Dots with eight legs are spider mites

Garden Q&A

November 09, 1997

After I brought my hibiscus and banana plants indoors for the winter, I noticed small "dots" moving around on the leaves. I suspect they are spider mites. What do I do now?

If they have eight little legs they are indeed spider mites. Spraying large plants indoors is not safe or practical. Take your plants outside long enough to treat them with a soap and pyrethrum spray or an application of ultra-fine horticultural oil. Make sure that your particular plants are listed on the label.

I am thrilled with my crop of luffa gourds, but I've been afraid to cut them. How do you know when they're ready to harvest, and what's the best way to turn them in to sponges?

Luffa gourds can be harvested as soon as the fruit stem darkens and the skin becomes yellow. Cut them off the plant with sharp pruners and bring inside your kitchen or other heated room to dry down for a few weeks.

Next, cut the stem end and shake out the seeds that you can hear rattling about. Submerge the gourds in water for 15 minutes and then make a slit down one side of the gourd. The skin should then peel off easily.

You can then soak your new sponges in a weak bleach solution to lighten their color.

I just moved into an older home and want to fill some garden beds with bulbs this fall. My brother told me it's too late for most bulbs. Should I wait till next year?

Most spring flowering bulbs will grow and flower just fine if planted before the ground freezes. In Maryland this means you can often get by planting in December. It's always better to plant them out late than store them indoors for spring planting.

Be sure to mix in a balanced fertilizer before planting and set the bulbs 10-12 inches deep in light soil and 6-8 inches in heavier clay soil.

Checklist

* Leave the seed heads of black-eyed Susan, coreopsis and coneflower to provide food for winter birds.

* Become a Maryland Master Gardener next spring. Contact your local Extension Service office for information on training dates and fees.

* Protect newly planted fruit trees from voles by surrounding them with hardware cloth extending from below ground level to 1 foot up the trunk.

Pub Date: 11/09/97

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