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Beasties eating our giant sunflowers :(

Posted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 6:38 am
by evansfamily36
Hello all,

we're new to gardening and finding that most of new sunflowers are being eaten and don't what to do. some of them are also dying. I've just found a bunch of ants on our biggest sunflower. what can we do to stop insects from eating them without hurting them as the children have worked hard growing them and are now getting upset that they're dying.

Alot of them are in pots without holes in the bottom we have found they are the ones that are dying so we have made some little slits in the bottom of these.

please help. thanx

Posted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 7:17 am
by applestar
You said "giant" sunflowers... But they're in pots? How big are the pots? ( and yes, as you found out, they definitely need drainage)

I think you'll be interested to [url=https://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/010139fieldcroproots/010139ch16.html]read this[/url].

Ants on the sunflowers indicate a pest insect. Not the ants themselves -- ants herd them and harvest sweet excretion from them. Aphids are the most commonly known ant "herdbeasts" but on sunflowers I would look for Lacebugs. Mine are also being attacked by Treehoppers.

Lacebugs occur in swarms, lay eggs and soon becomes an infestation. You'll start seeing tiny white spots on the surface but they will usually be on the underside of the leaves. Initially, just brushing them off with wet hands and squishing the ones that get stuck to your hand is sufficient. SOAPY water spray can be used but you must be sure to use soap and not detergent. Sudsing a bar soap in a bowl of water is an easy way to make some that your children might enjoy :wink: ( but don't let them make it too concentrated, just enough to suds is sufficient!).

-- I keep thinking of things to add to this post! :lol:
* Yes, you can wash off the bugs stuck to your hand rather than squishing them Use the bowl of sudsy water. :roll:
* Fatty soap water clogs insects' breathing orifices which are normally hydrophobic and remain open even when wet. Also, as it dries, the salts dehydrate soft bodied insects.

Posted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 7:20 am
by rainbowgardener
Well you answered your own question. Putting almost any plant that doesn't naturally grow in swamps in a pot with no holes is instant death. Soil may look fine at the top, but if you pull it up you will find at the bottom water, then mud/muck, probably nasty smelling, and the plant roots have rotted and starved for oxygen.

"Little slits" does not get it. They need big holes, at least pencil thickness and at least 3-4 of them. The little slits will just clog up again. Put a layer of gravel or broken up flower pots at the bottom or just cover the holes with a layer of screen, to keep your soil from coming out the holes.

The ants are a symptom, not a cause of the problem. Ants don't bother healthy plants, but they do eat dead/ dying ones. Ants are part of the system to clean up all the dead stuff.