When everything else fails, take the time to read the instructions
Observation is not a natural trait, especially in the garden.
We just take for granted that if the plants are green and growing, then all is fine.
Unfortunately, that is not the case, something we often come to realise only too late – once the pests and diseases have made a statement with curled up or blotchy foliage, heavily chewed foliage and discoloured tip growth covered in a mass of black or green aphids.
Evidence of pest and disease damage shows in many ways but is evident if time is taken to inspect the garden. Very much in the way it happens with Covid-19, the spread can be rapid and shows no preference to species, affecting many areas of the garden and one’s neighbours.
The major pest in Bermuda are aphids (green or black fly), scale insects, mealy bugs, various mites and whitefly – their feeding habits cause damage by sucking juices from foliage. Biting and chewing insects include cutworms, loopers, leaf rollers, snails and slugs, and scraping or rasping feeders including thrips and leaf miners.
Controls are usually by chemical application in the form of spraying and can be either systemic when solution is absorbed into the foliage and translocated through plant, or as a contact when chemical makes a direct hit on pest. Dusts can also be used on occasion and are best applied in the cooler time of the day when foliage is dry.
Spray application for larger areas is usually carried out with a knapsack sprayer which is found in one- to four-gallon sizes. When using knapsack sprayers – or any sprayer – ensure they are thoroughly cleansed after each application; they should only be used for a specific type of application ie pesticides, fungicides or weedkillers. Only herbicides, being well-marked, are solely for the one application type.
Spray when foliage is dry and there is no strong sunlight. Spray also, on a windless day to avoid spray drift which can cause problems, especially in the case of herbicides. Read the label on the bottle to determine any restrictions on sensitive plants to the said chemical
As most applications would be for plants in general, lawn care chemicals should be approached with caution. Pay attention as to not only the correct application for lawn grass type – especially St Augustine – but also in relationship to other plants.
Before carrying out any spray programme, ensure the knapsack sprayer is functioning correctly by doing a test run with water. Ensure the correct nozzle type is used and adjusted accordingly. Know you plants, as this will help in ensuring that those plants which are susceptible to certain spray formulations are treated accordingly.
Always read the label on the bottle or pamphlet which, by law, comes with the package. Instructions will give the rates of concentrate to water eg 1oz of solution in 2 gallons water; stir well before applying. Instructions are given for a reason: they fit the need for the problem to be tackled in a safe manner.
Chemicals by their very nature are hazardous therefore the need for PPEs – personal protective equipment – is essential in avoiding potential accidents. PPEs cover rubber boots, legs and the upper body; gloves, goggles, mouth and head coverage also fall into this category. Wash all equipment after use and before storage.
When using herbicides try and limit the chemical composition to one that has a wide coverage of weed control as this will give a superior overall kill. It is also important to check the type of action the chemical has to disburse, especially its life expectancy in the foliage and, even more important, how long will it remain active in the body of the soil.
Weed control can be an important factor in pest and disease control as it could act as a host for the potential problem. Regular checks of the garden are the best way to combat pest and disease problems; when they are seen act immediately by spraying.
Cut worms are found in the soil area around plants hence the name, so good observation is a great control factor. Plant debris can also be a source of production and development so keep fallen leaves and debris raked up and away from the garden beds. What the eye does not see the heart does not grieve over………. until it is too late in the life of the garden.
Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in the UK. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society
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