“You will have the same problem, in the same place, in your yard next year unless you change your cultural practices.” A garden center manager said this to a listener on a “call in” garden program about a disease problem in her bluegrass lawn. This admonition really stuck with me!!! This warning also applies to black spot in a rose garden, powdery mildew on a lilac bush, blight on your tomatoes, and other diseases in your vegetable and flower garden. If you are having problems, make sure you are not making the problem worse because of poor cultural practices.

          Too often when we have a problem we reach for the sprayer and some kind of a chemical, or a bag of fungus control or insecticide. Usually this only masks the problem and is not a cure. Or we even think maybe we need to fertilize to eliminate the problem. Before you do anything to correct the problem, make sure you have an accurate diagnosis so you know what you are dealing with, and learn about your plant so you know what the plant likes and doesn’t like. And then think about your “cultural practices” and see if you need to change any of them.

Most of us probably are not sure what that includes. Good cultural practices include:

·        Correct soil problems and avoid soil compaction

·        Water only as needed

·        Timely and correct application of mulch

·        Fertilize only as needed

·        Prune trees and shrubs correctly

·        Mow correctly

·        Correct application of pesticides. Right pesticide, on the right plant, at the right time.

·        Rotate plants where needed

  • Practice good sanitation


For new plantings:

·        Soil preparation

·        Select a favorable planting site

·        Plant and cultivar selection (Right plant in the right  place)

·        Plant correct time of year and at correct depth

·        Plant spacing


Last week in part 1 I wrote about “Correcting Soil Problems and Avoiding Soil Compaction. Today I am covering “Watering Practices.”

2.  Watering practices: One of the first things you need to know to have good watering practices is “How much water does this plant need and how often?” Over watering or under watering causes stress. Stress causes disease problems and makes the plant a favorite target of insects. Don’t just turn the water on and water everything the same, but learn about your plants and their watering requirements. Then plan so that plants that need lots of water are not next to plants that like it somewhat dry.

Most disease pathogens need a drop of water on the leaf in the evening in order to inoculate the plant. Therefore, do not water so the blade of grass or the leaf of the plant, tree, shrub, or flower is wet going into the evening hours. A good rule of thumb is not to overhead water after 2:00 pm. This gives the leaf or blade time to dry before evening. Better yet, use a soaker hose in your vegetable and flower garden so the leaf does not get wet. My vegetable garden has 30 foot rows and each one has a soaker hose including the Red Heritage Raspberries, the Fall Gold Raspberries, the large Gigantuem Allium, the tomatoes, the cucumbers, the Rhubarb, and the Asparagus. My wife has a number of flower beds and wherever possible I have put soaker hoses so water is not wasted but put right on the ground.  

I see many people out in the evening with a hose, sprinkling the lawn and their flower bed. First this will promote disease and second does not provide enough water. When you water you need to provide enough water that it soaks into the soil. Then wait for the soil to dry some before adding more water. If the water only goes into the soil about 1 inch or 2 inches, that is all the deeper the roots of your plant will go. If you miss a day or two or we have a real hot dry spell, you lawn and plants will dry up. Also if you water your plants too often they will drown. The usual symptom is yellow leaves.

Trees do not like to have a sprinkler hitting the trunk every time you water. Try to adjust your sprinkling system so it does not hit the trees. Remember that just under the bark is the cambium layer where the nutrients go up and down the tree. An impulse sprinkler over time can damage this important layer. Also remember that your trees do not need as much water as your lawn.

Copyright 2013