The Most Common Gardening Issues
The best defense to avoid trouble in a garden is to be armed with a good gardening reference book. You’ll also need an understanding of your soil conditions, the plants that work best in the local area, and the weather patterns and pests that can affect plant growth. Here are some common issues faced by gardeners on a daily basis.
Pest and Disease Control
Pests are a major problem for all gardeners. Pests are unavoidable and as soon as one pest is under control, the season changes and brings a new set. The best defense against pests is vigilance. Inspect plants daily and look for pest damage.
Slugs are one of the most unwanted pests in a garden. There are several methods to reduce the slug population in a garden. Here are a few:
- Bury a half filled bottle of beer in the garden so that the opening is even with the top of the ground. Slugs are attracted to the beer, will crawl into the bottle and become trapped.
- Scatter crushed egg shells around the plants the slugs are eating. The sharp edges slice their skin.
Other common pests found on garden plants include aphids, mealy bugs, spider mites, thrips, scale and whiteflies. These pests are easily controlled with a mixture of 1 gallon water, 2 tablespoons mild dishwashing soap and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil. Spray this mixture on the undersides of the plant leaves in the early morning. The soap mixture should be dry on the plant before the hot part of the day.
An efficient way to deal with fungus and bacterial diseases is to use the search and destroy method. Simply cut out the affected area of the plant and throw that part in the trash. Do not put diseased plant material in a compost pile or leave it lying near other plants.
Maintaining a Healthy Lawn
Bare spots may be the result of a number of factors including insects, disease, weather conditions or lack of care. Repairing bare spots quickly will reduce the possibility of the spot becoming larger and weeds taking root. Large patches may require sod to completely cover the area. Smaller patches may only need a sprinkling of grass seed.
Dog urine causes bare patches in a lawn. To reduce the number of bare spots, give your own dogs a designated area to relieve themselves. If you notice a neighbor’s dog urinating in your lawn, water that spot until the urine is washed away. A patch of grass that has been burned by dog urine may re-grow if the area is left alone. If the grass does not re-grow, that spot will need to be re-seeded.
Gophers and moles can make a holey, hilly mess out of a lawn. These pesky critters don’t eat the lawn, but the tunnels they dig leave holes, damage a lawn’s root system and give a lawn an unsightly appearance. To deal with gophers, soak a sponge with ammonia and place it inside the opening to each hole. To get rid of moles, the moles must be trapped.
Caring for Container Plants
Most container plants suffer from too much water or from too little water. Here are a few issues concerning container grown plants:
- When the bottom leaves of a plant begin to turn yellow, the plant is droopy and it has poor color, it may be getting too much water. Make sure the container provides adequate drainage holes and reduce the amount of water.
- Tall and leggy looking plants are not getting enough sunlight. Move these plants to a sunnier location or set up artificial lighting.
- Plants that show burning at the margins of the leaves have a high accumulation of salt in the soil. Leach these plants so that the water washes the salt out of the soil.
- Plants with stunted growth and purplish leaves are being kept too cold. Move these plants to an indoor or sheltered location.
Growing a Vegetable Garden
Most new vegetable gardeners run into problems with seeds. One common problem is that the seeds will not germinate. This may be due to a variety of problems:
- Seeds may have been planted too early before the soil has warmed up. A cold frame or green plastic bottle can be used to keep plants warm in cold weather.
- The seeds may be too old. To test the viability of the seeds, place about 10 seeds between two sheets of wet paper towels, place in a plastic bag and put in a dark place for a few days. If fewer than half the seeds sprout, the seeds are too old and it’s time to get new seeds.
Another common problem is that soon after the seedlings emerge from the soil, the seedling wilts and dies. This is called damping off and is caused by a fungus. Here are a few tips to prevent damping off:
- Start container-grown plants in sterile potting soil.
- Use clean tools and containers when working with seeds and seedlings. Disinfect tools with alcohol and was containers in soapy water and soak for 10 minutes in a solution of 10 percent bleach.