Fruit flies ruining my fenugreek!

officedrone(6)August 6, 2009

Hi all,

I'm new here so apologies if this is a tired topic. :-/

I'm an urban apartment dweller. I decided to start growing some herbs on my windowsill this year. I have a southeast view that gets lots of sun.

I have two rectangular planters, each split into half, one contains lemon basil and chives, the other contains coriander and fenugreek.

Basil is growing like a weed. Chives are... growing. :-)

My problem is with my fenugreek, however. It sprouted nicely and grew slowly, however I haven't seen much progress for about a week now, even though it's only about 2 inches high at the most. Furthermore, it is literally teeming with fruit flies (or something similar) who appear to be munching on the leaves, no doubt attracted to the sweetness. The fenugreek is kind of wilty and not doing so great now. Coriander is growing slowly but also seems kind of stunted.

I used potting soil to plant the chives and basil, potting MIX to plant the coriander and fenugreek.

Anyway, long story short, is there some kind of safe method I can use to get rid of the fruit flies on my growing fenugreek? I don't want to use pesticides on my herbs.

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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Do you have a place where your plants could get some outdoor time? I understand you live in an apartment but Mother Nature and the great outdoors is sometimes the best medicine for ailing plants. Find a sheltered location, indoor plants need time to acclimate to outdoor conditions.


    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 5:45PM
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francescod(6b/7a VA)

It sounds like you might have fungus gnats. They become a problem when the soil stays wet. The fenugreek may be succumbing to root rot (or the ravages of a high fungus gnat larvae population or both), also caused by the roots staying too wet for too long. Keeping the soil on the dry side will greatly reduce the number of fungus gnats over time. You can use pyrethrum and/or insecticidal soap (neem oil may also be effective, all three are organic) to kill the adults but the eggs and larvae in the soil will not be affected. You will have to spray every few days to kill the new adults before they lay new eggs. Fungus gnats are mostly a nuisance but the larvae can damage the roots if the population is high enough.

If you didn't this time, start your plants in smaller pots so they don't sit in wet soil for too long. As the plant grows and the root structure is more mature, then pot up into a larger pot. Getting the plants outdoors as suggested by fatamorgana has the added advantage of drying the pots out a bit quicker.

F. DeBaggio

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 6:16PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Use Bt mixed with water to kill the fungus gnat maggots that destroy roots. Yello sticky traps with catch many of the tiny gnats. You set these 43x5 inch cards horizontally on the edges of the pots. The gnats can infect every single indoor plant in no time.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 7:33PM
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Thanks for the suggestions! Unfortunately I'm on the 17th floor and the face of my building is quite flat with no ledge to speak of. :-( The windows do open, however, and I keep them open as much as possible to allow fresh air circulation.

The fungus gnats thing sounds likely though. I notice they ignore the planter with the basil and chives, not sure if it's because they don't like the basil or because the potting soil drains better than the potting mix? Maybe a little of both.

I'll follow your suggestions RE letting the soil dry out more (I'm probably overwatering) and spray with pyrethrum every couple days to keep the adults from reproducing any more.

Glad I found this discussion forum. Thanks!


    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 7:34PM
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francescod(6b/7a VA)

Before using any product, even organic ones, make sure to test spray a few leaves of your plant before spraying the whole plant.

If you aren't getting enough sun you can always set up an artificial light garden.

F. DeBaggio

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 11:39PM
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francescod(6b/7a VA)

Before using any product, even organic ones, make sure to test spray a few leaves of your plant before spraying the whole plant.

If you aren't getting enough sun you can always set up an artificial light garden.

F. DeBaggio

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 1:19AM
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gor-gor(9a Tampa)

Look for some beneficial nematodes at your local Home Depot, they will be refrigerated. I found them at the counter in the garden center portion of HD. They act as parasites on the fungus gnat larvae. I used one application on all my potted plants last year and the gnats were gone in short order. Also water from trays below your plants to keep the top portion of soil fairly dry.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 10:15AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

The Bt is NOT sprayed on plants. This form of the organic based product is used as a soil soak to kill the fungus maggots that the gnats lay on the soil surface. Most plants indoors can become infectd with these and get weakened by the maggots destroying tender roots. Allowing them to exist in dry soil will just make them move closer to the roots which also contain moisture, so its very hard to get rid of them without the help of a product that is 100% safe for any plants of any kind. Another form of Bt is used to kill squash vine borers. Benefical nematodes can be used as well and they do work better for outdoor gardens however. The tiny packets of these microscopic worms, once added to water will go after the fungus maggots, but the do cost a bit more money compaed to the Bt. Another, but much more harsh method would be to remove the soil from the roots and drown the exposed roots to lots of water for a few minutes. Only issue there is the plants can get a severe case of shock and quickly die afterwards. Indoor plants are much more delicate compared to ones growng outdoors. When I see the gnats here, I put out several of the yellow sticky traps and you would be amazed at how many they catch within 24 hours. These yellow sticky traps can last many months indoors. I also used a similar one outsie along with scent lures for cucumber beetles. By summers end, the traps are just loaded with the nasty bugs. also, my apple trees get a similar type of sticky goo applied to red spheres, that look like apples. There is also a scent lure used there as well. I never get worms in my apples and cuke plants rarely ever die out due to downey or powdery mildew infections carried by the cuke beetles feet.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 11:19AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

An inexpensive but effective way to get rid of the fungus gnat larvae is to obtain a package of mosquito dunks (readily available at garden centers, etc.) These contain the strain of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis-Israelensis) that is used for mosquitoes, flies, AND fungus gnats.

Break up one of the dunks and put a few pieces in a large watering container and allow it to soak for a few hours. Then go about your watering as usual. No extra watering, but be sure you use the treated water every time that you do water. The soil should be drenched each time.

In the future, if you locate or make yourself a very coarse textured potting mix, you will never have to worry about these little pests again. Rapid drainage is key to prevention, just as you have correctly observed.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 3:41PM
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Those crazy little flies what about... if the plants are in doors getting a mosquito net or something similar to pop over them?

Here is a link that might be useful: What Is Fenugreek

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 9:09AM
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