A good gardening book can be a great aid, especially to a beginning gardener, and makes a welcome gift. An excellent choice is The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch (Workman Publishing, 2008, $18.95). Covering everything from general information on plant needs, planning your landscape, and garden gear to growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, lawns, all kinds of ornamental plants, and houseplants, this book will help a novice get started and provide lots of helpful information to more experienced gardeners. A classic that has remained in print since it original publication in 1988, this revised, expanded edition, released in 2008, is now 100 percent organic in its recommendations and emphasizes sustainable methods.
Clever Gardening Technique
Foiling Fungus Gnats
Everyone who grows houseplants has probably encountered fungus gnats, sooner or later. A cloud of tiny, dark, delicate-bodied flies rises up from a plant when its leaves are disturbed. While fungus gnats generally don't do much damage to plants, they are a nuisance as they flit about. Female flies lay their eggs in the potting medium. They are especially attracted to ones high in peat moss, a characteristic of many mixes used for indoor plants. The tiny, white, worm-like larvae that hatch out feed on algae, fungi, and organic matter in the top couple of inches of potting mix, as well as on the roots of plants. In small numbers, they don't usually cause much damage, but when their population is high or plants are at the vulnerable young seedling stage, plants may be harmed. To make conditions less suitable for the larvae, allow the top couple of inches of potting mix to dry out between waterings. To discourage egg laying by female flies, spread a thin layer of sand over the top of the potting mix in the container.