Posts tagged indoors

Good vs. Evil: Asian lady beetles and Japanese beetles

Asian lady beetle

Asian lady beetle - a good bug (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Their names are similar and they’re from the same region of the world, so I can see why some people are still confused about Asian lady beetles and Japanese beetles.  But when it comes down to it, there’s really no comparison. The bug pictured here – the reddish/orange lady beetle, is a beneficial insect. It feeds on aphids and other plant pests and doesn’t destroy anything, though I realize some people resent their intrusion in homes in the fall. On the other hand, the copper-colored Japanese beetle, a recent foreign invader in Iowa, is known to devour at least 300 plants, including hollyhocks, roses, raspberries, linden trees and grapes. If you see your leaves turning to lace, the likely culprit is the Japanese beetle.  Japanese beetles have no known predators here, other than me. So feel free to get rid of as many as you can. As mentioned previously, the most environmentally friendly method is to knock them into a bucket of soapy water when they’re sluggish – early evening seems to be the best time. If you have other suggestions – maybe from our East Coast readers and others who have learned to cope with Japanese beetles – please add your comments below.

Japanese beetles (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Japanese beetles - not a good bug, or just plain evil? (photo/Cindy Hadish)

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Stop the killing! Take care of those seedlings

You’ve planted your seeds indoors, waited for them to sprout and one day find a container of tiny, droopy plants.

    What went wrong?

    Damping-off could be responsible for the collapse and death of your seedlings.

    The gardening experts at Iowa State University Extension note that damping-off is caused by several different fungi. Environmental conditions usually associated with damping-off are poorly drained potting soil and overwatering.

    Damping-off can be prevented by using clean containers, a sterile, well-drained potting mix and by following good cultural practices.  Previously used containers should be washed in soapy water, then disinfected by dipping in a solution containing one part chlorine bleach and nine parts water. Flower and vegetable seeds need an evenly moist potting mix for good germination.  After germination, allow the potting soil to dry somewhat between waterings. 

 

   I’m getting a later than usual start on my seedlings, having just planted my first round today. The earliest I’ve planted seeds indoors was in late January – I had flowers blooming by the end of March. Some plants, of course, need more time to grow than others. The ISU gardening experts also offer this reminder on the starting times for seeds: The crop time (number of weeks from sowing to planting outdoors) for several popular flowers and vegetables are as follows: 10 to 12 weeks – geranium; eight to 10 weeks – petunia and impatiens; six to eight weeks – marigold, pepper, and eggplant; five to seven weeks – tomato, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower; three to four weeks – cucumber, watermelon, muskmelon and squash.  Always check the seed packet if unsure of the correct sowing date. 

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Potmaking – reprise

This was first posted last March, but because it’s that season, once again, to start seedlings indoors, I thought it was timely.

 The white outside is nearly gone and we’re thinking green: green gardens, saving some green and being environmentally friendly. With help from my production assistants, Brennan and Schyler, we have a project to show that combines all three.

Click the link below to watch a short how-to video.

 

http://www.youtube.com/v/Yh_Szm79VQw

 

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Forcing daffodils

The following is from the Iowa State University Extension gardening experts:

To successfully force daffodils indoors, you’ll need high quality bulbs, a well-drained commercial potting mix and suitable containers. Containers for forcing can be plastic, clay, ceramic or metal. Almost any container can be used as long as it has drainage holes in the bottom.

Begin by partially filling the container with potting soil. Then place the daffodil bulbs on the soil surface. Adjust the soil level until the tops of the bulbs are even or slightly below the rim of the container. The number of bulbs to plant per pot depends on the size of the bulb and container. Typically, three to five bulbs are appropriate for a 6-inch-diameter pot. A 6-inch pot also will usually accommodate five to seven bulbs of miniature varieties.

Once properly positioned, place additional potting soil around the bulbs, but do not completely cover the bulbs. Allow the bulb tops (noses) to stick above the potting soil. For ease of watering, the level of the soil mix should be 1/2 to 1 inch below the rim of the container. Label each container as it is planted. Include the name of the variety and the planting date. After potting, water each container thoroughly.

In order to bloom, daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs must be exposed to temperatures of 40 to 45 F for 12 to 16 weeks. Possible storage sites include the refrigerator, root cellar, or an outdoor trench. During cold storage, water the bulbs regularly and keep them in complete darkness.

Begin to remove the potted daffodil bulbs from cold storage once the cold requirement has been met. At this time, yellow shoots should have begun to emerge from the bulbs. Place the daffodils in a cool (50 to 60 F) location that receives low to medium light. Leave them in this area until the shoots turn green, usually four or five days. Then move them to a brightly lit, 60 to 70 F location.

Keep the plants well watered. Turn the containers regularly to promote straight, upright growth. On average, flowering should occur three to four weeks after the bulbs have been removed from cold storage. For a succession of bloom indoors, remove pots from cold storage every two weeks.

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Indoor spring

  Beverly Whitmore of Cedar Rapids, winner of our composting contest, told of a great way to get tulips to bloom indoors.

 

   Beverly fills a pot about two-thirds full with potting soil, inserts the bulbs so they don’t touch and covers them with potting soil.

She waters once, lets it drain and covers the pot with aluminum foil.

   The next part is key – keeping the pots in a cold, dark place. Beverly has a part of her basement that stays dark and gets cold enough – it needs to freeze –  but an unheated garage might also work. In the spring, plants will pop through the foil.  Carefully remove the foil, water again and keep indoors until they bloom.

 

 

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Ladybugs, Lady Beetles

   They are red, orange or shades in between and tend to invade homes in late fall.

   Ladybugs and lady beetles are different names for the same bug that some people see as a pest, but I see as a benefit. I don’t have the large-scale home invasion that some people do, so that could be why I see ladybugs through rose-colored glasses. When they do come indoors, I have a spot for them on my houseplants.

   My houseplants spend the summer outdoors and are given a good shower before I bring them inside in the fall. I don’t use any type of chemical insecticide, and that’s where the ladybugs come in: put them on the plants and they spend their days looking for tiny bugs to eat. They’re amazing to watch in action.

 I know my solution isn’t for everyone, so following are tips from Iowa State University about indoor control and other helpful information:

Ladybug in action

Ladybug in action

 

  The Asian lady beetle is present all summer but is most noticeable in the fall when second generation adults migrate from trees, gardens and fields to reflective, vertical surfaces (such as the south side of the house) in preparation for winter hibernation. 

 

   Asian lady beetles are a beneficial biological control in trees during the summer, and in fields and gardens during the fall, but can be a severe household nuisance during late fall and winter. Wooded residential and industrial areas are especially prone to problems.

   The origins of the Asian lady beetles are not clear, although it appears the current pest species was not purposefully released in the United States or in Iowa. Beetles that arrived by accident in ports such as New Orleans in the late 1980s have crawled and flown all by themselves to all corners of the country.

   The multicolored Asian lady beetle is 1/3 inch in length; dome-shaped; yellowish-orange to red with variable black spots on the back. Deep orange is the most common color. The 19 black spots may be faint or missing. There is a black “W” shaped mark on the thorax.

   Asian lady beetles, like other accidental invaders, are “outdoor” insects that create a nuisance by wandering indoors during a limited portion of their life cycle. They do not feed or reproduce indoors; they cannot attack the house structure, furniture, or fabrics. They cannot sting or carry diseases. Lady beetles do not feed on people though they infrequently pinch exposed skin. Lady beetles may leave a slimy smear and they have a distinct odor when squashed.

   Asian lady beetles follow their instinctive behavior and fly to sunny, exposed surfaces when preparing to hibernate through the winter. The time of beetle flight varies but is usually from mid-September through October (depending on weather.) Light colored buildings and walls in full sun appear to attract the most beetles.

   Sealing exterior gaps and cracks around windows, doors, eaves, roofs, siding and other points of access before the beetles appear can prevent unwanted entry. Experience suggests, however, that comprehensive pest proofing is time-consuming, often impractical and usually not 100% effective.  For large infestations with intolerable numbers of beetles, spraying pyrethroid insecticides such as permethrin or esfenvalerate to the outside of buildings when the beetles appear may help prevent pest entry. Homeowner insecticides other than pyrethroids usually do not provide satisfactory prevention.

   Long-term relief may come from planting trees that will grow up to shade the south and west sides of the house. The most practical control for beetles already inside is to vacuum or sweep them up and discard. Indoor sprays are of very limited benefit. Interior light traps are available.

Donald Lewis, of Iowa State University’s Department of Entomology, adds the following about ladybug myths and facts:   

Myth: Ladybugs are different from lady beetles

Fact: Ladybugs and lady beetles and ladybird beetles are all different names for the same thing.

Myth: Asian lady beetles come from soybean fields.

Fact: There are Asian lady beetles in soybean fields, but also many other places including trees and, gardens.

Myth: Soybean harvest causes multicolored Asian lady beetles to migrate to town and to houses.

Fact: Day length and temperatures trigger migration – expect swarms of beetles on first warm days after frost. Soybean plants lose their leaves, and therefore any aphids the lady beetles might be eating long before harvest. The beetles leave soybean fields as the plant leaves begin to turn yellow and not when the combines arrive.

Myth: Farmers released the lady beetles to eat the soybean aphid

Fact: No releases were ever made in Iowa. Multicolored Asian lady beetles arrived in Iowa by wandering from adjoining states several years before the soybean aphid appeared.

Myth: Lady beetles breed in the walls of the house during the winter.

Fact: They do not reproduce during the winter.

Myth: Finding a ladybug brings good luck.

Fact: This myth might not be all wrong. Since ladybugs eat aphids, other small insects, mites and the eggs of insects and mites, you could argue that ladybugs do bring good luck to farmers and gardeners. However, there is no evidence to prove that the good luck extends beyond the benefit of fewer aphids feeding on your plants.

Myth: You can tell the age of a ladybug by counting its spots.

Fact: There are over 5000 different species of lady beetles (ladybugs) in the world and approximately 475 species in North America. There may be as many as 100 different kinds in Iowa. The numbers and arrangements of spots on the backs of ladybugs are distinctive for the different species, and once a lady beetle emerges as an adult it never changes its spots.

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Living with plants

                The following is from Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith:

 

                Many thanks to my son for power washing my deck Sunday.  Oh! What a mess it was!  The spring and summer rains left a thick cover of green gunk on the old pressure treated boards.   I’m on my way today to purchase weather seal.  The cleaning process was as a result of bringing house plants back indoors.  Each spring I set house plants on the deck to enjoy them in combination with potted annuals. 

                Bringing plants indoors prior to turning on the furnace acclimates them from the cooler nights.  If there is any possibility of pests residing in the plants, they get gentle warm water bath. 

Live greenery in the house in the winter creates such a soothing ambiance.  Plants add color to compliment the décor.  Bright colors such as scarlet and yellow are focal points. Blue and pink combine easily with other colors.  Silver is a striking addition anytime.  Add height by setting the plant on top of a larger overturned pot. Use a pedestal.  Turn a floor lamp base into a plant stand for vines.  Invest in a wheeled platform to easily move your huge “statement” plant.  Any texture enhances your rooms:  large leaves make a room feel larger; smaller leaves will make a space more intimate.      

Remember, any house plant is one that has been moved from its natural environment.  You control and are responsible for its livelihood with the amount of light, moisture and warmth you provide.  Select a healthy plant.  Check it for pests.  Check its general (healthy) appearance.  Check the label to be certain you can provide its optimum living conditions.  Just as with outdoor plants, some prefer sun, some shade.   Some prefer a constantly moist soil, some a dry soil.  Push your finger an inch or two into the soil.  If the plant prefers moist, the soil should be damp, but not soggy.  If it should be dryer, the soil should be dry to an inch or two below the surface.  Turn the plant about a quarter turn each time you water it to provide evenly distributed light.  Buy your houseplants now rather than transporting them in and out of cold temperatures. 

Are you in a quandary about which houseplant(s) will suit you?  Call the Linn County Extension Office Horticulture Line @ 319-447-0647 and ask for suggestions.  Then visit your favorite local garden center to visualize and take home your prize purchase! 

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