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Lawn and Garden

Preventive Maintenance for your Plants

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06/01/2008 - Wow, this spring was a wet one. I have lived in Casper all my life, and I cant remember ever having a late spring that provided us with so much water, over such a long period of time. Many people with whom I have talked are just now firing up their sprinkler systems. All that moisture is very good for our gardens and landscape. For most of you it has probably meant having to spend a lot less time giving your plants a drink, and a lot more time enjoying them. (When its not raining that is.)

If you are like me, by the first of this month you were probably ready for a little more sun, and some warmer temperatures. Even though the cool, wet weather pushed back planting dates for many of us, it also has given them a good start for the season. If it seems like everything in your yard is growing a lot more than it usually does, that's because it is. Wet springs give plants a great start and will lead to a lot more growth over the course of the summer. Although a wet spring is overall a good thing for the garden, there are some drawbacks that come along with it. For instance many plants will likely bloom a little later than they normally would, but when they do the display will likely be bigger and better than ever.

Unfortunately, the wet spring wasn't only good for the plants in your yard. Pests such as aphids, and pathogens such as powdery mildew thrive on the extra moisture as well. So although your plants are probably doing better than ever, so are the things that attack them. Keep a sharp eye to make sure that an infestation doesn't set back all the progress your plants have made. Some things to look for that signal a pest problem are gnarled or discolored leaves, shiny sticky residues on or dripping from the plants, and webbing or powder on the plant's surfaces. Anyone who lives in the big tree area of town, and has parked their car under an aphid infested white poplar or other tree, knows about the sticky residue I mentioned earlier.

Luckily for us most insect infestations will clear up on their own with the advent of warmer weather, or can be controlled by a couple of well timed insecticide applications. However, pathogens such as powdery mildew, or botrytis blight are more difficult to deal with and prevention is the key to keeping them in check.

To prevent mildews and other fungi from attacking your plants there are few things you can do. The first is to change your watering practices to make it harder for the fungus get a foothold. That means watering deeper, but less frequently, and watering in the early morning whenever possible rather than in the evening. This will allow the sun to evaporate most of the water before the fungi have a chance to proliferate.

If you are growing a susceptible variety of plant such as roses, preventative applications of systemic fungicide will likely save a lot of heartache, and are easily applied. But be sure to never apply any type of systemic control on or around food crops; systemics travel throughout the plant, and can get into the edible parts. The most important thing you can do to help battle any infestation, is to know what you're fighting, and what its weaknesses are. If you need help identifying something just give me a call or the people at the Agricultural Extension office, I would be glad to help, and I am sure they would, too. Well, I hope you enjoy the summer, and have your best gardening season ever!

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Rita Walsh

Casper Cigar Company

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