Middle South

January, 2007
Regional Report

Try Worm Composting

Tire of trudging out to the compost pile? Try composting your vegetable scraps indoors with a worm composter. There are numerous commercial worm bins available, and with proper care there is little or no odor. Plus you get the benefit of nutritious compost.

Keep Houseplants Away from Windows

Although a sunny windowsill is an ideal spot for sun-loving houseplants, be sure the plants aren't touching the glass or they could be damaged by the cold. Also, since heating vents are often located underneath windows, plants are prone to drying out quickly. You may want to move plants to a different location, perhaps under grow lights, until the weather moderates.

Propagate African Violets

African violets make great houseplants and will flower in winter if given supplemental light. To propagate new plants, take a leaf cutting, dip the cut end in a rooting hormone powder, such as Rootone, and stick the cutting in a pot filled with vermiculite or sand. Cover the pot with a perforated clear plastic bag and keep the soil moist. In a few weeks you'll have new plants.

Control Fungus Gnats

If you've noticed annoying tiny black "fruit flies" in your house, it's possible your houseplants have fungus gnats. Though annoying when they flit about, the 1/8-inch-long adult insects are harmless. Their tiny, worm-like larvae live in moist soil and also cause little or no damage to plants. To control them, allow soil to dry out between waterings, use sticky traps, or drench soil with a biological control such as Gnatrol.

Maintain Humidity Around Houseplants

Most houseplants suffer in the dry heat of centrally heated homes. Misting daily helps a little, but the mist quickly evaporates, and the volume of water is minimal. Instead, try placing plants on a pebble-filled tray, adding water up to the top of the pebbles without letting it touch the bottom of the pots. You'll be surprised at how often you need to replenish the water.

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