Benjamin Franklin said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Ben (that’s what his friends call him) was a man ahead of his time. You can take this truism and apply it to every aspect of life. This includes how we act or react to issues in our garden. Timing is everything when it comes to preventing and controlling certain diseases. Over the years Wells Brothers has seen terabytes of pictures and a mountains worth of samples of plants with problems. One thing most of these folks have in common is that the plant is in critical condition before we see pictures or samples. I will tell you that identifying a cause of a plant issue can be very tough. What I won’t tell you is that it’s okay to wait until half the plant has been infected to seek help. The garden should be walked daily. Even though we are talking gardens you should also walk the lawn and flower beds a couple times a week. The farmers call this scouting. This is a relaxing task and will put you in touch with your plants.
Most problems not related to maintenance fall into several categories: bacterial, fungal, viral, insects and animal issues. Let’s focus on bacterial, fungal and viral troubles. Guess what, most of these problems can be transmitted by humans, insects and some animal contact. Some are carried by the wind and live in the soil. We will talk about the critters at a later date. Prevention starts with good hygiene. The first step is keeping your hands and tools clean. Wash your hands between each plant. The cutting and pruning tools should be wiped between each cut with hydrogen peroxide or alcohol and allowed to dry before the next cut. Upon completion all tools should be washed off and allowed to dry before storage. Click here to read more about disease management in your garden.
The next step is insect control. Problems occur when the beneficial insects can’t control the non-beneficial insects. Liquid insecticides are the most common method of control. Pick the proper product for the insect you are fighting and follow the directions. Unfortunately, when you start spraying for the bad insects you also kill the beneficial insects. This means when you start spraying, you must keep spraying for the life of the crop.
Fungal problems on the other hand are caused by us gardeners and environmental conditions. When fungal spores are present and weather condition are right, the fungus will start to grow. Not much we can do about Mother Nature so our focus should be on proper watering techniques. Water in the morning, especially in the early spring and late fall when the temperatures are cool. Keeping the water off the leaves is a little tougher and requires a drip irrigation system or soaker hoses. Both will work but the effectiveness edge goes to the drip systems. Most of the trouble we see is caused by fungus and bacteria. There are synthetic and all-natural products that can fight or cure both issues. Liquid copper tops the list of things to use whether you do an all-natural or synthetic system.
Viruses on the other hand need a more drastic approach. Choosing resistant varieties of plants is the first course of action. Pruning of the infected tissues is the last course of action. There is nothing in between. Removal of infected leaves and branches also works for fungal and bacterial problems. Don’t forget to clean the cutting tools between each cut. If you are trying to identify the exact strain of a pathogen causing a specific problem it will require some lab work. As always read and follow the label directions on any product you choose.
Soil testing can be beneficial in identifying garden problems. Click here for more information on soil testing.