July 30, 2009

Old Dirt

My indoor garden has been through a lot since I last reported on it. Now the outlook is not so rosy - literally. After several boughts of spider mites (one of which spread to my herbs and required a thorough washing-down of all 8 of my plants, not an easy or a pleasant task when one has no outdoor space in which to do it), it was time to say farewell to my miniature rose bush. I just couldn't get her to stay healthy. Everytime I thought I'd rid her of the mites, they would be back attacking her new growth within a week. So, goodbye little rose bush.

My herbs have not fared much better than my rose bush. There is a reason why plants should be grown outdoors! At this point I have fended off fungus gnats three times. When I first noticed that there were little fruit-fly like bugs in our apartment, I thought it was just the price to pay for having live plants and ripening fruit on the countertop in a small apartment during the warm summer months. After some research, however, I discovered what they were: fungus gnats, whose larvae feed off the fungus that develops in the moist soil required for healthy herbs, and who themselves feed on the leaves of the plants. Blah.

Fortunately, throughout this process, Brian and I have still been able to use the plants. The healthy leaves are still fine for cooking -- and we've recently enjoyed basil pesto, mojitos, lemon-thyme chicken, french country salad, and omelets with goat cheese and tarragon, among other things.

After looking on the internet and calling a couple of nurseries in the area, I decided on K+Neem to fight off the gnats. It is an organic pesticide/fungicide that comes from the oil of the neem plant (which is also used in cosmetics and toothpaste in Japan). I cleared off the top layer of soil and soaked the soil and plants in k-neem. For a while, I thought I had beaten the pests, but they were back a couple weeks later. I drained the first bottle of k-neem and when the gnats were back a week later, I went back to the nursery for more advice.

This time, it was recommended that I repot all the plants, getting rid of as much of the old soil as possible, with as little damage to the roots as possible. I offer the following photos for your consideration.

So far, they've survived the shock and are, hopefully, only slightly worse for the wear. Fingers crossed that they are back to their old (healthy) selves very soon!

As I sit and watch my little plants soaking up the bit of sunlight breaking through this cloudy morning, my eyes are quick to pick up the slightest bit of movement in or around the soil or leaves (the cars whizzing by on the street 6 stories below often cause a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach before I realize that they aren't gnats).

In other plant news, we have a lovely white orchid that seems to be doing very well in the apartment.

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