Sunday, November 3, 2013

Preparing for Cool

As the outdoor gardening season winds down, it’s time to gather those plants you need to winter over and bring them back indoors, to a garage or greenhouse for the winter.   

Your Helper #1 spent the better part of this great Sunday afternoon moving our outdoor potted “trees” and big plants into the greenhouse.  

And, as you can see, our Master
Gardener has already prepared her cuttings for propagation to use next spring.

For the smaller plants she often trims up the plant once it is moved into its winter space. However:
1.  Several weeks before bringing them in, spray them with an insecticide such as Neem Oil *  and separate from other plants. (if you are not familiar with it, Neem Oil is worth understanding and is very useful)
2.     Three to four days before bringing in, spray again to kill off 
       any insects that may have just arrived.
3.   Check if the plants need repotting. If so, invert the pot, tap
      the rim against a hard surface, and turn the plant out. You can
      also squeeze a plastic pot to loosen up the root ball. 

If roots are growing through the drainage hole and wrapped around the root ball, or bulging up at the rim it’s time to repot. This will allow for greater height and increased width growth. If you choose not to move them into a larger container (one size larger pot), gently comb out any tangled roots, trim roots, and refresh the soil. (Restricting the pot size will have a dwarfing effect on the plant.)

Often plants have a growth spurt after being moved back inside to a 
warmer climate. Do not add fertilizer to encourage this growth. Let the 
plant acclimate to the lower light and humidity levels. Growth will become slower, allowing the plant to rest for the winter. Start fertilizing again in the spring.  Only water plants sparingly through the winter months.

*     Neem Oil is derived by pressing the seed kernels of the neem tree. It is very bitter with a garlic/sulfur smell. A single seed may contain up to 50 percent oil 
by weight. Neem oil has been used for hundreds of years in controlling plant pests and diseases. Many researches have shown that the spray solution of 
neem oil helps to control common pests like white flies, aphids, scales, mealy bugs, spider mites, locusts, thrips, and Japanese beetles, etc. Neem oil also works as a fungicide and helps control powdery mildew. Some people have also experienced good results with neem oil spray on black spot. 
      Orchid owners use pure neem oil spray to control pests like mealybugs, spider mites, etc. One of the main ingredients in neem seed oil is Azadirachtin that works as an insect growth regulator, thus preventing the larval stage to molt into an adult. As neem is very bitter in taste, it also works as an antifeedant thus making the leaves sprayed with it very distasteful for the bugs to eat, and the bugs choose to starve themselves than eat the leaves treated with neem. 
     Neem oil is bio-degradable and has proven to be non-toxic to mammals, birds, bees or earthworms. It  breaks down easily and quickly. Neem has also proven to be not harmful to adult beneficial insects, since it primarily affects only plant sap-sucking insects, which feed upon the treated plants. However it is recommended that care should be taken not to spray neem oil solution when honey bees and the larvae of beneficials like ladybugs, etc. are present. Neem oil spray like any other oil spray can also burn leaves if sprayed in sun. 

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