Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Preventive Treatments Disrupt Nature’s Balance


In addition to requiring time, energy and, for that matter money, preventive pesticide treatments disrupt the balance of nature in the garden. With few exceptions, preventive treatments are not specific, but rather generalized: most insecticides indiscriminately kill all insects and most fungicides destroy all fungi. And that’s bad news, since most insects and fungi are either harmless or beneficial. With both bad and good players being removed from the local environment, a vacuum is created… and it is usually quickly filled by something undesirable. That’s because most plant pests spread faster than beneficial fungi and insects. So by trying to prevent one problem, and a hypothetical one at that, then you often create another, usually more severe.

The laidback gardener’s solution? Don’t try to prevent with sprays and powders. Instead, prevent by growing plants known to be resistant to predators and planting them under appropriate conditions  (plants under stress from inappropriate conditions are more prone to disease and insect problems). If a problem does occur, step back 15 paces. If you can’t see the problem, it is probably not serious enough to warrant any action on your part. If it really does appear serious, this is the time to bring out the big guns: go ahead and try an appropriate treatment, but apply it only to those plants that are affected. Finally, if the problem returns the following year, seriously consider planting something else: life is too short to spend applying pesticides!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

1 comment on “Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

  1. Step back 15. I like that. See the big picture. No OCD. Thanks.

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