The U.S. is experiencing a boom in home plant gardening. Many people are starting to garden plant, whether they’re trying to grow food for their family or as a hobby. Seeds are flying off the shelves of seed suppliers. After the gardens have been plant, the main work in the coming months will be to keep them healthy.
Contrary to what the Bible says, we don’t always reap what we sow. We are entomologists and plant pathologists who have dedicated our lives to the study and management of plant pests. We are gardeners of varying experience levels and have witnessed firsthand the destruction these pests and disease-causing agents could cause.
Your garden’s success is dependent on your plant health. To help combat pests and diseases that are threatening global food production, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2020 the International Year of Plant Health.
There are thousands of pathogens and pests that target commercial crops. However, a few common suspects are responsible for wreaking havoc in garden gardens all across the U.S. While each organism has its own preferences, there are some common techniques that can use to help you identify them and protect your plants.
Prevention Is The Best Way To Start Plant
Home growers can take preventive measures to ensure their gardens flourish, just as healthy eating habits are important.
Assessing soil fertility is an important step. This refers to the soil’s ability to support plant growth. It can vary depending on where you live and what type of soil you have. Low soil fertility can limit food production and expose plants to pests and diseases. Many universities offer free soil testing services that can evaluate garden soil quality and help identify nutrient deficiencies or acidic soils.
Mulching and hand weeding each week will help reduce weed growth and increase airflow around your garden plants. This makes it more difficult for pathogens and pests to thrive. You can ensure that the nutrients you need to grow your plants are available by controlling weeds.
It is important to space plants correctly. Crowding can lead to pest and disease outbreaks. Make sure you follow the recommendations on seed packets or online when adding and moving plants. To help with spacing, you can always cull the plants once they are up. If you have fewer plants than necessary, it is possible to harvest a larger harvest from small gardens.
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The weather is another factor. Plants are expose to unique dangers from hail, flooding, frost, and drought. Consistent rain can cause thirsty plants to die faster than fertile soils. Too little or too much water can stress plants, making them more susceptible to serious pest and pathogen infestations.
It is a good rule of thumb to keep your plants hydrated every day, preferably in the morning. Avoid overwatering as this can encourage soil pathogens.
Common plant pathogens include bacteria, viruses, oomycetes, nematodes and fungi. Even though they are small, most of these microorganisms can’t be seen at the beginning stages of infection. However, when they multiply they can cause plant changes that we can identify.
Pathogens can travel unnoticed and unchecked between leaves on wind, soil, or droplets of water, unlike insects that move on six legs or wings. These pathogens can even be facilitated by microbes that have formed intimate relationships with insects. Unfortunately, some pathogens can already cause serious damage by the time they are discovered.
A Twitter survey was conducted to determine which pests were ravaging gardeners across the country. The most troublesome insect pests were identified by gardeners as aphids and squash vine borers, flea beetles, and squash bugs. The most problematic pathogens were powdery mildew and tomato bacterial wilt.
Managing Perennial Problems
The first step in managing perennial problems is to look at your plants closely. Are there insects or molds that are constantly circling your plants? What about symptoms like blight, stunting or yellowing of leaves?
For curious and keen-eyed gardeners who want to manage and identify pests and diseases, there are many resources available online. Upload a photo to the iNaturalist app, or a Facebook group for gardeners that can provide a community-sourced ID. Your state’s plant disease clinics will diagnose and treat pests and diseases in plants for no cost or at a low price.
The land grant extension system is available to help you solve problems once you have identified them. Land grant schools such as West Virginia University or Penn State University have extension programs that provide vital information about agriculture and the management of pests, diseases and other issues to home and commercial growers.
Resources Contain Information
These resources contain information about safe and correct use of pesticides in integrated pest management strategies. This approach uses pesticides in a targeted manner, along with non-chemical methods and cultural practices such as the choice of native plants. The American Phytopathological Society offers a compendium series that can be used to diagnose and treat diseases and pests.
If you are passionate about sharing your knowledge and learning from others, Master Gardener programs may be for you. These programs train and certify members of the community in the most recent evidence-based gardening techniques. They can also help them to become certified as Master Gardeners. Master Gardeners give back by helping new Master Gardeners to answer questions and training them.
Plant pests serve as a reminder that gardens are not create in isolation. It takes time and attention to join a gardening community, but we believe it is worth the effort. The nervous tightrope act between keeping pests away and putting food on the table can made a delicate dance with experience that can help us appreciate the origin of our food and our place in the global eco-system.