One of my favorite things about the spring and summer months is the gardening. It's the perfect time to head into the garden center and pick up trees, plants, and shrubs. I began in April with a couple Royal Palms, and added a slew of succulents over the next eight weeks, or so. I'm not finished, but here is some of what I've done and learned, thus far.
The First Set of Royal Palms:
Soil & Root Gnats:
My first set of Royal Palms were meant to live indoors, but soon after bringing them home and planting them in pots I've had for years, they became infested with root gnats. I was overwatering them and their soil wasn't draining, due to the fact that I hadn't removed the plug that covered the one drainage hole in each pot. Our condo was swarming with tiny little gnats and I was forced to move the palms outside to dry out.
Too Much Sun:
Soon, there was another problem –– the sun. Royal Palms do not like direct sunlight, and the palms began to burn. But how was I supposed to get the soil to dry out if I couldn't keep the palms in the sun? Ugh. It was time to repot.
So, I covered my patio with a plastic tarp, shoveled the palms out of their pots, and then, dumped the remaining soil onto the tarp. The soil was soaked. There was no way it would have dried inside the pots, especially since these post are plastic and not clay. I spread the soil thinly onto the tarp and let it dry out for a few days. The remaining gnats abandoned the soil as it dried.
With the soil mostly dried, I shoveled in some food-grade Diatomaceous Earth, and blended it into the soil by hand. This safely got rid of the remaining gnats, and helped prepare the soil for repotting. As I repotted the palms with the treated soil, I was careful not to pack in too much soil, which was also an issue. Before, I added too much soil and packed it too tightly, making it difficult for the soil to drain and dry. I also unplugged the drainage holes and bought saucers for the bottom of the pots.
Pea Pebbles & Gnat Sticks:
Once the plants were back in the pots, I added an extra layer of Diatomaceous Earth, and through in a couple Gnat Stix. Weeks later, I covered the soil with pea pebbles. Both the pebbles and the DE will help keep pests away in the future.
I couldn't have it without the help of a few members, who taught me about DE and even sent me the Gnat Stix, as well as other remedies. It takes a village.
The Second Set of Palms & Our Succulents:
Having learned a lesson from the first set of palms, I bought another set of Royal Palms and planted them in a set of self-watering pots, using the same technique as with the first set. I repeated the process with our succulents, as well, and water each plant with a few drops of neem oil, added. Gnats and other critters supposedly hate neem oil.
Palms only need a few tips of water every week. Self-watering pots collects water in the bottom of the container, helping you to not overwater, and keep gnats and other pests away. These pests love wet soil and are said to lay their eggs in the first few inches of wet soil. So, watering from the bottom tends to outsmart them. Even with self-watering pots, you still should water from the top, just with less water and less often –– like two cups, every other week. If you don't have self-watering pots, simply add water to the saucer and allow the plant to drink from below.