Not sure about you, but about a month or so after I bring my plants in for the winter there are tiny pesky flies flying about. They often go right in front of my face which is annoying because they are impossible to catch between your hands.
These tiny flies may well be fungus gnats (Bradysia spp.). They are small dark flies about 1/8” long, blackish grey with long dangling legs. Their antennae have many segments and are longer than their heads. These gnats and have a single pair of greyish transparent wings with a Y-shaped vein near each wing tip. You definitely need a hand lens or microscopes to see these details.
Fungus gnats thrive on plenty of moisture and decaying plant matter. The adults can be a nuisance, but it’s the larvae that are the damaging stage of this insect. Larvae are usually concentrated in the top 1-2 inches of the so. The 1/4 inch larvae are translucent, legless, with a black head. Larvae prefer to feed on fungi rather than healthy plant tissue, as they need fungi for optimal survival. Larvae feeding below the soil surface on root hairs, small feeder roots and fungus can cause stunted growth, off-color leaves or even leaf drop.
To control the gnats, avoid overwatering and water from the bottom if possible. Fungus gnats breed in the moist top 2 inches of the soil so keeping that dry will interrupt that process. Using a sterile potting mix and removing plant debris from the soil surface is helpful. For monitoring adults, yellow sticky traps are effective.
An interesting fact is a female’s offspring will either be all male or all female. Female fungus gnats lay about 200 eggs which hatch in 3-6 days. The four larval instars then feed for about 2 weeks and usually pupate near the soil surface within a thread chamber. After 3-7 days in the pupal stage, adults emerge and live for up to 8 days. They can develop from egg to adult in 3-4 weeks. A generation of fungus gnats (from female to female) can be produced in about 17 days depending upon temperature. The warmer it is, the faster they will develop and the more generations will be produced in a year.
I battle these pests every year and have had success just keeping the plants on the dry side for the first month or so after they are brought in.
I hope all of you have a HAPPY and SAFE and HEALTY Holiday season. This is a very different year for all of us and we can only hope with the new year will come happier times.
Luckily, we have our gardens to distract us and the following are some things you can do now.
With the lack of consistent snow cover, it’s important to protect your plants from temperature fluctuations. An easy way to do this is to lightly cover plants that were new this year or have shallow roots. A few options are:
- Pine boughs – they make an easy and excellent winter mulch. As soon as people discard their Christmas trees I go around and clip the larger branches from the bottom then place them over plants that needed protection. You can also check out your local the dump (where the village/town takes all the trees) and cut enough for the whole yard in a short time. It’s a wonderful way to get some quick and easy mulch. So, take advantage of this free resource. (Just don’t collect from my neighborhood!) -- Straw – can be used in the same way and purchased at a garden or farm supply store. The important thing is not to use hay which would drop seeds and turn your garden into a hayfield. Trust me, I speak from experience! -- This is a good time to prune away any branches that have been or might be damaged from winter wind. Make sure to trim back to a branch join and not leave stubs. -- Picking up downed branches and debris is always a good winter job. Just be mindful of walking on soft garden or turf. Houseplants: This is the time of year when some houseplants are probably needing a little attention.
-- Trim off yellowing/ browning leaves or branches. -- Give your plants a shower to wash off the dust. Either in the sink or tub. The aves of larger plants can be wiped down with a natural sponge or soft cloth. -- Check for insects. If there is sticky residue on leaves or areas under a plant that is a sign of scale, aphid or white fly. Check online at a”.edu” site for what to do. -- If your plant has a white crusty residue on the soil or water runs righty through the pot when you water, the plant should be repotted. Use a good lightweight potting mix. -- By mid-February you can start repotting and taking cuttings of overwintering annuals or houseplants.
Misc.: - This is a good time to look through catalogues and plan for the upcoming season. - Don’t just look at the pretty flowers in catalogues, be sure to match any plants you plan to use to the growing conditions you have and consider adding a few natives.
Educational Opportunities: What better way to spend a winter’s day than attending a gardening class. It will help you improve your gardening and get you in the mood for spring. There are 2 excellent Master Gardener events coming up via Zoom.
Annual Spring Bloom Classes: Dates: Tuesday, February 9, 6:30 – 8:00 pm, Thursday, February 18, 6:30 – 8:00 pm and Saturday, February 27, 10:00 – 11:30 am
Topics: - What Gardeners Need to Know About Insects and Diseases - Meatballs, Volcanoes and Other Garden Malpractices - Growing Fruits and Vegetables. Fee: $15/class, $45 for all three
Check the website for which date each topic will be presented. When I’m writing this tips, matching dates with topics has not been determined based on presenter availability. http://erie.cce.cornell.edu/events
MG Education Day: Master Gardener Education Day, March 13, 2021 Those of you who have attended MGED in the past know what a worthwhile event it is. Each speaker will present one session. Rick Darke - Co-author with Doug Tallamy of The Living Landscape will present:
Dynamic Design and Stewardship of Living Landscapes. This richly illustrated talk will present ideas for plant selection, design and care of home landscapes that are beautiful and joyfully livable. Our garden is our home habitat. For most of us, it is the landscape we spend the most time in. When designed to support a great variety of life, it will be full of surprises and add intrigue, beauty, and interest every day. The presentation will feature Rick's own high-resolution photos of gardens and designs that have proven to be practical, durable, conserving, and affordable.
Paul Zammit, professor at Niagara College in Ontario and past Director of Horticulture at the Toronto Botanical Gardens and international speaker will present:
Planning and Planting for All Seasons. Who puts a garden to bed, and why would you? For Paul, gardens do not have a yearly start or end date. He believes that they transition from one season of display to the next, including winter. Each season has its shining stars and Paul will highlight some of his favorites during his lively and energetic presentation. Join Paul, as he shares his passion for plants and other possible garden additions while taking us on a journey through the seasons where he will remind us how we can all plan and plant a garden with year-round appeal.
MGED will begin at 9:00 AM and run until 12:45 PM via Zoom. The cost will be $35 for the public and $30 for out of county Master Gardeners and CNLP’s. Registration will begin on January 1 st . To register go to http://erie.cce.cornell.edu/events
Trust me, you won’t want to miss this amazing and fun day.
There is a full listing of the presentations I offer on garden related topics on my website: lessonsfromnature.biz, or let me know and I will send you the listing.
Winter Garden Consultations: Yes, I do winter consultations. If you’re planning changes in your landscape this coming season getting an early start planning now will be helpful. Having a Garden Consultation in the winter is a good way to start. Just call me for an appointment. Appointments can be done virtually during the current restrictions.
Happy Gardening! Lyn Chimera Lessons from Nature 170 Pine St. E. Aurora, NY 14052 firstname.lastname@example.org 652-2432