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Time to inspect veggies

POSTED: June 13, 2014 1:00 a.m.

It’s time to start scouting your warm season vegetables for insect and disease issues.

By June, most veggie gardeners have already planted their summer fare such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash. Now is the time to look over them carefully for signs of those pesky insects or fungal diseases.

Aggravating pests such as stinkbugs, squash vine borers, flea beetles, whiteflies, worms, caterpillars and aphids are common culprits that attack healthy plants. Hornworms and fruitworms also aim for the blossom of vegetable plants.

The best way to inspect plants is to look for signs of holes, yellowing or mottled leaves (curling or distorted).

Gardeners also need to examine the bottom of leaves for insects there. Also look for signs of flying insects touching leaves. Most insects will attack this time of year.

To prevent bugs from damaging the plants, make sure lower leaves do not touch the soil and mulch. Chemicals and organic methods also can control the insect population. Call the local extension office for a suggestion on effective products.

Insects are not the only dangers for plants. Many diseases can affect vegetables as well.

Some common ones are early and late blight, powdery mildew, blossom end rot, bacterial wilt and viruses.

The best advice is to check your vegetables for visible signs. Look for white powdery coatings, large dark spots on leaves, scorched leaves, yellowing and wilted leaves or curled and deformed leaves. These visible signs can indicate a problem beginning to occur.

Also, inspect the blossoms and fruit on vegetable plants. For instance on tomatoes, blossom end rot can be a problem. If you do not know how to identify it, the fruit will succumb to the rot and be inedible.

Identifying and diagnosing vegetable problems is key to a successful harvest.

Blossom end rot is a common physical disorder prevented by proper cultural methods. It is characterized by a round sunken water-soaked spot on the bottom of tomatoes. Peppers, squash and watermelons are also prime targets of blossom end rot.

The disease occurs because of a lack of calcium caused by poor soil moisture, drainage problems and too much fertilization.

Fruit can also be affected by fungal issues called anthracnose and Fusarium wilt. Fungal issues can be soil inhabiting or caused by extreme wet weather. Avoid overhead watering to curb many fungal issues.

High humidity, heavy rainfall and high temperatures can play a role in the health of your plant. Sunscald and cracks on the fruit are usually environmental signs the fruit is being affected.

Blossom drop is common when temperatures fluctuate during pollination. Cool nights and hot days precipitate the issue, affecting peppers and tomatoes.

To prevent damage, maintain a thick canopy of leaves over the plants and regularly water them as a preventative measure. Maintaining soil moisture when possible may also help.

As with insects, disease issues also can be controlled effectively by chemical fungicides and other organic methods such as neem horticultural oil.

All of the insect, disease and environmental problems can be identified and diagnosed at the extension office. Call us to discuss vegetable issues and what you can do to keep these issues at bay.

Wanda Cannon serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact her at 770-535-8293 or wcannon@hallcounty.org. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.


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