Get rid of overwintering garden pests with this expert advice


tThe end of the harvest season is approaching, but before you pack your tools, it’s important to take steps to protect your plants from overwintering garden pests, such as certain beetles, worms and borers. While you may not notice these critters when it’s cold, as they burrow into the ground to wait for frost to lay their eggs, when they emerge in the spring you will wreak havoc on your yard. “If you had these pests in the summer, rest assured they are looking for a place to hibernate in your yard,” says Rebecca Sears, head gardener at Ferry-Morse.

“The best thing you can do is commit to a post-season cleanup,” Sears says. “Once you’re done harvesting, pull up the old plants and any weeds and remove them so the insects have no place to hide and keep warm. This will also expose the soil to birds that are happy to help keep pests out controlled by eating eggs and larvae.” She explains that this is important for keeping your garden healthy, as these pests can strain and even kill your plants, as well as spread disease.

Overwintering pests can also strike indoors. “Many people put their plants outside in the summer to take advantage of the abundance of sunlight and to take advantage of plant growth, but plants tend to pick up a few pests when they are outside. The most common outdoor pests that hitchhike indoors, come autumn/winter, are aphids and thrips,” says Chris Satch, plant doctor at Horti. But the nemesis of the season for houseplants is the spider mite. Your plants can pick up spider mites when they are outside, or even when they are near an open window. They thrive in hot, dry environments, such as in a house where the heat is turned up.

If caught early, you may be able to track down and eliminate these pests before they do much damage, Satch says. “Basically, if something seems to be wrong with a leaf, it probably is,” he adds. “Mite damage looks like someone has taken a needle and put gray/white, sometimes translucent dots on the plant. Thrips make CD scratch patterns, black dots and other debris on the leaves.” (He notes, however, that browning or blackening spots on the leaves are caused by bacteria or fungi, not pests.)

All in all, taking care of the health of your plants is a lot like ensuring the health of yourself: a proactive approach leads to the best results. “In the fall, it’s all about keeping pests from getting a foothold so they don’t infest you all winter,” Satch says. He recommends quarantining any plants you bring indoors, whether they come from the plant store or your outdoor garden. “Treat with a pesticide of your choice at least two to three times over a period of a few days,” he says. “Personally, I spray insecticide on my plants as soon as they come in, the next day and then two days after that to make a total of three applications over about four days. Once the last application is dry, I wash them in the shower, then put them on.” the windowsill where they can enjoy the sun’s rays.” It’s also a good idea to spray the rest of your plants to be super safe, he says.

And should your plant succumb to overwintering pests, Sears offers one final piece of advice: “If you know you’ve been plagued by pests or fungi, don’t compost your decayed plants, as you’ll introduce those problems back into your garden the following year. “

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