Mandrake Pests & Aluminum Foil

Mandrake pots wrapped in aluminum foil

Aphids are foiled!

Mercury to the rescue! I noticed that my mandrake babies were looked a little down in the mouth, and an examination revealed a massive infestation of aphids and spider mites. Yes, it’s my fault–I’ve been ignoring them.

Washing off the leaves by holding the plant upside-down in a gentle spray of cool water once a day for three days in a row will get rid of spider mites, but aphids are a bit tougher. I decided to use aluminum foil both to keep the soil from falling out during washing the leaves and to repel the aphids. I’ve only heard about the aluminum foil and aphids things and never used it myself, using neem or AzoMax instead, but my plants were already stressed, so I didn’t want to add to that by spraying them with any pesticides, even if organic.

I checked to see if any evidence besides web pages copying each other existed for the aluminum foil against aphids thing, and found in fact a study about aluminum foil being used very successfully as a mulch to deter aphids on tomato plants (I didn’t even know that tomatoes could get aphids!). The article is pretty old (1975), which kind of shows how very different pest prevention was in the past, even only a few decades ago, before everything was pesticides and herbicides all the time.

Btw, for massive amounts of aluminum foil (which is handy for freezing food, btw, much better than plastic), try a restaurant supply place. I bought a 500′ roll of heavy-duty aluminum foil 12 years ago for $35 and still have tons left.

New setup

I ordered an 8ft, wheeled shelving unit to put in the corner of my apartment where there’s the most light. This I intended to use for plants. I finally put it together this weekend.

Bought a real nice grow-light setup  too, an Agrobright 4-ft fixture with high intensity fluorescent bulbs. I just don’t like the color of the light of the LEDs and I am used to the fluorescents for starting seeds and growing mandrakes and henbane through the winter. This fixture seems pretty sturdy, but I must note that although it comes with bulbs (which all survived intact), the hangers are insufficient. You really need chains and s-hooks to attach to the hangers so you can raise and lower the fixture. It’s pretty heavy. I think it will be great for mandrakes (the babies and some seeds are under it now).

The plants are all doing great except for the lavender, which kicked the bucket for some reason. The stephanotis has really taken off, going from not much more than a stump to a blooming vine more than 6 ft long. The two jasmines have bloomed, and so has the violet. I really love the thick, round leaves on the Hoya obovata. The two larger plants on the lowest shelf are patchouli and Passiflora alata Ruby Glow.

I think I need more plants.

Buds!

Tasmianian violet, jasmine, and stephanotis

I bought several tropical plants a few months ago. One of them is stephanotis, a plant which has fascinated me for years on account of its scent. But I had heard it could take years to bloom (ten years from seed). I decided to go ahead and get a plant from Kartuz Greenhouse. I think I saw that it would bloom in three years.

Well, it’s getting ready to bloom now! I have been watering my collection of plants in the corner of my apartment but haven’t been doing much else with them. They seriously needed potting up, so yesterday I finally did that. That’s when I discovered that not only had the stephanotis made a very long vine, but it has a bunch of buds.  So looking forward to this! I’m still looking for folklore about this plant. I know about its association with weddings (a classic bridal bouquet plant), but I think it’s got more to it than that. It’s a member of the Dogbane family, although it is not toxic to cats (I was careful to choose non-toxic plants for my indoor garden). The fact that it is typically slow to bloom and has small flowers points to a Saturnian influence, but I need to do a lot more digging before I get anywhere with its possible magical properties.

The other plants I have inside are also doing well. I potted up the three baby mandrakes, patchouli, some fancy version of lavander, good old basil, Italian yellow jasmine, and some hoyas. I made quite a mess, but they should do well in their new homes. This weekend a friend will be helping me put up shelves so that this winter I can have a “conservatory” in the corner of my apartment.