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Mon, April 22

Plant appropriately for peace in the garden

For a healthy, easy-care garden, grow plants like this yellow coreopsis in the conditions for which it is best suited. <br>
Sharon Gekoski-Kimmel/Philadelphia Inquirer, MCT

For a healthy, easy-care garden, grow plants like this yellow coreopsis in the conditions for which it is best suited. <br> Sharon Gekoski-Kimmel/Philadelphia Inquirer, MCT

When it comes to our gardens, we are warriors. We want to protect what we have planted.

We want to be the destroyer, making choices between petunias and weeds, between "beneficial" and "destructive" beetles, between aphids and hummingbirds. We do not hesitate to wage war in our garden. We are vigilant, having been taught to fight disease and invasive insects with persistence and tenacity.

One way to end the war with nature is to change our philosophy. All we need to do is accept the fact that we have the same goal as Mother Nature, which is strong, healthy plants. Realize that these "blights" in your garden can show you the weakness in your garden strategy, the wrong choice of plants and the improper placement of plants.

How do you make the decision to let nature's processes continue or fight? First, look closely at the problem. What is really going on? Any plant under stress is vulnerable to attack by a number of problems. Is the stress temporary, caused perhaps by recent transplanting? Can you nurse it through this ordeal and then feel confident the plant will survive? Is this condition caused by a misfit to environmental conditions? Is it a shade-loving plant planted in a sunny spot? Is it a thirsty plant planted alongside drought tolerant plants? Can you change this?

Most plant problems can be traced to difficulty in the environment. If you see brown or spotted leaves, wilting branches or other concerns and can't see an obvious cause, consider over-fertilization, too much mulch or perhaps chemical spray burn.

In reaction to these problems, one course of action is simply to do nothing. By doing nothing you may learn many things. Leaves that fell from a tree may have been replaced with new growth. The plant was in the wrong place. The soil conditions were unsatisfactory. Too much fertilizer or too little fertilizer caused the adverse conditions.

But let's suppose that you are not the patient sort. You need to do something and you need to do it now! You have spied the source of the problem and it is an invasive pest. Aha! Time to take action. Removal of the pest is the obvious solution. Actually, picking the insect off the plant, spraying a strong stream of water on the plant or creating a physical barrier will definitely help. Fences can keep out rabbits. Gauzy films can protect vegetables.

You may decide to try live controls, that is, provide predators to eat your pest. Ladybugs, for example, can be ordered from companies specializing in organic gardening supplies. Healthy bird populations keep insects under control. This is not an instant fix. Predators need time to build up a useful population. Don't use chemicals if you decide to use this method. You will kill both the "good" and "bad" insects.

The final weapon against pests and diseases is using chemicals. They have their proper use in the garden, but just be sure the chemicals don't cause a bigger problem.

Use any pesticide, fungicide or other chemical only when you absolutely must. If you need repeated applications, consider the possibility of replacing the plant.

Surely, the easiest and best solution is to grow disease-resistant plants. New varieties of fruit trees and vegetables have been created. Roses are also undergoing changes by breeders, making them easier to grow.

Native plants are another wise choice. Contact the extension office for plants that grow well here. Speak to your neighbor if you notice a healthy, beautiful plant in his yard.

In the end, common sense is the trump card. Plant the appropriate plant in the appropriate place and leave it alone. You do not need to fight a constant battle over something sickly and weak.


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