New England

December, 2009
Regional Report

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 larva 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.

Remove Snow on Shrubs

Snow collecting on shrubs and trees can weigh down and eventually break branches. Remove snow on low branches by using a broom to gently brush it upward and lift it off. If the snow clings to the branches, however, it's best to let it melt naturally, or you may do more harm than good. Don't try to knock off any ice from branches because it's likely to break them.

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.

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.

Appreciate Snow Cover

As you're out tackling the mounds of snow left by the snowplow, take a moment to appreciate the benefits of snow for garden plants. Not only will melting snow help replenish soil moisture, the snow pack also helps insulate perennials from frigid temperatures, and minimizes the freeze/thaw cycles that can heave plants out of the ground.

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