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Plant Problems

The area of plant problems is something we all must deal with. Ones best bet would be to speak with either local nursery personnel or contact the Agricultural Extension Agent in the area for advice on keeping plants healthy and disease free. Secondly, always be on the lookout for subtle changes in your plants. Are the leaves wilting or changing color when they shouldn’t? If you notice changes and have questions, bring in a sample clipping of the problem so we can help to identify it.

Essentially, there are four types of problems that occur within lants.

1. Bacterial diseases can occur in areas of high soil moisture, high humidity, and high temperatures.  This problem can also exist due to extremely high nitrogen concentrations in the soil. Wilting of leaves or galls (overgrowth of plant cells) are some visual cues to look for.

2. Fungal disease is common in the garden and can be controlled chemical sprays and dusts. Powdery mildew is one such fungus. You can spot the mildew by looking for pale colored patches on the bottom of the leaf. This will take nutrients from the plants leaves, and eventually the leaf will become discolored.

3. Insects are another issue with plants. Insects such as aphids, leaf hoppers, and spider mites (among others) can easily be controlled using chemical sprays (and some can be controlled with an insecticidal soap). Most gardeners find a combination of chemical and non-chemical methods that work for them.

4. Environmental reasons can also wreak havoc on your plants. Cooler weather can cause leaves to die back and drop. In the heat of the summer, water droplets upon the leaves can act as a tiny magnifying glass and burn holes in the leaf. This is known as leaf scorch. Planting the wrong plant in the wrong area, improper installation, or improper watering/lack of watering can also cause plant problems. 

Nonchemical Control of Insects

Garden Site Selection

Location, location, location.  It is not the first time we've said it, and it won't be the last! 

Try to avoid planting your veggies in ground tat was in sod within two to three years. Soil insects are more prominent in this situation.  If you have no choice, soil preparation should be your focus!

Soil Preperation

Several species of soil insects feed on roots and seeds of veggies. Many of these insects are in the weeds or grasses in the garden areo before veggies are planted.

It is best to plow in the fall and again in the spring.  It is recommended that spring plowing should be done three weeks prior to planting. This  practice helps to eliminate weeds harboring garden pests. This also exposes some pests to drying, cold, and even predators.

Plant Early

If you can plant as early as weather will allow, you can avoid some insects.  Most insects do not overwinter successfully, therefore the sooner you plant, the better your chances are of harvesting before heavy insect pressure occurs.

Vigorous Plants

Healthy plants are able to tolerate, and survive, pest damage than more weakly, sick plants.  Make sure you are planting varieties that thrive in Middle Tennessee. Follow proper planting instructions and the label on the seed pack, or information on the stick tag.  Correct planting and care will lead to healthier plants that are able to tolerate pest damage.

Diversified Planting

Most insects are fond of certain things.  For example, striped cucumber beetles like cucumbers, squash, and melons.  They do not disturb corn or beans. You would not want to group all your cucumbers, squash, and melons in one area of your garden.  If you have many plants of the same veggie, you may want to split them up in your garden also.  The close proximity of like plants, can cause quicker spread of garden pests.

Companion Plants

There is nothing concrete to prove or disprove the effectiveness of companion planting.  Many gardeners claim success with companion planting.

A few common companion s:

- Interplant beans with rosemary to control Mexican bean beetles.

-Interplant tomatoes with basil to repel tomato horn-worm.

Check back later for a full section on companion planting!