What I Learn When I Clean

Honestly, when I clean the house, I find out so much about my plants. It may have something to do with the fact that I have 7 bay windows. Those windows hold a lot of plants.

But those windows also have trim and flat surfaces that needs dusting and of course windows that need washing if the dog has gotten in there barking at the squirrels.

So while I am cleaning the windows, I am checking out the plants. What’s happening? Do they look “okay?” is there any noticeable stickiness? That’s the first sign of an insect infestation, usually–the plant will produce what’s called “honeydew” in response to scale or sometimes mealy bugs or aphids.

You’ll find the stickiness on other leaves or on the surface of the windowsill or table or where ever the plant might be located. So that’s a good indicator of an insect problem.

Another thing I will find is lots of fallen leaves. Usually it’s not a problem. Dry winter homes cause this. If I find an unusual number then I investigate further (I have one plant with a scale infestation right now that is dropping leaves like crazy–in fact, the unusual number of falling leaves, rather than any stickiness, is what first alerted me to that plant’s particular issue).

20160204_163538

But what I never expected to find–and what I can’t really account for–is artillery fungus remains. I find it occasionally but I have no idea  why I am finding it indoors. It’s those black dots on the “ceiling” and molding of the bay window in the above photo.

To recap, artillery fungus is a particularly obnoxious type of fungus. It can permanently damage cars and paint or siding on a home. It looks just like what you see in the above photo–tiny black dots–except that out of doors they are often far more numerous and far more destructive because they can’t be removed by most known means like power washing.

It is generally thought to come from the breakdown of “cheaper” forms of mulches like those dyed mulches made from ground up pallets. But clearly, indoors, I don’t have any such thing.

It’s obviously coming from some component in my house plant soil. And here’s where it gets interesting. After the great fungus gnat infestation a few years ago, I went cold turkey from the commercial bagged soils. I now only use the soils you can get in garden centers. I exclusively used soils that I bought in garden centers all season long this past summer. So whatever is breaking down in those soils must be causing this problem.

I would still rather have this minor issue than another fungus gnat infestation (which I have not had since I have switched to “good” quality garden soil.) But I will leave that coice up to you.

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2 thoughts on “What I Learn When I Clean

  1. Wow, that is certainly an unexpected find! I wonder if the type of interior paint sold specifically for bathrooms would prevent the adherence (or perhaps even zap?) any indoor artillery fungus spores? I’m thinking here of something like Benjamin Moore’s Aura Bath & Spa which has ingredients in it that inhibit the growth of mold and mildew and also a surface that resists the formation of those yucky streaks that develop in higher-humidity rooms.

  2. I suspect I could also use the “Kilz” type paint that is sold specifically to kill mold. But when I was cleaning I was experimenting with just scraping it off with a fingernail and that worked too. So I think I might just get an old plastic something–or maybe even a cheap plastic putty knife–and just scrape as much as possible and then wash the whole thing with a dilute solution of bleach or perhaps just vinegar and water.

    I’m a bit concerned about where it’s coming from, though. I don’t see any evidence of the type of stuff that usually shoots this in the house plants but clearly that’s what’s got to be causing it. There’s nothing in that window but snake plants that don’t get a lot of water. More investigation–on a “non-cleaning” weekend–is clearly warranted.

    Karla

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