By Paul James
There’s no getting around it, folks…sooner or later some of our favorite plants get attacked by pests or diseases or both. Sometimes the invaders are relatively easy to control, although that’s not always the case, which is why there are dozens of products on the market aimed at targeting and destroying them. But what if I told you there are several things you can do to discourage pests and diseases from showing up in the first place?
The most important thing you can do is maintain healthy soil, because plants grown in healthy soil will be healthy too, which means they’ll be better equipped to resist invasions by pests and diseases. It’s much the same with humans; when our immune system is compromised we’re more likely to get sick. And creating healthy soil is simple – get in the habit of routinely adding compost (whether store-bought or homemade) to your soil. Just top off your beds with a two-inch layer of the stuff or place it around the perimeter of individual plants at least once or twice a year and your plants will thank you.
Now repeat the mantra – Right Place, Right Plant – over and over again, because it’s vitally important. When you plant something in the proper place you greatly increase its chances of remaining healthy. But if a plant requires well drained soil and you plant it in clay, or if it requires shade and you plant it in sun, you have only yourself to blame if it doesn’t do well and succumbs to pests and diseases.
Providing good air circulation can go a long way toward preventing problems, especially fungal diseases, so don’t crowd plants too close together or plant them directly against the house or fence. That’s especially important in the case of roses and Photinia.
Mulch can actually help keep fungal diseases at bay as well, because it smothers fungal spores in the ground and prevents them from splashing onto leaf surfaces when it rains or when you water.
And speaking of water, avoid watering late in the day so leaf surfaces have a chance to dry out completely. If they remain wet overnight, they’re prone to attack by fungal diseases. And regardless of when you water, soak the base of the plant rather than the leaves for the same reason.
Finally, try to keep your garden relatively tidy. Pests love to hide in garden debris, especially in piles of leaves and under boards or stones.
By doing all these things you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by how much healthier your plants are. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’ll be immune to attack by pests and diseases, but it does mean they’ll be better equipped to withstand them.