The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
We share our gardens with a multitude of insects, spiders, mites and other arthropods. Your idyllic Garden of Eden is actually more of a Jurassic Park where multi-legged creatures feed on our plants and each other, or play a part in returning plant materials back to the soil.
Not all insects or mites are plant pests. Most are either of no direct impact on our landscape and gardens or may be beneficial in one way or another. So having six or eight legs doesn’t necessarily warrant a death sentence. Our focus is often on those insects that damage our plants but efforts to control them can have unintended consequences to our plants, beneficial insects are the environment.
To oversimplify the concept of Integrated Pest Management as it relates to our home gardens there are four basic questions to ask before taking action to control insects. Start by asking whether is it a pest or not. Begin with an accurate identification of the “suspect.” Should it provide to be a pest, we can then ask if the damage warrants control efforts. More often than not, we simply tolerate a minor level of damage. If damage is deemed unacceptable, we then ask which products are labeled and effective in controlling the pest. Consider their toxicity, persistence in the environment, and potential for damaging beneficial insects or other secondary undesirable effects. Whenever possible, choose the safest effective product with the least danger of secondary effects. Finally, inquire about the proper timing and application of the product. Misapplication can mean poor results and can waste your time and money.
This section is loaded with helpful resources to guide you in all these factors in order to help you manage pests effectively and safely. It also provides the opportunity to learn about beneficial; insects and how to build a garden that attracts and sustains them.
- Grow Green Insect Pests
- Grow Green Beneficial Insects
- A Field Guide to Common Texas Insects(Texas A&M)
- Insect Image Database(Texas A&M)
- Pest Management and Control (Texas A&M)
- Vegetable IPM(Texas A&M)
- Horticulture IPM(Texas A&M)
- Woody Ornamental Plants & Their Insect Pests(Texas A&M)
- Insects in the City(Texas A&M)
- Search A&M Entomology Publications
- Texas Fire Ant Research & Managment(Texas A&M)
Understanding and Avoiding Plant Diseases
Plant diseases can reduce the productivity and beauty of our gardens and landscapes. Managing plant diseases does not begin with sprays. There is a concept called the disease triangle. This triangle is the connection between the plant, the disease-causing organism, and the environment.
Here’s how it works. You can avoid disease problems by planting a resistant species or variety of plant. Diseases usually do not spread from one species to another unless they are closely related. You can avoid disease problems by avoiding the environmental conditions that promote disease development. Most disease-causing fungi and bacteria flourish when foliage remains wet for extended periods of time and when temperatures are within a certain range. To put it simply, the more often it rains or you turn on the sprinklers, the more the potential for disease development increases. Finally, there is the third part of the triangle, the disease-causing organism itself. Sanitation means not bringing diseased plant material into the garden as well as removing diseased plant to reduce spread of the disease. Sprays to kill or hamper development of a fungus or bacteria are also a part of this third part of the triangle. When the other practices fail to prevent plant disease problems sprays may be necessary.
The resources included in this section will help you identify disease problems for various plants and choose the safest methods to manage them.
- Daylily Rust Info
- Texas Plant Disease Handbook
- Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab Form
- Texas Oak Wilt Information
- How to Identify and Manage Oak Wilt
- Oak Wilt Brochure
- Grow Green Plant Diseases
- Common Rose Diseases (AgriLife Bookstore E-157)
- Fruit & Nut Disease Control Products for Texas (AgriLife Bookstore E-17)
- Entomosporium Leaf Spot of Photinia & Indian Hawthorn (AgriLife Bookstore E-175)
- Hypoxylon Canker of Oaks
- Take-All Root Rot of Turfgrass (AgriLife Bookstore L-5170)
- Vegetable & Herb Disease Control Products for Texas (AgriLife Bookstore E-10)
Just Say No to Weeds
A weed is a plant out of place. Any plant, even a desirable one, if growing where you do not wish it to grow is a weed. But unlike many of our garden plants those pernicious invaders we commonly think of as weeds seem to be more tenacious and resilient than our desirable garden plants. Some one once humorously observed that, “nature does not understand or wish to cooperate with our ideas of what should grow where.” The old adage is likewise true that states, “Wherever there is bare soil, nature plants a weed.”
One key to weed management is to avoid bare soil in the garden and landscape. Mulch is a great first line of defense in preventing weed seeds from getting a start. Dense turf is its own best weed deterrent while thin turf areas are prone to ongoing weed problems.
Limited weed problems may be managed the old fashioned way by hand pulling or hoeing. Often the combination of mulch, dense turf or ground cover and some hand removal is enough to maintain acceptable weed control in the landscape and garden without resorting to sprays.
There are a number of herbicide products on the market for managing weeds. However, depending on herbicides to continually rescue weed problems brought on by bad management is ill advised and can have various negative effects on desirable landscape plants and the environment.
Weed control products may be synthetic or natural. Some known as pre-emergence products work to prevent weed seeds from growing. Others, known as post-emergence products, kill weeds after they are already growing. Certain products control grassy weeds, others control broad leaf weeds and still others control both.
Before purchasing or applying weed control products, contact the Extension Office or a nursery professional to discuss the best approach for your particular weed problem. Factors such as weed species, surrounding plant material, temperature and time of year all should be considered before purchasing and applying any product.
The resources in this section are compiled to help you identify and manage your landscape and garden weeds in the safest, most effective and environmentally responsible way possible.
- Poison Ivy Control in the Landscape
- Easy to Build Weed Wiper (PDF)
- Going Nuts over Nutsedge (PDF)
- Weed ID & Control in Turf
Unwelcomed wildlife section coming soon!