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?”
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