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Gardening with Wanda: Weather a reason for infestation
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Having a beautiful garden (flowering or vegetable) can be challenging when weather conditions are unstable.

The change from early spring rains, along with cool nights to our hot, dry days with no rain have created fungus and insect problems on many of our ornamental plants and fruits and veggies.

Identifying and troubleshooting with plant problems is the first step. Many fungus problems can be identified by looking at the leaves and fruit of a plant. Characteristics include spotted leaves, leaf curl, rust, mold or yellowing to browning of leaves.

Most all of these problems are caused by a fungus and will require some type of fungicide to control the problem. Frequent applications (seven to 10 days) will help during favorable conditions.

There are many types of fungicides available. Look for any product containing daconil to control fungus problems. If you want to control organically, neem oil can be used. Make sure you destroy infected debris.

Fungal spores are spread from wind and the splashing of water from plant to plant. Heavy growth that shades the ground and prevents good air circulation produces ideal conditions for fungus diseases. Thin out undergrowth to encourage dry mulch and soil.

Insect damage to your plants can be another problem this time of year. Garden bugs include chewing and sucking insects. Control of these pests can begin by using good quality seed or healthy seedlings.

To do this, follow a sound fertilization program for your garden site. To prevent pest buildup, discard damaged leaves or in the case of fruit or vegetables, destroy the crop residue once the harvest is complete.

At the end of the growing season, old damaged plants can provide food for late feeding insects and become good overwintering sites for pests.

Some of the more common chewing pests include ants, beetles and worms. Most ants feed on "honeydew" produced by aphids that are feeding on decaying fruit or forage. They do little damage to the plant, but most can sting. Treat all ant mounds within 30 to 40 feet of your garden.

Beetles and worms feed on undersides of leaves and at the base of plants. Worms deposit eggs on stems and leaf stalks. If you suspect insects are chewing on your plants, apply insecticides at regular intervals in the early morning or late afternoon. Products containing Bt or Sevin are a good source for control.

Sucking insects include aphids, whitefly, spider mites and stinkbugs. All of these bugs will feed on vegetables. Aphids and mites remove plant juices causing leaves to curl and turn yellow. These insects are easy to identify.

Using products containing pyrethrins (natural organic compounds) can control these insects. Insecticidal soaps can be effective too. Products containing malathion can also help.

The extension office can help with identifying and solving pest and disease problems on your plants. Give us a call or bring in some samples where we can accurately identify what might be going on.

Given our unusual weather conditions in the spring, diligence and perseverance are needed to combat the many problems we have seen in our gardens.

Check out the Hall County Master Gardener 2011 Garden Walk Saturday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. The walk will showcase five master gardener’s private gardens and Gardens on Green, located in town. Call 770-535-8293 for more details. Tickets can be purchased the day of the walk.

Wanda Cannon serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293.


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