Pest problems

This snippet has been taken from “Annuals for Northern California” by “Bob Tanem Don Williamson”. Pest problems are the rodents, birds, insects and other organisms that share the habitat with humans, and that feed on and spoil possessions. “Tree Removal in Hayward CA” provides the relevant info & measures on such problems.

New annuals are planted each year, and many gardeners grow different species every year.  These factors make it difficult for pests and diseases to find their preferred host plants and establish a population.  It is a good idea to confuse insects and prevent diseases by planting different varieties of annuals each year instead of using the same varieties in the same beds year after year.  However, because annual species are often grown together in masses, any problems that set in are likely to attack many of the plants.

Pest Problems
Pest Problems

For many years pest control meant spraying or dusting, with the goal of eliminating every pest in the landscape.  A more moderate approach advocated today is known as IPM (integrated Pest Management or Integrated Plant Management).  The goal of IPM is to reduce pest problems to levels at which only negligible damage is done.  Of course, you, the gardener, must determine what degree of damage is acceptable to you.  Consider whether a pet’s damage is localized or covers the entire plant.  Will the or covers the entire plant.  Will the damage being done kill the plant or is it only affecting the outward appearance? Are there methods of controlling the pest without chemicals?

Chemicals are the last resort, because they may do more harm than good.  They can endanger the gardener and his or her family and pets and they kill as many good as bed organisms, leaving the whole garden vulnerable to even worse attacks.  A good IPM program includes learning about your plants and the conditions they need for healthy growth, what pests might affect your plants, when and when to look for these pests and how to control them.   Keep records of pest damage because your observations can reveal patterns useful in spotting recurring problems and in planning your maintenance regime.

There are four steps in effective and responsible pest management.  Cultural controls are the most important.  Physical controls should be attempted next, followed by biological controls.  Resort to chemical controls only when the first three possibilities have been exhausted.

Cultural controls are the gardening techniques you use in the day-to-day care of your garden.  Keeping your plants as healthy as possible is the best defines against pests.  Growing annuals in the conditions they prefer and keeping your soil healthy, with plenty of organic matter, are just two of the cultural controls you can use to keep pests manageable.  Choose resistant varieties of annuals that are not prone to problems.  Space the plants so that they have good air circulation around them and are not stressed from competing for light, nutrients and space.  Remove plants from the landscape if the same pests decimate them every year.  A good example of this is the bud-worm, which attacks petunias, snapdragons and geranium (Pelargonium) plants.  If you have had problems with bud-worms, plant Zinnias or other annuals that are not attacked.  Remove and either burn or take to a permitted dump site diseased foliage and branches, and prevent the spread of disease by keeping your gardening tools clean and by tidying up fallen leaves and dead plant matter at the end of every growing season.

Pest problems - Insecticides
Pest problems – Insecticides

My favorite method of treating infected material is to place it into a black plastic bag and leave it in the hot sun for a week.  The high heat kills micro-organism that would be dangerous. I then put it into the garbage that will be picked up and hauled away.

Physical controls are generally used to combat insect problems.  An example of such a controls is picking insects off plants by hand, which is not as daunting as it may seem if you catch the problem when it is just beginning.  Large, slow insects are particularly easy to pick off.  A small, hand-held vacuum cleaner can be used for smaller pests such as white flies.  Other physical controls include barriers that stop insects from getting to the plant and traps that catch or confuse insects. Physical control of diseases often necessitates removing the infected plant part or parts to prevent the spread of the problem.

Biological controls make use of populations of predators that prey on pest.  Animals such as birds, snakes, frogs, spiders, lady beetles and certain bacteria can play an important role in keeping pest populations at a manageable level.  Encourage these creatures to take up permanent residence in your garden.  A birdbath and bird feeder will encourage birds to enjoy your yard and feed on a wide variety of insect pests.  Many beneficial insects are probably already living in your landscape, and you can encourage them to stay by planting appropriate food sources.  Many beneficial insects eat nectar from flowers such as the perennial yarrow.

Chemical controls should rarely be necessary, but if you must use them there are some ‘organic’ options available. Organic sprays are no less dangerous than chemical ones, but they will break down into harmless compounds.  The main drawback to using any chemicals is that they may also kill the beneficial insects you have been trying to attract to your garden.  Organic chemicals are available at most garden centers.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.  A large amount of insecticide is not going to be any more effective in controlling pests than the recommended amount.  Note that if a particular pest is not listed on the package, that product will not controls it.  Proper and early identification of pests is vital to finding a quick solution.

Whereas cultural, physical, biological and chemical controls are all possible de-fences against insects, diseases can only be controlled culturally.  It is most often weakened plants that Succumb to diseases.  Healthy plants can often fight off illness, although some diseases can infect plants regardless of their level of health.  Prevention is often the only hope:  Once a plant has been infected, it should probably be destroyed to prevent the disease from spreading.

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