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How-to : Fertilization for Annuals and Perennials
Annuals and perennials may be fertilized using: 1.water-soluble, quick release fertilizers; 2. temperature controlled slow-release fertilizers; or 3. organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. Water soluble fertilizers are generally used every two weeks during the growing season or per label instructions. Controlled, slow-release fertilizers are worked into the soil ususally only once during the growing season or per label directions. For organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, follow label directions as they may vary per product.
Conditions : Full Sun
Full Sun is defined as exposure to more than 6 hours of continuous, direct sun per day.
Conditions : Moist and Well Drained
Moist and well drained means exactly what it sounds like. Soil is moist without being soggy because the texture of the soil allows excess moisture to drain away. Most plants like about 1 inch of water per week. Amending your soil with compost will help improve texture and water holding or draining capacity. A 3 inch layer of mulch will help to maintain soil moisture and studies have shown that mulched plants grow faster than non-mulched plants.
Conditions : Outdoor Watering
Plants are almost completely made up of water so it is important to supply them
with adequate water to maintain good plant health. Not enough water and roots
will wither and the plant will wilt and die. Too much water applied too
frequently deprives roots of oxygen leading to plant diseases such as root and
stem rots. The type of plant, plant age, light level, soil type and container
size all will impact when a plant needs to be watered. Follow these tips to
ensure successful watering:
* The key to watering is water deeply and less frequently. When watering, water
well, i.e. provide enough water to thoroughly saturate the root ball. With
in-ground plants, this means thoroughly soaking the soil until water has
penetrated to a depth of 6 to 7 inches (1' being better). With container grown plants, apply enough water to allow water to flow through the drainage holes.
* Try to water plants early in the day or later in the afternoon to conserve
water and cut down on plant stress. Do water early enough so that water has
had a chance to dry from plant leaves prior to night fall. This is paramount
if you have had fungus problems.
* Don't wait to water until plants wilt. Although some plants will recover from this,
all plants will die if they wilt too much (when they reach the permanent
* Consider water conservation methods such as drip irrigation, mulching, and
xeriscaping. Drip systems which slowly drip moisture directly on the root
system can be purchased at your local home and garden center. Mulches can significantly cool the root zone
and conserve moisture.
* Consider adding water-saving gels to the root zone which will hold a reserve
of water for the plant. These can make a world of difference especially under
stressful conditions. Be certain to follow label directions for their use.
Diseases : Verticillium or Fusarium Wilt
Wilts may be contracted through infected seed, plant debris, or soil. This
fungus begins and multiplies during the cool, moist season, becoming obvious
when weather turns warm and dry. Plants wilt because the fungus damages their
water conducting mechanisms. Overfertilization can worsen this problem. Able to overwinter in soil for many years, it is also carried and harbored in
Prevention and Control: If possible, select resistant varieties. Keep nitrogen-heavy fertilizers to a minimum as well as
over-irrigating as they encourage lush growth. Practice crop rotation and prune out or better yet remove infected plants.
Pest : Tomato Hornworm
These large green caterpillars have diagonal white stripes along their body
with a prominent horn on their tail end. They are the larvae of the brown sphinx
moth. Look for these caterpillars clinging to the undersides of leaves and
stems. Even if you don't see them, you may know they were there because of
the black excrement they left behind as well as the leaves they have chewed
through. They are also fond of fruit.
Prevention and Control: Rotate tomato location each year and deeply till soil to expose pupae. Floating row covers in June or July help to prevent active moths from laying eggs. Handpick and destroy caterpillars when found. Consult your local garden center professional or county Cooperative Extension office for legal pesticide/chemical recommendations.
Diseases : Blossom End Rot
Blossom-end Rot is caused by several factors, all relating back to the plant's
ability to utilize calcium in the soil. Calcium is only available to the plant
when the soil is evenly moist. Another reason could be that there simply is
not enough calcium in the soil. Other reasons are root damage, temperature
swings or even a high salt content.
The problem usually appears as a soggy, sunken area on the end of the fruit early on. The area will darken over time and become more concave.
Prevention and Control: Plant resistant
varieties and keep soil evenly moist, watering deeply, less frequently. Mulch will help to maintain the moisture level in the soil. Do not be tempted to over-fertilize or use uncomposted manure as both are high in salts. If all else fails, have your soil tested for a mineral imbalance.
Pest : Spider Mites
Spider mites are small, 8 legged, spider-like creatures which thrive in
hot, dry conditions (like heated houses). Spider mites feed with piercing
mouth parts, which cause plants to appear yellow and stippled. Leaf drop and plant death can occur with heavy infestations. Spider mites can multiply
quickly, as a female can lay up to 200 eggs in a life span of 30 days. They
also produce a web which can cover infested leaves and flowers.
Prevention and Control: Keep weeds down and remove infested plants. Dry
air seems to worsen the problem, so make sure plants are regularly watered,
especially those preferring high humidity such as tropicals, citrus, or tomatoes. Always check new plants prior to bringing them home from the garden center or nursery. Take advantage of natural enemies such as ladybug larvae. If a miticide is recommended by your local garden center professional or county Cooperative Extension office, read and follow all label directions. Concentrate your efforts on the undersides of the leaves as that is where spider mites generally live.
Pest : Whiteflies
Whiteflies are small, winged insects that look like tiny moths, which attack many types of plants. The flying adult stage prefers the underside of leaves to feed and breed. Whiteflies can multiply quickly as a female can lay up to 500 eggs in a life span of 2 months. If a plant is infested with whiteflies, you will see a cloud of fleeing insects when the plant is disturbed. Whiteflies can weaken a plant, eventually leading to plant death if they are not checked. They can transmit many harmful plant viruses. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.
Possible controls: keep weeds down; use screening in windows to keep them out; remove infested plants away from non-infested plants; use a reflective mulch (aluminum foil) under plants (this repels whiteflies); trap with yellow sticky cards, apply labeled pesticides; encourage natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden; and sometimes a good steady shower of water will wash them off the plant.
Pest : Aphids
Aphids are small, soft-bodied, slow-moving insects that suck fluids from plants. Aphids come in many colors, ranging from green to brown to black, and they may have wings. They attack a wide range of plant species causing stunting, deformed leaves and buds. They can transmit harmful plant viruses with their piercing/sucking mouthparts. Aphids, generally, are merely a nuisance, since it takes many of them to cause serious plant damage. However aphids do produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface growth called sooty mold.
Aphids can increase quickly in numbers and each female can produce up to 250 live nymphs in the course of a month without mating. Aphids often appear when the environment changes - spring & fall. They're often massed at the tips of branches feeding on succulent tissue. Aphids are attracted to the color yellow and will often hitchhike on yellow clothing.
Prevention and Control: Keep weeds to an absolute minimum, especially around desirable plants. On edibles, wash off infected area of plant. Lady bugs and lacewings will feed on aphids in the garden. There are various products - organic and inorganic - that can be used to control aphids. Seek the recommendation of a professional and follow all label procedures to a tee.
Pest : Caterpillars
Caterpillars are the immature form of moths and butterflies. They are voracious feeders attacking a wide variety of plants. They can be highly destructive and are characterized as leaf feeders, stem borers, leaf rollers, cutworms and tent-formers.
Prevention and Control: keep weeds down, scout individual plants and remove caterpillars, apply labeled insecticides such as soaps and oils, take advantage of natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden and use Bacillus thuringiensis (biological warfare) for some caterpillar species.
Pest : Flea Beetles
Flea Beetles are about the size of a flea and are black, bronze, or blue-black in color. They get their name from the way they jump when disturbed. Flea beetle populations are usually more severe when conditions are hot and dry. They can pose problems in the garden; they leave small holes in chewed foliage.
Prevention and control: You've heard it a thousand times, but here it is again - clean up the garden to remove places where these insects over winter. A well-watered, moist garden will not be as attractive to an egg laying mother either. Aside from handpicking, spray with a recommended insecticide. Cultivation between rows will help to destroy eggs, too.
Fungi : Leaf Spots
Leaf spots are caused by fungi or bacteria. Brown or black spots and patches may be either ragged or circular, with a water soaked or yellow-edged appearance. Insects, rain, dirty garden tools, or even people can help its spread.
Prevention and Control: Remove infected leaves when the plant is dry. Leaves that collect around the base of the plant should be raked up and disposed of. Avoid overhead irrigation if possible; water should be directed at soil level. For fungal leaf spots, use a recommended fungicide according to label directions.
Fungi : Black Spot
A known rose disease, Black Spot appears on young leaves as irregular
black circles, often having a yellow halo. Circles or spore colonies may grow
to 1/2 inch in diameter. Leaves will turn yellow and drop off, only to produce
more leaves that will follow the same pattern. Roses may not make it through
the winter if black spot is severe. The fungus will also affect the size and
quality of flowers.
Prevention and Control:Plant resistant varieties for your area. Always water from the ground, never overhead. Practice good sanitation - clean up and destroy debris, especially around plants that have had a problem. When pruning roses, even deadheading, dip pruners in a bleach / water solution after each cut. If a plant seems to have chronic black spot, remove it. A 2-3 inch thick layer of mulch at the base of plant reduces splashing. Do not wait until black spot is a huge problem to control! Start early. Spray with a fungicide labeled for black spot on roses.
Pest : Leaf Miners
Leaf Miner is actually a term that applies to various larvae (of moths, beetles, and flies) that tunnel between upper and lower leaf surfaces, leaving a distinctive, squiggly pattern. A female adult can lay several hundred eggs inside the leaf which hatch and give rise to miners. Leaf miners attack ornamentals and vegetables.
Prevention and Control: Keep weeds down and scout individual plants for tell-tale squiggles. Pick and destroy these leaves and take advantage of natural enemies such as parasitic wasps. Know the Growing Degree Days (GDD)* for your area to target insecticide sprays when most beneficial for controlling the specific leaf miner. Seek a professional recommendation and follow all label procedures to a tee. *GDD numbers should be available from your local Cooperative Extension office.
Diseases : Blight
Blights are cause by fungi or bacteria that kill plant tissue. Symptoms often show up as the
rapid spotting or wilting of foliage. There are many different blights, specific
to various plants, each requiring a varied method of control.
Glossary : Annual
An annual is any plant that completes its life cycle in one growing season.
Glossary : Biennial
Biennial is a plant that takes two growing seasons to produce flowers and fruit. The first growing season, the plant stays in a rosette form, producing mainly foliage and roots. The second growing season the plant bolts, producing flowers and fruits or seeds.
Glossary : Tolerant
Tolerant refers to a plant's ability to tolerate exposure to an external condition(s). It does not mean that the plant thrives or prefers this situation, but is able to adapt and continue its life cycle.
Glossary : Viruses
Viruses, which are smaller than bacteria, are not living and do not replicate on their own. They must rely on the cellular mechanisms of their hosts to replicate. Because this greatly disrupts the cell's functionality, outward signs of a viral infection result in a plant disease with symptoms such as abnormal or stunted growth, damaged fruit, discolorations or spots.
Prevention and Control: Keep virus carriers such as aphids, leafhoppers, and thrips under control. These plant feeding insects spread viruses. Viruses can also be introduced by infected pollen or through plant openings (as when pruning). Begin by keeping the pathogen out of your garden. New plants should be checked, as well as tools and existing plants. Use only certified seed that is deemed disease-free. Plant only resistant varieties and create a discouraging environment by rotating crops, not planting closely related plants in the same area every year.