Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Plant Doctor Is In

The fight against garden pests and pestilence can feel like a losing war, leaving you with a yard full of plant casualties and a headache to boot. On the other hand, too often a pristine garden is the result of treatment with harmful chemicals and pesticides that compromise your plants’ health as well as your own. Try some of the following simple suggestions for coping with common greenery woes and make your happy, healthy garden grow!

1. The best defenses against bacterial and fungus problems are well-nourished soil, plenty of sunshine, and plenty of water.

2. Consider companion planting with these plants, which have pest-repellent talents and/or attract pest-eating bugs: marigolds, alliums, evening primrose, wild buckwheat, baby blue eyes, candytuft, bishops flower, black-eyed Susan, strawflowers, nasturtiums, angelica, and yarrow.

3. To combat greenhouse insect pests, careful screening is the simple, basic answer.

4. In urban areas, the “plant doctor” is the equivalent of the rural vet. You can get a beloved plant diagnosed and treated by the doc’s house call, although it costs. It’s more likely to need more or less water or more or less light than to suffer from a disease.

5. Move each vegetable’s planting place around in your garden every year. This helps avoid a build-up of one kind of pest or pestilence in a part of your garden. Don’t let them just lie in wait to devour next year’s crop. Move the target!

6. Buy disease-resistant seed varieties whenever available.

7. Use diatomaceous earth, copper stripping, or iron phosphate-based organic baits to combat slugs and snails. A well-placed saucer of cheap beer will also lure them to their demise.

8. Use beneficial insects: ladybugs, predatory mites, praying mantis, beneficial nematodes, parasitic wasps, mealy bug destroyers, etc.

9. Use sprays of environmentally safe (biodegradable), natural (plant-originated) material such as garlic, hot pepper, pyrethrum, nicotine, or rotenone as a last resort. Or mulch with coffee grounds, etc.

10. Don’t leave disease-infected plants in the garden, and don’t put them on the compost pile. This goes for clubroot, late blight in tomatoes and potatoes, and any other soil-borne contagion. Put them on a separate trash pile or burn them.

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