Gardening Tips for Seedy Characters: Week 48

What to do this week

Aphid. (Photo by Katja Schulz from Washington, D. C., USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Aphid. (Photo by Katja Schulz from Washington, D. C., USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

This week, it might be a good idea to check on the health of the plants you’ve taken in for the winter: it is time to check for pests.

When you bring plants in from the outdoors you sometimes bring outdoor pests in as well (unintentionally of course). Inside they can infect your house plants, too.

When your plants are out in the garden they are in a system with a lot of predator-prey relationships. In a healthy garden these relationships keep everything in balance. But when you bring your plants into the house you don’t bring in that full ecosystem. You may accidentally bring in a few aphids, those little white flies, and end up with an infestation. Alternatively, you may notice that spider mites make themselves known.

Don’t be upset that I didn’t warn you. It isn’t that big a deal. It is just time to check.

You may not have a full-blown infestation, but you may notice a few here and there. If you do, it is time to act. Once these little flies get to know your house plants, and the nice, warm, cozy environment inside, they can get a little out of hand. Your house plants have no defenses against these pests, but they have you. There are a few ways you can easily fix the situation.

One is to give your plants a shower. Just put them in the tub and use the shower head to gently spray them down, knocking the little pests off the plant, and swirling them down the drain. That is a reasonable and easy way of controlling them. Be careful with extremes of water temperature.

Another effective treatment is to spray with an insecticide soap mixture. Just mix it up yourself and put it in a household spray bottle. No need to buy pesticide.

What you need is a pure liquid Castile soap. Some of you will recognize the brand name Dr. Bronners. It is quite easy to find nowadays, even in Cape Breton. Some grocery stores, or bulk barns, have one or two other brands to choose from. Don’t use detergent, no matter what you see on Facebook about blue Dawn. Once you have your Castile soap, take 5 tablespoons of it for a gallon of water, and mix it well. If you don’t need that much, you can make a quart with 1 and 1/4 tablespoons of soap. Put it in the spray bottle and spray your plants down.

If you want the mixture to stick to your plants a little longer than it would as a simple water and soap recipe, just add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil per gallon, or 1/2 tablespoon for a quart, to your mix. Shake it up well and the oil will disperse in the soapy water. The oil will make the spray stick to the leaves, giving it more time to do its work.

This mixture dries out the exoskeleton of the pest. They shrivel up and die. It has this physical effect on the exoskeleton. There are no defenses the pests can develop to protect themselves from this treatment as they are able to do with pesticides.

You can use this spray in your greenhouse any time of year, too.

Featured photo: Cavariella aphids on hogweed by S. Rae from Scotland, UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons




Market gardener, farmer, workshop leader, seed-saver, political candidate and mother, Michelle Smith has spent over 30 years coping with the challenges of our bioregion and in the process has built a store of practical and technical knowledge. The Inverness resident has served on the board of Seeds of Diversity Canada and represented Alternative Producers with the Federation of Agriculture but can do nothing about her hair. She is pictured with a head of Club Wheat, a seed that shares her approach to hairdressing.




Backyard food gardener Madeline Yakimchuk caught the food-security bug in the early ’90s through Cuba’s Urban Agriculture Department, taking her first permaculture course and planting her first garden. She can often be found discussing food security, nurturing a plant-based lifestyle or trying to give away vegetables. Professionally, she is GRYPHON media productions but sometimes uses la bruja in her volunteer work, most notably in managing the garden column, which begins life as a telephone interview.