More reasons why your plants may be sick

Jerry Vitalis
Jerry Vitalis

Some time ago, Katharine D. Widin, a plant pathologist, wrote an article called, “Reasons Why Your Plants Are Sick.” Earlier, I wrote on the first part of her article where I covered site selection, planting and transplanting. This article covers why good maintenance practices should keep them healthy.
Most established plants require 1 inch of water per week to grow well, and you need to find out watering needs and soil conditions of the plants you are caring for. It is usually better to water deeply once a week than a little everyday. Avoid overhead watering or do early in the morning, so foliage has a chance to dry to discourage fungal diseases.
Avoid injury from lawn mowers, weed-whips, and weed killers. Mulch around trees several feet from the trunk with 3 to 4 inches of wood chips mulch and define perennial and shrub beds with edging. Follow label directions when applying weed killers, and remember that herbicides can’t tell the difference between weed and desirable plants.
Some plant species and varieties are highly susceptible to insect or disease problems. When plants are bred for super qualities it can weaken them for insect and disease problems. Find out which plant problems are common in your area and choose plants accordingly.
Vehicle and foot traffic leads to hardened, compacted soils with few air spaces for oxygen and water penetration.
Deer, rabbits, voles, horses, dogs, and woodpeckers top the four-footed and feathered causes of plant injury and death. Enclosures to keep animals from wounding or feasting on plants are the most effective measures. Repellents may work, but some are easily washed off by rain. Planting species which are not attractive to rabbits and deer may limit animal damage.
Many of our plants are “killed by kindness.” We amend soils, warp, prune, wire, fertilize, spray, and paint, thinking that we are caring properly for our plants. Katharine Widin suggested that you find out more about your plants by reading up or taking classes, attending lectures, and workshops. The Chisago County Master Garden Program had a record number of gardeners who did just that this past year. If you are not on our mailing list, call the Extension Office at 651-277-0151 and prepare with us for next year.

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