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BONNIE’S GARDEN – Stop Garden Problems With 8 Simple Actions

By Bonnie Pega
Bonnie's Garden

There are a lot of pests and diseases—even nutrient deficiencies–just waiting to pounce on our vegetables/flowers/trees/shrubs. It can be overwhelming to know what to do. So here are some things to keep in mind.

Identify the problem

If you are not 100% sure what the problem is, bring a sample to a reputable garden center to get it identified. If you think it’s a disease and it’s really an insect, you can spray it with a fungicide and it is nothing but a waste of time and money—and it’s not taking care of the problem. Or you might think fertilizer will take care of those yellow leaves when it’s really a cultural problem. Fertilizing a sick plant can make it worse instead of better.

Select the correct solution

There are products more effective against caterpillars or slugs or mites, for example, so get a product that mentions your particular problem. Again, if you’re not sure, ask a professional for their input. That’s what we’re here for.

More is never better

Don’t use a cannon when all you need is a sling-shot. Over-feeding a plant, for example, can do more damage than underfeeding. Over spraying with a fungicide or insecticide, might take care of one problem, but it also might damage the plant you’re trying to protect.

Use organic controls for your problem, whenever possible

It’s better for our environment—and for any wildlife, butterflies, hummingbirds, bees that might be around. However, remember that even an organic solution can harm pollinators if used incorrectly.

Never spray pesticides on plants in bloom

A pesticide cannot distinguish between bad guys like aphids or mealy bugs and good guys like honeybees, ladybugs, and butterflies. In 2013, a landscape company in Wilsonville, Oregon, sprayed Linden trees in full bloom for aphids—killing over 50,000 bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds in the process.

Garden products aren’t as smart as you think

A broadleaf weed-killer will kill anything that is not a grass. It can’t tell the difference between a dandelion and a geranium. A product that can kill voles can also kill birds, squirrels, cats, and dogs. That’s why you need to read the label to make sure you use the products correctly.

Timing is important

I limit my spraying to very early morning (right about sun-up) or late evening (right about sun-down) to avoid killing any honeybees/butterflies/hummingbirds or damaging tender young foliage.  And, because so many of the “bad guys” are night feeders, I’ll get more of them, too.

READ the label

NEVER ever use any garden pesticide/herbicide/fertilizer—even an organic one—without reading the label, even if you’ve read it before. Note any protective gear—such as long sleeves, gloves, and/or goggles it suggests. Some years ago, there was a product on the market for borers (it has since been taken off the market). It had a DANGER symbol on the label and called for long pants, long sleeves, rubber gloves, goggles. I was out one evening walking the dogs and saw a neighbor spraying a tree in his yard. He was wearing a tank top, cut-off shorts, and flip-flops. We chatted for a minute and I asked what he was spraying.

“Something for borers,” he said. I cringed.

“Uh, did you read the directions?”

He responded, “No, why?”

Why indeed!

I am a totally organic gardener so I rely on hand-picking and other organic controls for insects and, instead of weed-killers, simply put on gardening gloves and pull my weeds by hand or pull out my favorite little hoe and chop them out.  But, on rare occasions, I do find it necessary to treat for an insect problem, I read those label directions again—even if I’ve read them before.

To help in identifying your problem check my last two blogs—a week before last on vegetable garden diseases and last week on insect pests.  Or bring us a sample and let us help you identify and treat it

4 thoughts on “BONNIE’S GARDEN – Stop Garden Problems With 8 Simple Actions

  1. I am distressed that my zucchini plants are not producing fruit. They are healthy looking with yellow blooms, but no fruit develops as the blooms drops. Was it too much rain? We did get a lot when they were developing. Or could it be I am planting them in the same location as years gone by?

  2. Darlene–any of the insecticide sprays I mentioned above will work on any insect problem. Just be sure that’s what you have. If large pieces of leaves are missing and the edges look “torn” it may be someone four-legged–like deer. And hostas are one of their favorite things…. in that case, we some some fairly effective repellents.

  3. If zucchini/squash/cucumbers/melons are blooming, but not setting fruit, it could be lack of pollination. Zucchini and other cucumber family members produce two kinds of flowers. The male flowers have a long skinny stem with the flower at the top. Female flowers have tiny little baby fruit–with the flower on the end. If your plant is product ONLY male flowers, then that’s normal. For the first week or two after they begin blooming, they tend to product all or mostly male flowers. If you’re see female flowers and the tiny fruits are turning yellow and falling off, then they flower did not get pollinated. If that is the case, then you can step in and pollinate the flowers yourself. Pick a male flower and pull off the petals–leaving only the pistils in the middle. Dab that gently into several female flowers and wiggle it around. I plant beebalm and other bee-friendly flowers around the outside edge of my veggie garden to encourage pollinators to stop by.

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