Whap! Clap! “I got it!” That’s what I began hearing after introducing gnats into the office after I had brought some of my plants in from outdoors. Nobody wants gnats in their faces while they are working (or in general for that matter). I had introduced a tiny nuisance that was having a big impact. But what could I do about it?
House Plants Can Grow Outdoors
Plants naturally grow outdoors - I know this sounds like a no-brainer but we have labeled many plants as house plants for so long now that we think they belong only indoors. I like to take my plants outdoors during the warmer months of the year to allow them the enjoyment of fresh air and the natural sunlight; who doesn’t love being outdoors when it’s warm and sunny? FYI, there’s a proper way to transition your plants outdoors to prevent sunburned leaves and to ensure the success of your plants’ survival, but that’s for another post.
Bugs Also Live Outdoors
Once the plants are outside in their element they are now living side-by-side with bugs. And in general, bugs - especially gnats - like warm, damp, biological areas much like the potting soil keeping your plants thriving. The bugs move in and you don’t notice because you’re outside and don’t see that the plant is the source of the tiny pests. At some point - unless you live in the proper zone - the plants must come back indoors. This is when you notice your planter is thriving gnat real estate just like in my office.
Pest Combating Solutions
There are many ways to combat this. Just Google “house plant pests” and you will find countless results of identifying and combating pests. Additionally, there are many pesticides - organic and non-organic - that are made to target these pests. If you don’t like using pesticides or want a different approach, you can use hacks such as Dawn Detergent. Many of these options are good approaches to tackling the problem, but they don’t necessarily tackle the source.
Tackling the Source
An approach I use that can be combined with the above pest control options is to tackle the source of the problem - the potting soil. Remember, bugs, gnats especially, like warm, damp, biological areas as this is a source of incubation and food for their offspring and thus your potting soil makes prime real estate for them. To make this real estate far less move-in ready, board up the doors and windows with a non-biological barrier. What is a non-biological barrier? This can be sand (which is what I use), ground lava rock, non-scented kitty litter, or any other plant-safe, non-biological material, preferably with these coarse characteristics.
This and the other methods listed are not fail-proof; however, adding this coarse, non-biological barrier to the top of the potting soil in your planter is the first step in discouraging these pesky squatters from moving in. You can make this real estate even more discouraging by combining this barrier with other pest control options and/or even letting the soil dry as much as possible without putting the plant in jeopardy as these squatters tend to live in the upper-most part of the soil and a dry home for them is unlivable.
Adding a Decorative Topper
To add one more layer to this barrier and for an aesthetic appeal, I like to add a decorative topper such as pebbles or gravel. Additionally, this decorative layer helps keep the non-biological barrier in place when watering. A win-win.
Adding a Bug Barrier is the Norm
This non-biological barrier method has become the norm in my planting. I have also been converting all of the planters that didn’t follow this practice to this new method. It not only looks good, but it also serves a purpose and allows my plants to be enjoyed without the whap! Clap! “I got it!”
Download Step-by-Step Guide
Download this step-by-step guide to creating a Bug Barrier.
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