360.KThe first question to ask yourself when you’re faced with a pest or disease problem on a plant is… is this a major problem or minor one? If it’s a major problem, if you risk losing the whole plant, if it might spread to other plants, of course, it’s perfectly acceptable to react, and to do so without delay at that (using the most environmentally-friendly method possible, of course!)

If the problem does not affect the plant’s long-term survival or value, however, there is no need to intervene. For example, when powdery mildew infests leaves late in the season just when the plant is on the verge of going dormant anyway, when there is only one caterpillar on the plant, when there are just a few spots on the lower leaves, etc. Remember the 15 pace rule: if you can’t see the “problem” when you back up 15 paces, it isn’t probably something you need to bother treating.

That is, I admit, a hard pill to swallow for many gardeners, who associate “garden” with “perfection” and instinctively want to grab the most toxic substance that exists to blast that problem to smithereens, but… a few holes in a flower or a leaf that is a little bit chewed on cause no significant harm the plant’s health. It’s important to understand that nature is very complex and when treating one problem, you tend to provoke others.

Quite often the wisest thing to do is to do nothing at all! ‘Nuff said!

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.

2 comments on “Think Before You Spray

  1. Reblogged this on Sustainable Food for the Globe and commented:
    If you saw someone eating rat poison, good chances are that you would stop them. So tell me, What is the difference using poison on the lawn?

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