Powdery mildew, root rot and root aphids, spider mites, white flies, and various garden viruses are potential problems for farmers in our region. Pesticides and fungicides used to treat these problems can contaminate the soil, water, and the crop they are applied to. They also don’t discriminate, often killing the beneficial insects and microorganisms that are nature’s defense against plant disease and pest issues. Improper handling and storage of pesticides and fungicides can be harmful to the environment, humans, and animals that come into contact with them. Applying pesticides and fungicides within 25 feet of a creek or waterway, unless the product is developed specifically for aquatic use, is not only illegal but dangerous to aquatic life.
A garden with soil teeming with beneficial microorganisms and beneficial insects will be far less susceptible to disease and pest issues. Be a proactive gardener, not a reactive one! Take steps ahead of time to reduce the risk of pest and disease infestation. Most garden disease and pest issues are brought into the garden by contaminated plant starts that are acquired from outside sources.
- 33Consider breeding and sprouting your own seeds! Seed plants tend to have increased vigor and resilience to disease and pests. Seeds that are produced on-site and/or in the same bioregion are preferable as they are more likely to be acclimated to the weather, subtle light changes, and have increased immunity to the bioregion’s various disease and pest issues.
- When purchasing plant starts from seed or clone, examine them closely for signs of disease and pests. Check the underside of leaves for spider mite eggs and/or adults. Squashes, melons, cucumbers, and dahlias are all highly susceptible to powdery mildew so take the extra time to give them a thorough examination before bringing them home from your local nursery.
- Garden viruses such as Verticulum and Fuscarium wilt are easily transferred through clone cutting and contaminated soil or mediums. Choose plant starts that have healthy hairy white roots, avoid plant starts with roots that are undeveloped, browning, or lack a vigorous appearance.
- Know your plant and clone source! Clones are cut from mother plants, meaning the clone you take home is highly likely to have the same diseases and/or pests as its mother plant. Additionally, clones may also contain fungicide and pesticide residues if the mother plant was treated prior to the clones being cut.
- Attract beneficial insects to your garden by inter-planting a mix of yarrow, cilantro, parsley, dill, or coreopsis. This will help to combat spider mites and other pests.
- Prevent the onset of powdery mildew by using natural remedies as a preventative during the plant’s vegetative life cycle. If powdery mildew persists, spray your garden with a weak solution of baking soda, neem oil, or H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide.) You can also spray or dust with sulfur products to deter the onset of powdery mildew.
- If purchasing pesticides or fungicides, choose the most natural or organic ones available at your garden supply store. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and never apply more than recommended.