All gardens, no matter how well maintained are subject to troubles from insects and diseases that can, and will attack your plants as soon as your back is turned!
The best way to handle plant troubles is PREVENTION.
- Choose your plants carefully!
- Bulbs: You want bulbs that are solid & firm at the base with no growth. Ensure they are are mold free. Stay away from bulbs that are covered if they are covered in withered scales. Most are planted in Autumn but there are a few exceptions so check the packaging. Buy them when you’re ready to plant them, most bulbs don’t like being out of the soil for long periods of time. The presence of air pockets are a common reason for failure. To avoid this dig the hole a little deeper and place a layer of sand at the bottom before placing the bulb.
- Container Plants: These often come in plastic trays but of course are also available as a single plant in a plastic pot. Stay away from plants that have wilted leaves, dry soil, long thick roots growing through drainage holes, plants in full flower, lanky stems, blemished yellow or diseased leaves & obvious pest infestation. Instead look for plants that are compact, have sturdy stems & even plant growth.
- Prepare the ground properly
The better the soil the better your plants will grow! Water-logging due to insufficient soil preparation is one of the biggest problems, especially in gardens with a lot of clay. Soil can also be acidic or sandy, neither of which is ideal for growing plants. Fortunately these problems are relatively easy to fix. The first step is too dig up the area you wish to plant. Dig deep to loosen up the soil. I usually dig a foot down, if the ground is really hard use a rototiller. Next is the most important step, add LOTS of organic matter! Leaves, compost & manure are all excellent choices. This will help no matter what your soil type is. If your soil is really bad and the above steps didn’t help you can build raised beds and fill the frame with fresh, quality soil from your local garden center.
- Plant correctly
Please do follow the planting directions that came with your plant. Each plant requires a little tlc that is specific to that plant. Plant full sun plants in full sun, shade plants in the shade, etc. I like to add a granular fertilizer to the soil before planting. Do add a little sand at the bottom of each hole, this will avoid air pockets and allow the roots to spread out quicker.
- Feed your plants
Shortage of nutrients can lead to many problems such as poor growth, smaller blooms, dis-coloured leaves and lowered disease resistance. Over feeding can scorch the plant or give you lots of leaves and few flowers. Each individual plant has it’s own food needs for example a small alpine flower doesn’t need as much food as a large chrysanthemum. Check how often you should feed and what to feed with your local grower when you purchase a new plant.
- Inspect your plants often
The more you check you plants the quicker you can spot when something is wrong, from aphids and other pests to diseases. Once you do see a problem, act quickly! It’s a good idea to have a book with pictures to help you identify problems. Sometimes it’s something simple and you can simply pick off affected leaves or blooms, other times you need to treat an entire plant before the problem spreads to neighbouring plants. Whatever the problem is, quick detection is the key!
For lots more great info on preventing problems and gardening in general visit Gardening with Grower Direct.