The Q&A Archives: Why Am I Getting So Many Insects And Fungi?

Question: I have put in a brand new garden over this past summer and last, about 65' X 10'. Last year my perennial geraniums developed a fungus which carried over to this year. I am spraying them and removing affected leaves weekly. However, this year an amazing variety of other problems has developed: I have white fly on my grapevines (established) and morning glories; witch hazel pouch gall on my river birch; a fungus on my antique rose bush (established); something on my Miss Kim lilacs causing the leaves to brown on the edges and fold in toward each other; cutworms on my cardinal flowers; and a brown/black fungus (I think) on my black-eyed susans and coneflowers. This is scary. Do you have any idea why the yard was so hard-hit this year and any hints for next? In planting and maintaining, I have followed the advice of the landscape architect who planned the garden. I cut down a tall bunch of weeds in the alley. Is it possible that any insects/fungi that were on them could have come to my yard? Thank you.

Answer: Sounds as though you've been especially challenged in the garden this year! There's a certain balance within nature; if bad bugs visit, good bugs usually show up to do them in. Unless, of course, pesticides have been used repeatedly, which might kill off the good bugs as well as the bad!

Plants that are stressed seem to be more susceptible to insect and disease problems, so make sure your plants are receiving the correct exposure to sunlight, adequate nutrients and enough water to keep them thriving. Plants need plenty of elbow room, too. Good air circulation between plants helps ward off fungal diseases.

Some precautions you can take to assure a healthy garden are to keep weeds and debris out the the garden (so pests can't hide and breed), and water in the morning so leaves have a chance to dry out before nightfall. If you regularly pinch, prune, remove spent flowers, and pick off any really infested or diseased leaves and flowers, you'll stay ahead of the problems - nip them in the bud - so to speak.

Make sure that your plants are in the right places, getting adequate sunshine, fresh air, water and fertilizer and they should retain their health and vitality all year.

To keep problems from overwintering, cut down all dead foliage from your perennials (after your first frost) and remove it from the garden. Follow this up with a few inches of organic mulch to prevent soil erosion and to suppress weeds. Next spring begin a weekly vigil so you can correct problems as they develop.

Hope next year's garden is healthier!

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