Wherever you go in America, gardeners will tell you about the terrible pest problems with which they have to deal, and we know Georgians have more than our fair share of insects, diseases and weeds.
It is important to remember that using pesticides (fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides) is only one method for controlling pests, and minimizing the use of pesticides, whether chemical or organic, always is a good idea.
Make it a point to inspect your landscape frequently for developing problems. Weed control is a prime example. Early intervention is far easier and more effective than letting the situation get out of hand before acting. Mulches are the best way to save work and reduce the use of herbicides to control weeds in beds.
One of the best defenses against pest problems is to keep your plants in tip-top condition through good horticultural practices, including proper spacing, soil, drainage, water, light and nutrients for your plants. A healthy, vigorous plant is more resistant to disease and withstands insect attacks better, and a healthy lawn resists weeds. Find instructions for soil testing at https://bit.ly/3u15yPG.
Another excellent way to avoid insect and disease problems is through plant selection. Choose plants that are adapted to your climate and naturally are resistant to major problems. If you have plants that constantly seem to be under attack despite your best efforts, consider replacing them with plants that require less care. Using native plants is a great way to prevent unnecessary problems. Visit https://bit.ly/3Aja7sL for a publication called “Native Plants of North Georgia: A Photo Guide for Plant Enthusiasts.”
In vegetable gardens and flower beds filled with annuals, crop rotation is important. Planting the same type of plants in the same bed, year after year, can cause diseases that use those plants as hosts to build up in the soil.
Always keep your yard, gardens and adjacent areas as weed-free as possible. Fruit and fallen leaves infected with disease should be collected, bagged and thrown away. And never leave rotten vegetables and leaves on the ground in your vegetable garden.
Keep dead branches regularly pruned out of fruit trees, shade trees and shrubs. Dead and rotting branches can serve as points of entry and sources of infection.
Some disease organisms live in the soil and are splashed onto plants by irrigation or rain.
Using mulch under and around your plants can reduce the occurrence of these types of diseases. This especially is helpful when growing fruit and vegetable crops like tomatoes, squash and strawberries.
When problems do arise, proper diagnosis is critical to correcting the situation with the most appropriate and safest control method. Unfortunately, diagnosing the causes of pest problems is not easy for the average gardener. Contact your local UGA Extension Office for help with identifying problems and recommending solutions.
Also, remember that wearing your personal protective equipment when applying chemicals and following the instructions on pesticide labels are crucial.
The Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County (MGVOCC) supports the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service and strives to improve the quality of life in our community by delivering research-based horticultural information, educational programs and projects.
– Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County is a part of the University of Georgia Extension.