Before you jump to the conclusion that we might be under the influence of an illicit substance or need medical attention, hear us out. Plants actually can communicate when something is wrong. Looking at your plants, it can be obvious that something is wrong . Our area of Virginia has seen very little rain over the past six weeks and even clients with irrigation are seeing brown grass and wilted plants. When you see leaves drooping and looking pale, it’s past time to give them a drink. Foliage wilts because the plant cannot find enough water in the soil to keep the turgidity of the leaves firm. Turgor pressure, which is moisture pushing against the cell wall, is reduced when the plant roots can’t find enough water. Turgor pressure is also observable in fruits and vegetables. When you hold a fruit or vegetable that does not feel firm and looks shriveled, the turgor pressure is too low. Therefore, when you water your plants, don’t just wave the hose over the plant for a few seconds. Saturate the soil beginning around the base of the plant out to just beyond the drip line. The drip line is where the water falls off of the outermost foliage onto the soil below. Just like humans, plants under water stress are more susceptible to disease and insects. Keeping your plants healthy and happy is the first line of defense against problems.
Other than wilting, you may see spots on the leaves. Spots can be caused by fungus, viruses, insects and also by too much or too little water. This is where things can get a little tricky. Diagnosing the cause of the problem is essential. If we run into a pest that is unfamiliar, the first tool we go to is our online search engine. Type in the name of the plant (e.g. “Rose”) and the symptom (e.g. black spots on leaves). Then click on the images link and locate a picture of the symptom that resembles the symptom that we are looking at. Click on that image and hopefully you will link to a reputable source of information. Generally, any web addresses ending in .edu or .gov are fairly reliable. Once you have identified the pest (insect, fungi, virus…) it is time to ponder a course of action. We recommend beginning with the most environmentally friendly options. For information on treating pests, you could call your local cooperative extension. Find your state’s extension contact info on our resources page.
In some cases, you might see an insect on your plant. Be sure the bug is a pest before you do anything to it. There are many little beings that are helpful to your garden. Did you know that wasps will eat aphids? PLEASE DO NOT run out and buy a broad-spectrum insecticide or any broad-spectrum herbicide. These products will destroy the beneficial insects, fungi, etc…along with your pest. They also could have negative residual effects on your environment. We will be discussing environmentally friendly pest control for specific plants and pests in future postings. In the end, plants can talk. You just have to use your eyes to hear them. If you find a problem, you are welcome to contact us for help. You could also post a thread in our pestforum for help. We wish you all pleasant weather, happy plants and time for gardening and gettin’ grounded. -The HH Team