View from the Garden: Save the Houseplants! Kill the Slugs!

Found in the garden
Found in the garden! Photo: Terry Sullivan

My progress towards winter mode has begun thanks to a possible storm. There was a tropical storm threatening this weekend, so I brought my houseplants inside to avoid their being blown across the yard in high winds. It’s a messy task and one that marks the beginning of a new cycle in the garden. Messy because I clean all of the plants of dead and broken leaves, cut back and prune, if needed, and remove all of the debris that has accumulated outside all summer. The plants get a good shower to remove dust and any insects on their leaves. And they all get a few grains of Sluggo to kill any slugs in their pots. Slugs in houseplants, you ask? Oh yes —plan on it and apply the Sluggo!

Some plants need repotting. We might think that a bigger living space sounds good but that’s not always the case for plants. Some like to be pot bound. I have a clivia that has roots on the top of the soil but I know it’s not ready for a new pot. I don’t repot my cacti until they are almost root bound. I have two rhizomatous begonias that I rarely repot. A squirrel jumped on my very old geranium and broke it. I repotted the small, remaining piece into a much smaller pot. I have three agaves that I saved as small plants at the end of a previous summer that have done well. They got repotted.

And there are some plants that had grown and needed larger pots. (Do follow the rule of repotting and increase the pot size by only 1”.) I also have some that will probably never get repotted. I have a huge old Christmas cactus that I never even move. I have three specimen Sansevierias that grow so slowly that they won’t need repotting for eons, and a night blooming cereus that I’m afraid to repot because it’s already a monster.

The cacti and succulents go into the sunniest window in the house, which is in my studio. The rest go into the living room, which has big windows but gets some shade from a tree just outside. Now that they are back in the house, everything feels right again and preparations for winter are not far off.

I also took the storm as a good reason to start cleaning up the yard and begin organizing for winter. Things just get put in piles as the season progresses…piles of pots, piles of bamboo, piles of hoses and piles of things that I might just “need.” We straightened out the pots and got the black plastic planter pots ready to go, the transfer station for recycling. We cleaned the place where the terracotta and “better” pots will be put upside down for the winter. I parted with the bamboo pile and sent it to the dump. We restacked the ladders and made a place for the wheelbarrows. We put the partial bags of leftover potting soil in the shed (which will definitely need a good cleaning before winter!)

It’s that time of year. There are pumpkins among the chrysanthemums at the garden centers and the last of the tropicals, as well as annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs are on sale.

There are more insects in the garden it seems, all looking for food for their next life cycle. There’s a monarch caterpillar on the milkweed I planted last year. The calamintha is aflutter with bees and butterflies and I have seen a couple of adult praying mantises.

Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener, landscaper and consultant. For gardening discussion you can call her at 631-434-5067.

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