Davis: Managing insects, disease in the home garden

Published 12:09 pm Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Growing a flower or vegetable garden is very challenging. It takes a lot of work to plant, grow, care for and harvest garden plantings.

Now that gardening season is in full swing, it is time to start thinking about processes of controlling diseases and insect pests. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Spraying for insects and diseases can help, but should not be the first steps of control. It is best to take the Integrated Pest Management approach.

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Disease and insect control starts with prevention first. This includes keeping flower and vegetable gardens free of weeds. Weeds offer additional habitat and actually attract harmful insects to gardens. Weeds also stress garden plants and create conditions that favor disease development.

It is also important to scout gardens often. Look for signs of disease and insect pests early on, before they create issues.

Make sure to follow good garden sanitation practices. Remove diseased plants from gardens in a manner that avoids spreading disease pathogens to other garden plants.

Avoid working in gardens when they are wet. Disease pathogens are often transmitted from one plant to another more easily under conditions of high moisture.

Make sure to properly identify a disease or insect pest. All insects are not harmful to the garden.

I have had many insect samples that have been brought to the office that were actually beneficial. Beneficial insects often feed on the harmful insects. Applying an insecticide in these situations may kill the beneficial pests and cause the harmful insects to become more abundant.

We can help you identify insects found in your garden free of charge. Just contact us at the Clark County Extension office.

We not only identify the insect, but offer recommendations as to the next action that should be taken. We can help you determine if an insecticide application is necessary and recommend the most appropriate insecticide to apply if spraying is necessary.

Spraying for diseases, especially in vegetable gardens, should be on a preventative basis. Many common vegetable and flower diseases require fungicides applied before a particular disease impacts the garden.

There are very few curative products that are available, and most of the time curative products are not available for homeowners.

We have several publications available for specific garden plants that can help you determine which products to apply preventatively. There even a few organically-approved preventative sprays.

It may be best to give me a call at the Clark County Extension Service to discuss issues that you have had in the garden in previous years. Just like with insect issues, we also take plant disease samples, and can have a diagnosis free-of-charge through the University of Kentucky Plant Diagnostic Laboratory.

If you would like more information about disease and insect prevention in the garden, or would like to talk to someone about issues in your home garden or flower bed, feel free to contact me at the Clark County Extension Service by calling 744-4682. You can also schedule a visit to the office, or schedule a home or farm visit.

David Davis is one of the Clark County Cooperative Extension Service agents for agriculture and natural resources.