Tips for protecting your garden against pests
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Jun 15, 2011 | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ah, the joys of gardening! You may not have the large flower beds which we so admire. You may only have a few pots of blooming annuals on the patio or some hanging pots on the porch but you know what I mean by “the joy of gardening.” Just when you are admiring the results of planning these beautiful plants, along comes a blight of some kind.

One reader had her shrubs sprayed for mildew and then found that she also has scales. Then to make matters worse, a tree in front of her house has a strange disease not yet treated.

Let’s face it-there’s no way to have a garden without some pests or disease. We know that insects have a short life span but they multiply. And millions of spores can attack one single plant and then spread all over. If you eliminate all these pests, others will fly or creep in. There are some things you can do, however, to keep these bad things in reasonable control.

First make sure the environment is right for each group of plants. The right growing conditions are fertilizers, mulch and water. Get rid of any badly diseased plants and do not put them on the compost. That just spreads the spores or bacteria or viruses or whatever you have. Always keep your garden clean and free of debris.

If you know you have been working around a diseased plant, clean spades or scissors and then wipe them with alcohol. Also be careful what you add to your garden. I once bought plants from a careless discount store until I found I was bringing in diseases. Even another gardener can give you a diseased plant unknowingly.

When you are planting shrubs, roses, etc., always allow for growth. Crowding plants surely leads to problems.

You can learn how to diagnose problems yourself. For instance, a calcium deficiency can cause leaf tips to curl. Nitrogen deficiency can cause the lower leaves to turn yellow. Some problems may be caused by two things so check a good gardening book or check with your Extension Agent.

Sometimes the best cure for a recurring problem with just one or two plants is to just to pitch it. Some plants are just too prone to disease to spend time on.

Some problems are difficult to diagnose. A case in point was a hydrangea which was purchased by a gardener. It seemed to be moist so the gardener planted it. It just didn’t thrive. After pulling it up, it was discovered that the root ball was totally dry when planted. The problem was solved by thoroughly wetting the plant and replanting.

Then there are vegetable gardeners and their special problems. Now, if you only have a few tomato plants, a few pepper plants and some onions, you are a vegetable grower. Tomato plants are easily grown and have always been a special treat for me. Tomato plants often will drop their blossoms when nights are cool or extremely hot in early spring. To prevent this very disappointing happening, a real crisis, spray the clusters of blooms with a product especially for this problem. And don’t forget to give your tomato plants about one tablespoon of Epsom Salts every two or three weeks. This will keep the bottom leaves nice and green plus keep the plant bearing for a longer period. No self-respecting gardener would be without Epsom Salts.

If ever there’s a perfect month, it’s June. Someone has said, “Our notion of what makes a paradise always returns to the image of a beautiful and fruitful garden”. This is the time that it all comes together, all the time, labor and money you spent all year long. But, alas, there are adders in the Garden of Eden. Too much rain and everything gets mildew. Not enough rain and it all wilts. Then there are insects everywhere and you wonder what spray to use. The truth is you can prevent a lot of problems by careful planning. First a program for spraying for mildew will prevent a real outbreak. Trimming shrubs and preventing overcrowding of perennials will help prevent mildew. Removing and destroying all yellow leaves from plants helps stop the spread of black spot.

Insects are another serious problem and you should remember that insects are more likely to attack weak and sick plants. But birds are more efficient than you are at getting rid of insects. Those bluebirds, especially, are at work 24-7 cleaning out your area of flying insects. Also robins will search out insects on the ground in the beds. I have watched robins find snails in the garden and crack open the shells.

Slugs are often a big problem in some gardens. They like the damp spots where you grow hostas. There are products just for killing slugs. Then there are slug-killers such as moles, shrews and snakes, especially those little garter snakes. I would far prefer slugs to garter snakes or any other kind of snake in my garden. As my grandfather was fond of saying, “To each his own.”

If you have questions, suggestions for future columns or just want to tall me about your garden experience, please call me at 270-522-3632.
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