Managing Pests, Fungus & Weeds

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It’s important to stay on top of pests, fungus, and weeds before they become unmanageable and threaten the health of your plants.
First, do a little research or consult with a nursery or garden center professional to identify exactly what type of pest, fungus and/or weeds you are dealing with and how best to treat it.

Identifying the Root Cause

Not every plant problem is a sign of a pest problem. Sometimes it’s the result of incorrect or poor irrigation or drainage; nutrient deficiency or disease; herbicide toxicity; or physical damage. But a compromised plant is even more susceptible to serious pest damage. The best way to manage a pest problem is prevention. Are there garden conditions you can adjust to minimize the problem? Will the changing seasons eliminate the problem? This might be a good time to consult with a nursery or garden professional that will consider your specific garden and the associated factors, and advise you to the best course of action.

Attract Beneficial Insects

Rather than try to simply kill pests, another approach is to try and attract beneficial insects, “good guys” that prey on pest insects. By integrating plants that attract beneficial insects you can control pests without using pesticides. Some plants that attract beneficial insects include sweet alyssum, yarrow, ceanothus, coreopsis, and cosmos.

When You Need Pesticides

In many situations, you will still need to use a pesticide of some kind to address the problem. Technically speaking, a pesticide is any organic or synthetic substance used to control, prevent, suppress, repel, or kill pests. It is a broad term that encompasses more specific options such as insecticides (insect killers), herbicides (weed & plant killers), fungicides (fungus killers), rodenticides (rodent killers), and molluscicides (snail killers).

Pesticides: Choose Wisely

If you decide that using a pesticide is the best course of action, you will want to be sure to read the label and make sure it works on or around the type of plants you are treating and that it won’t injure or damage ornamental plants or plants currently unaffected.
Always look for the least-toxic pesticide possible, as most pesticides do have some negative impact on the environment. For instance, while herbicides kill weeds, if used improperly they can also kill desirable garden plants. Pesticides that break down immediately without leaving toxic residues behind to kill lingering pests have less environmental impact, but they must be applied precisely when the pests are active or they won’t work.

Apply With Caution – Read the instructions on any pesticide completely before using. Wear gloves and long-sleeves and closed-toe shoes. Make sure that you use the recommended amount and apply as directed.

Pesticide Removal

The only legal way to dispose of leftover pesticides is to take them to a local hazardous waste disposal facility. In California, you can call the California Environmental Hotline (1.800.253.2687) to find the closest disposal site. You could also consult a nursery or garden center professional, who could help direct you to proper disposal centers in your area.

The More You Know

The more information you have about your soil, your area, your plants, and your pests – the more efficient you will be in managing and eliminating problems in your garden. Pesticides are a great (and effective!) option if you use them properly.
If you don’t have the time or interest to properly research your pest problem, consider hiring a pest control service that is trained and licensed to eliminate pests/ fungus/weeds, etc. This is certainly a more expensive option, but the peace of mind and guaranteed results may be well worth it!