Preparing the move indoors for houseplants begins now

Q. I put several of my houseplants out on my patio for the summer. I know they’ll all need to come Tracey Fitzgibbonback in and just want to know if it’s time to do it. What do you recommend? H. C., Albuquerque

A. Yes, it is time to prepare your outdoor living houseplants for their seasonal migration. I am suggesting that you start a series of pest removals now, so you and your plants won’t be troubled once they are back inside.

You’ll need to buy a houseplant pesticide, be it a concentrate that you dilute per manufacturers direction or a ready to use type of spray. Pesticides containing insecticidal soap, pyrethrin (the man-made form of pyrethrum that comes from the pyrethrum daisy) or neem oil.

There are a lot of different houseplant pesticides on the market, but my big caution is that the product be labeled for houseplants. You shouldn’t use a product that is labeled for garden use, because those pesticides are usually stronger and active longer, meaning you could bring an unsafe pesticide into the home.

Please, houseplant spray only for this project!

To start, give all the plants a good drink of water. Then, having chosen the right product, spray the plants from top to bottom, making sure to get the underside of the leaves. You want the plants to get drippy wet.

Next, spray the soil of the container and apply a slight watering over the soil. You do that so the pesticide percolates through the soil, killing any pests living in it.

After the spraying has dried, empty the saucers if needed so the plants continue to stay healthy. Be cautious, though; that collected water will contain a certain amount of pesticide, so wear plastic gloves to keep you safe!

OK, mark you calendar when you do this process and redo the same thing in 10 days to two weeks. If you plan properly, you could get three treatments done well before you complete the move indoors. As you find the time and wherewithal, wipe down the containers of the plants, making sure to get under any rims the pots have.

Critters – spiders, especially – think pot rims are a good place to set up house. Then just as you get ready to do the move, wash the saucers thoroughly with soapy water so again no interlopers are hitching a ride inside.

If you can get three complete pesticide sprays done, you should have pest-free plants ready to come back in.

Don’t repot this time of year unless the soil is so full of pests that you have no choice. Fertilization should be kept to a minimum. If you feel the “need to feed,” do it this weekend and make it the last of this season.

I would aim to have the plants back indoors by mid-October at the latest, so you have time to prepare for a successful transition. It’s a bit of work, for sure, but well-worth having all that healthy life indoors during winter.

Q. In our backyard, we’ve decided to make a vegetable garden. The area was covered with plastic, then rocks, and when we uncovered, the soil looked sad. What will be the best way to get that space improved so we can garden next year?

A. How exciting – a new garden! First, I’d like to see the soil turned to a depth of at least 12 inches. Depending on the size of the garden, a rototiller or a sharp spade and strong back will be the ticket. If you can go deeper, do it.

Then if you will turn the soil and water the area several times during the fall and winter, that would be great. The more often you get that soil worked, the better off the garden will be in the long run.

As you’re working the soil, notice its texture. Because it was covered by plastic, you can be sure that there is little or no oxygen, earthworms or healthy soil organisms in it. It’s up to you to incorporate them to make the soil healthy.

Consider spreading a stout layer of manure and/or compost over the space as you get ready to do a “turning.”

That will help break up clumpy soil and assist in water retention in sandy soil. If you’d consider adding manure or compost a couple of times during the dormant season and getting it turned in, you’d be well on the way to creating a healthier space for your new garden.

Most important, just get out there Diggin’ In!

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send your garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103, or to



More on ABQjournal