Garden Q&a

GARDEN Q&A

March 05, 2009|By Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld

The leaves on my aralia houseplant looked nice and shiny, but I discovered that the "shine" is sticky. Even the floor under the plant is sticky! Is this normal?

Sticky leaves usually are caused by honeydew, the excrement of certain insect pests. Because you didn't mention any white fuzzy spots on your plant, which would have pointed the finger at mealybugs, your plant probably has a scale insect. These insects hide under a hard shell, rather like a turtle, that appear as dark bumps on leaves or stems. Because of their shell, scales are hard to reach with insecticide. Often, the best course of action is to discard the plant before the scale can move to other plants.

I need to test the soil where I want to plant. How do I go about that?

You need separate tests for different types of growing areas, such as vegetable and fruit gardens, ornamental gardens or turf. Use a trowel or shovel to take a slice of soil in the growing area you need tested. Make the slice 3 inches deep for lawn, 6 inches to 8 inches deep for vegetable gardens or landscape beds.

Take 10 to 12 of these sample slices and mix them together in a bucket to get an average sample of your soil. Remove any stones or debris, and allow the soil to dry. Place 1 cup to 2 cups of this soil in a small, self-seal plastic bag. (Soil is heavy and the postage is less when soil is dry and a smaller amount.)

Choose a soil-testing laboratory from our online fact sheet "HG110: Selecting and Using a Soil-Testing Laboratory." Call the laboratory or go online to get its form. Fill out the form, ordering the lab's basic test. Mail the soil sample in a sturdy postal envelope or box.

CHECKLIST:

* Overseed lawns at 3 pounds to 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet, half the normal sowing rate.

* Never spray dormant oil on plants for insect control within 10 days of using a sulfur-containing spray.

Ellen Nibali, a horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and Jon Traunfeld is the director of the Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers free gardening information. Call 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions at hgic.umd.edu.

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