The Garden Corner

The Garden Corner Preparing plants for indoors

Fall is here, and now I have the daunting task of deciding which plants to bring into the house and which ones to commit to the compost pile. I wish that I had room for all of them in the house.

Help your plants adjust by moving them before the heat is turned on in your home. Move plants to partial shady spots for a couple of weeks to help them adjust to the reduced indoor light. Begin to do this when night temperatures are consistently 55 degrees or lower.

I am an organic gardener, but I do not like insects in the house � beneficial or otherwise! I avoid bringing "problems" into the house by hosing off the foliage (or using an insecticidal soap) and checking plants for signs of insects or disease. I also check the bottoms of pots, removing any cocoons or other pests hiding there.

If I want to be REALLY sure of eliminating insects, I use a drench consisting of nine parts water and one part liquid chlorine bleach. To each gallon of water-bleach mixture I add one tablespoon of liquid Sevin.

I place the potted plants in a plastic tub and pour the cleansing mixture onto the soil until the water runs out the bottom. I then leave the plants outside for one day before bringing them inside. Not all plants care for the drench, so use your own judgment. I never use it on herbs.

Take cuttings if you do not have enough room to bring in all your plants. Fibrous begonias, coleus, impatiens and a few other obliging plants root readily in water. Geranium cuttings rot in water so root them in flower pots filled with damp sand. Make a hole in the sand with a pencil for each 4-inch cutting. Insert a stem into each hole and firm the sand to hold the stems into place. A 6-inch pot can hold a dozen cuttings. Use a plastic bag to make a loose-fitting tent over the foliage.

Finally, do not panic if plants drop some leaves. It is a common problem caused by plants' attempt to compensate for reduced light.

Written by Sharon Allen, Master Gardner and free lance writer. For answers to gardening problems write to Sharon Allen at 110 North Plum Street, Vermillion, SD 57069, or through the internet at sallen@usd.edu.

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