboards and do a thorough prevention treatment, there are less incidents, but those buggers are persistent and pernicious, and even manage to somehow come all the way up to the second floor windowsill, and from there, make their way onto the plants. :evil: Freeze and thaw cycles seem to trigger their scouts to come looking for pasture grounds. If I don't spot them right away, and if conditions are favorable, the pastured aphids multiply on hidden leaves until they are everywhere. :eek:

So the discovery of Aphid Mummy Makers (AMM) at work has been a blessing. It's just that now, I can't go spraying soap solution or casually rubbing off a colony of aphids without thinking about it. But this morning, I found an unmatched aphid mummy on a leaf, so I put it in another area that has been having aphid issues. But I actually saw an AMM wasp on a plant on another shelf from the one. I was concerned about, so hopefully the Patrol is already taking care of this general area, too.

As for the gnats, this year, I think conditions have been different for several reasons:

-- after the initial early drops into frosty temps that made it necessary to bring them inside, we had a lingering warm fall with rather higher temp than usual... and as a result, the indoor temp soared for a while so that the tropicals were not really ready to "hibernate"
-- I had the impression that most warmer area members have been reporting a lot of rain/"rainy season"
-- since I was trying to keep the peppers growing anyway, I decided to treat all of the returning migrant tropical as if their growing season is continuing, and that it's their "rainy season" -- i.e. Keeping them well watered just shy of overwatering them. (A lot of flooding then turkeybaster bailing :wink:).

-- So yeah, fungus gnats loved that, >AND< I made the mistake and the misfortune of getting some commercial bagged potting mix on sale -- so far each time I've tried to save money doing this, I've ended up with fungus gnat infested bag.

Also, I haven't had a great year healthwise, and have had to rely on commercially bagged potting mixes, less on my own compost with all the resident predators. I think that contributed to the early explosion since normally, the fungus gnats don't become a nuisance until around February.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

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applestar
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Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Discovery and mixed feelings about my new (indoor) GP me

Did you see the picture of the Pickleworm moth I posted this morning?

It's actually a pretty looking moth -- DD said it looked kind of like a Monarch butterfly but not quite. Too bad it's so destructive :x

...indoor patrol and disposal of moths is assigned to the cats, who are not particularly good at it and often need to be assisted by humans (this assistant task has been delegated to the DD's since they have been old enough as part of their cat care responsibility :wink:) Once they have the moths within their reach, the cats relish their task.... I wish they had as much talent for ant hunting.... :| (I know someone whose dog licks up ants off the floor :lol: )
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.



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