Each season presents many questions regarding problems in the garden. Generally, these problems stem from light and water issues. Plant tags will include information regarding light and water needs. Other problems may include fertilization, insects and disease.
Light – Always use plants in their favored light condition. Shade plants will dry out and leaves may burn in the hot midday sun. Sun lovers may become leggy and blooming will suffer when planted in too much shade.
Water – Over and under watering are equally harmful. Bedding plants may require 1” or more water a week during hot dry spells. Container plantings such as hanging baskets, patio pots and window boxes will use up moisture much quicker than in-ground plantings. It is not unusual to water containers every day during dry spells. Adding moisture holding additives to the soil at potting time will help. It is important to keep containers from drying out to the point of plants wilting. It is equally important to water early, preferably by 10am. This reduces evaporation while watering and allows foliage to dry before evening. This will help reduce the risk of disease. If your hose has been laying in the sun the water can become incredibly hot. Let the hose run until water becomes cool. Never use hot water on plants as it can burn the leaves and roots. This type of stress will damage the plant and may even kill it.
Fertilizer – Plants require fertilizer to produce their best growth. Compost or aged manure are ideal in the garden bed. Container plants should be fertilized weekly or bi-weekly to provide consistent feeding. Always read product labels for recommendations and remember more is not always better. Over feeding may produce excess foliage at the expense of blossoms.
Insects vs. Disease – When it comes to pests and diseases there can be many causes to consider. Once the cause is determined treatment is the next step. Some insects can be dislodged simply with a blast of water. Are you gardening for wildlife? If so, insecticides should never be used. Butterfly gardens may have plants eaten by caterpillars of butterflies you’ve attracted. There are many products available for pest control. Remember to evaluate the consequences of using them.
Disease is sometimes caused when plants become congested and air circulation is reduced. If this is the issue something as simple as dividing and transplanting may solve the problem. Remove and dispose of diseased plant material as soon as possible. Never add diseased material to your compost pile. There are many chemical and organic products on the market to treat most diseases.
If you are having a problem determining the pest or disease present, bring a sample of the damaged plant to the garden center (in a sealed plastic bag please) or your county extension office for additional help.