Bug Troubles

 

Stands of daffodils shining here and there in the garden are great to see when everything is still wintry. My plan to keep them to the margins and path edges, so I don’t have to worry about the foliage being in the way before it goes dormant, looks to be working well. Next time I order bulbs, I’ll get more of the jumbo King Alfreds, probably my favorites, but also more late-blooming varieties and white/pinks, and plant them in concentric semicircles, going out into the lawn.

The second photo shows my plants before the weird troubles. The third photo shows the growths, something between a gall and an excretion, that I believe are caused by mites on my impatiens. If I pick the little beads off, I find they’re made of sticky sap.

But this is a good lesson. My plant room, full of such pretty things a while back, now has several sad specimens, missing their leaves, or with leaves that look burnt at the edges. Because I discovered these bugs, I assumed the leaf damage was fungus. It’s not unusual for mites and other sucking insects to spread disease. I did some research, though…

In gardening and in other areas of life, it’s worth being on the lookout for converging events, and not drawing the conclusion that if one problem precedes another, the two are related and not coincidental.

Anyway, my plants seem to have suffered from overwatering and possibly overfertilizing. This year I skipped peat pellets and tried potting mix. The peat pellets have their imperfections, but they were good for germination, and naturally wilt-resistant. Because this year I started mostly native wildflowers, which are perennials as well (where I usually sow garden annuals) I don’t have much basis for comparison. It does seem I got less germination and have had issues with sogginess.

The potting mixes have water-retentive additives, and NPK (nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous) additives, so in fact I might have harmed the seedlings both by watering too often and repotting too soon. I should have waited a few weeks, too, starting them. It was hard to judge without prior experience with these particular plants (and I was eager to get going), but the longer seedlings live in the windless indoor environment, the more opportunity for bugs and diseases.

The news isn’t too bad. I have six flats of strong perennials, almost all natives. My beleaguered seedlings are making a comeback, and quite a few were never badly affected. But this year’s seed-starting adventures have been a little different!