Alcohol and a shower is a great New Year's cure for
buggy indoor plants
After I bought an indoor fig tree I started to find
purple/white bugs on the leaves and trunk. Then "wart" type growths
started growing along the trunk. I've tried spraying to get rid of
the bugs but the warts seem to be spreading.
Mealybugs and scale are two common pests of many indoor plants.
As they age, mealybugs develop a powdery white coating and scales
produce hard shells and become immobile. Both suck on the plant,
taxing its energy, multiplying rapidly and producing sticky
droplets of honeydew. Both are resistant to sprays because of
constant exposure to those chemicals and because of their waxy
Wipe the whole tree, leaf by leaf and twig by twig, with a rag
kept moist with rubbing alcohol to remove many of the insects and
all the honeydew. Examine the foliage two days later for shiny
honeydew. Look above that for surviving insects and re-swab them
with alcohol. Then shower the plant monthly, spraying it first with
soapy water and letting it drip for 15 minutes. This keeps remnant
populations in check until longer days and stronger light give the
plant enough energy to fight back on its own.
Here are my weather-related predictions for the upcoming
Some shrubs and trees will turn up dead this
...even in older plantings. It's a result of cumulative damage
from successive years of drought. Establishing new plants will be
tough because the drought will likely continue. Think hard before
replanting to try to avoid same-species replacements, which are
always problematic where the previous plant weakened slowly and
succumbed to opportunistic diseases.
Lawns will be weak and thin...
and sod will be in short supply. It wasn't just your lawn that
suffered from the heat and drought. 2002 was the worst sod-growing
year in a generation, so sod producers will not have as much to
Spring will come earlier...
this year and in the foreseeable future.The EPA has confirmed
global warming and its side effects, such as birds arriving in
their summer homes four to five days earlier each year, and plants
leafing out three days earlier. Unfortunately, another effect some
experts expect with global warming is an increase in extremes --
more sudden changes in weather such as what brings on spring
frosts. If you plant early, build in some kind of frost
More foxes, fewer voles...
because voles, plant-eating, shrub-girdling rodents also known
as meadow mice, are a favorite food of foxes. Wildlife spotters
have reported red foxes now living in every major U.S. city,
perhaps because the fox is just that adaptable and perhaps because
the coyote's expanse into suburban areas has proven to be too much
competition for the foxes.
More butterfly species will be seen.
39 species of butterflies have been reported further north than
ever, with climate warming.
Mosquito borne diseases...
will continue to concern us. Mosquito-borne diseases
including dengue fever have been confirmed moving north in Latin
America.Please, gentle readers, don't panic and re-institute
whole-yard broadcast sprays! Past experience showed us that regular
broadcast spraying causes more trouble than it corrects, and has
increasingly less impact on the target insects. Cleaning up
mosquito breeding places such as old tires and hanging gutters has
a far greater impact on mosquito populations, without harming
non-target populations such as songbirds and beneficial
Water, in ponds and bird baths, will be even more
Drought may have played a greater part in decreased songbird
numbers than West Nile virus. In my yard in 2002 even the
hummingbirds were coming to our pond for a drink, the first time in
14 years of pond ownership that we've seen this happen.
Green thumbs up
to shoveling your own snow and noticing where it's deep and
shallow. Where it's deep, something upwind is sheltering that area
-- plants that need protection will be better there. Where it's
shallow, air moves well. Fungus-prone plants that need good air
circulation will thrive there.
Green thumbs down
to too many invitations, too little time! We're finding out now
when the year's garden walks will be, and don't we all wish we
could go soak up ideas from every single one.
Originally published 1/4/03