Members of Wildwood’s new community garden, Wildwood Farms, hosted a second class in a speaker series organized by the associated Tuesday Club. Originally scheduled at the actual garden location, the meeting was held Saturday at the Wildwood parking garage, due to rainy weather.
The guest speaker for the session, Pat Bellrose of Fahr Greenhouse, spoke mainly about garden pests and how to avoid them. Because this is such a complex topic, Bellrose advises gardeners to do their research so they will be successful at gardening.
Many websites are devoted to gardening topics, he noted. “Here in Missouri, a great resource for home gardeners is the Missouri Extension website,” said Bellrose.
The Kemper Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden also maintains a website on garden problems with lots of information.
Bellrose noted that choosing the right plants is the first step in garden success. “Pick plants that are recommended for our area and your garden spot. Make sure the plants are healthy,” he said. A healthy plant is less likely to get a disease, and if they do get diseased, they are easier to save.
“Look on the label when you buy your plants and try to pick ones that are disease resistant. Plant growers and breeders have been very successful at creating better varieties,” he said.
Check the plant over to look for spots or other signs of disease, both on the leaves and stems. Knock the plant out of the pot and look at the root. It should be light colored and shouldn’t have any decay, recommended Bellrose.
Make sure your garden has lots of sunlight and good air circulation. “Planting right next to a building would not be best, since there will be less air flow around the plants,” Bellrose said.
He advised leaving adequate growing space between plants. Weeds contribute to the pest problem, because they serve as hosts for plant diseases that later move on to vegetables and herbs in your garden. Discard old and diseased plant debris from your garden. Diseases can live and spread in compost, so avoid putting them there, said Bellrose.
Many plant diseases remain in the soil from one season to another. “In container gardening, make sure that you use fresh soil when you pot your plants. Clean the pot thoroughly, and use bleach to kill any organisms that may be there from the previous year,” said Bellrose.
A lively discussion followed about the important differences between “dirt” and “soil.” Bellrose stressed the importance of rotating crops in the garden each year to help prevent any carryover of diseases from one year to the next. A four-inch layer of mulch will reduce the direct contact between your plants and the soil, and thereby help to prevent disease. This could be hay, straw, compost, newspaper or wood shavings.
Clean garden tools after use, Bellrose reminded. Plant diseases can be picked up on pruning shears, scissors and other gardening tools, and then get transmitted by using the infected tool again on a healthy plant.
Organic and biological fungicides are available to organic gardeners. Organic growers should check the Organic Materials Review Institute list before applying any new chemical. Check it out at this website.
Missouri Extension website
Missouri Botanical Garden website