JoAnne Skelly: Reader’s request for information

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I love to hear from readers. One reader and friend, Paul, suggested the following for article ideas: 1. How to deal with those tiny flies that seem to come from indoor plants. 2. This is the best time to take down danger trees since the insects will not jump to healthy trees now. 3. This is the time to order from plant catalogs and plan for your gardening in the spring.

Fungus gnats infest soil and potting mix in containerized plants. While their larvae primarily feed on fungi and organic matter in the soil, they also can chew roots and cause injury and possible death when damage is severe. You might see a plant wilting even though the soil is moist, a possible sign of larval damage. The adults are merely a nuisance, flying in your face whenever you are near a plant. They do not damage plants. To manage the larval pests, reduce excess soil moisture and organic debris. There are commercial biological control agents available. Traditional insecticides are not recommended for home use.

Paul makes a good point about winter being a good pruning time for trees, particularly evergreens. Beetles and other tree damaging borers are dormant, so pruning cuts will not attract them right now. Since the ultimate pruning cut is cutting the tree down, in warmer times of the year beetles would fly to infest healthy trees. If trees have dead or dying branches, hazardous branches, or if you want to shape evergreens, prune now, before the days start warming consistently.

As I’m writing this, it’s 50-plus degrees outside, sunny and delightful. Days like this make me feel as if spring is almost here. My husband laughs when I say this, because we know there will be nasty wintery storms ahead and we might get snow or freezes in May or even early June. Ordering catalogs and spending time perusing them, dreaming about what you want to plant either in your flower garden or your vegetable garden, and actually ordering is a great way to get a rational springtime fix. If you do order plants rather than seeds, be sure you check their frost tolerance and time the delivery of your order for when it’s safe to put them in the ground. It’s tedious to have to pot things up, put them in the house or garage and wait for the right planting time!

Thanks for the article ideas, Paul!

JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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