Expect the worst

By Lynette L. Walther | Jul 13, 2018
Photo by: Lynette L. Walther Hand-picking is a good solution to keep Japanese beetles under control. Knowing which varieties of plants certain insects prefer helps the gardener attack invasions quickly.

It has been said that the best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow. That “shadow,” our daily examination of our growing plants, is essential. With regular checks we can intercept on the ground floor a pest or disease infestation. We can note telltale symptoms of nutrient deficiencies or any of a dozen other issues that could negatively impact our crops.

As our gardening season heats up, and everything is developing in the vegetable and ornamental beds, it is imperative that we hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. There are steps you can take, practices you can perform — measures to take that prepare us and prevent issues before they get a chance to take hold. A little work to provide a healthy garden environment in advance can prevent a lot of heartache later.

From the National Garden Bureau, here are seven simple tips to make sure your gardens are filled with healthy, happy plants:

1. Plant varieties that have been bred for disease resistance.

2. Use good, healthy soil well amended with compost to help feed and put less stress on the plants, and use a smart crop rotation plan.

3. If disease is discovered on a plant, cut off the affected leaf or limb.

4. Bag and dispose of diseased plants in the trash, not the compost.

5. Cleanliness counts! Wash hands and clean tools after working in one garden area so no diseases are transferred.

6. When planting, spread plants out so they have room for circulation, which helps prevent disease. This includes staking plants instead of letting them lie on the ground. Something as simple as a “Y” shaped twig can be used to prop up flopping flowers and you’ll be surprised how they simply “disappear” in the landscape while doing their job.

7. Water early in the day so the plant’s leaves have time to dry before nighttime when diseases are more prone to spread.

And if the worst does occur and disease is spotted, here’s a list of plant diseases and their abbreviations from NGB to facilitate online searches for identification and solutions:

BCMV = Bean Common Mosaic Virus

CMV = Cucumber Mosaic Virus

DM = Downy Mildew

F = Fusarium

NCLB = Northern Corn Leaf Blight

PM = Powdery Mildew

PVY = Potato Virus

TMV = Tomato Mosaic Virus

TSWV = Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus

V = Verticillium

WMV = Watermelon Mosaic Virus

ZYMV = Zucchini Yellow Mosaic Virus

And remember that sometimes, no matter how well we plan, how much work we do, some plants will not survive. So keep in mind that even our failures are basically learning experiences and in some cases are the best examples of what not to do.

Tomato mosaic virus strikes without warning and spreads like wildfire. Planting disease-resistant varieties can help prevent an infestation. But when discovered, work quickly to remove diseased plants. Never put disease or insect-infested plants in the compost. (Photo by: Lynette L. Walther)
Note the two little opaque white spots on the shoulder of this Japanese beetle. They are the eggs of a parasitic fly that will hatch out and consume the beetle from within. The fly is our only native defense against this pest and beetles with the white spots (one, two or more spots) should be let go to enable the eggs to hatch and attack more beetles. (Photo by: Lynette L. Walther)
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