Indoor Herb Gardening (cont)
By: Charlie Nardozzi
Any indoor plant will eventually attract some insect pests. Fortunately, most insects are easy to control with water washes or non-toxic sprays. Aphids, whiteflies, and mealybugs are the main culprits you'll find eating your herbs. Wash the leaves periodically with water to remove them. For more severe infestations, spray leaves with insecticidal soap.
With a little care, your herbs will grow strong through the winter, providing fresh seasonings for your meals. Come spring, you can move the plants outdoors into the garden, cut them back, give them a shot of fertilizer, and they will continue to flourish.
Question of the Week
Indoor Seedlings Die
Q. Every spring I start hundreds of seeds indoors. The seem fine, then one day they just topple over. What am I doing wrong?
A. One of the biggest problems in starting seeds is too much moisture. Excess moisture can encourage the fungal disease called damping off (Pythium), which causes the stems to constrict at the soil line.
Since the damping-off fungus enters the plant at the soil line, you can try this prevention method: Once the seeds are planted but before they germinate, cover the soil surface with a thin layer of "play sand" (this is sand that has been sterilized; you should be able to find it at a hardware store or lumberyard). This provides a sterile, dry -- and therefore unfavorable to the fungus -- surface at the point the fungus usually enters the stem.
To improve your chances of success, use clean containers (disinfect with 1 part bleach in 9 parts water) and a commercial, sterile seed-starting mix. Fill the container, sow the seeds thinly, sprinkle just enough potting soil to cover seeds, and then mist the surface. Place the container in a plastic bag and put it in a warm location until the seeds germinate. Then remove the plastic, move the container into bright light, and keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Don't crowd plants, and provide good air circulation to minimize disease problems. A small fan blowing in the room -- not directly on plants -- will help keep air moving.