Troubleshooting Pest and Fungal Damage

Your garden is your sanctuary, but that doesn't mean it's a sanctuary for everyone! Garden pests and fungal infections have a way of sneaking in and doing some serious damage to your plants. Get ahead of these uninvited guests with this troubleshooting guide.

Garden Pests

When you spend a lot of time nurturing your garden plants, it's tough not to take a pest infestation personally! Here are some common signs of infestation in North Dakota gardens, the culprits, and how to control them.
Symptom: Discolored, wilting leaves and smelly, shiny, sticky spots on foliage.
It Might Be: Aphids. These soft-bodied insects can come in green, brown, or black and may or may not have wings. You can find them huddling in clusters on the underside of plant leaves or on plant stalks.
How to Control: Mild infections can often be controlled with a solution of water and dish soap combined in a spray bottle. More advanced infestations should be controlled with neem oil solutions.
Symptom: Disfigured flower buds and blossoms, especially roses, or pitted fruit. Disfigured spots have a silvery cast.
It Might Be: Thrips. These tiny, cigar-shaped insects gather in clusters and feast on flower petals. Juveniles are wingless and straw-colored, adults have wings and range from brown to black.
How to Control: Prune off damaged or heavily infested material and isolate from the garden area, including compost bins. Use neem oil solution to treat infested plants.
Symptom: Holes in foliage leaving a Swiss-cheese or lacy appearance.
It Might Be: Leaf Beetles. Leaf-eating beetles can be larger (June bugs) or small (flea beetles), the larger the holes the larger the culprit. They tend to prefer the tender plant tissues between plant veins, which is why the leaves develop these patterns.
How to Control: Get rid of as many as possible by drowning them in soapy water, either by shaking plants over a bucket or picking the beetles off by hand. Treat the plant with a gentle insecticide approved for leaf beetle control.

Symptom: Leaves with chewed off edges, often with plant veins left behind.
It Might Be: Blister Beetles. These long-bodied black or striped insects have abdomens that appear neck-like. Their name refers to a substance on their bodies which can cause your skin to blister if you touch them.
How to Control: Use the same technique for blister beetles as for leaf beetles, but don't forget to wear gloves!
Symptom: Plant stems severed at soil-level or stalk-level.
It Might Be: Cutworms. These plump, dingy-looking caterpillars are a total nuisance, damaging and slicing up your plants like a guillotine.
How to Control: Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the base of your plants. This product is safe for plants but quickly kills a variety of unwelcome pests as they walk through it.
Symptom: Tiny discolored spots, dying leaves and flowers, and a mysterious fine webbing on foliage.
It Might Be: Spider mites. These tiny, hard-to-see mites feed on foliage and flowers. Their webbing is surprisingly strong for their size.
How to Control: Use a solution of insecticidal soap and water to spray-treat affected plants to kill adults, and a neem oil solution every few days to kill eggs.
Symptom: Perforated rose petals and buds.
It Might Be: Rose Curculio. These weevils prey on rose plants and use their long snout-like mouth to drill their signature circular holes. The curculio is a reddish color with a scarab-like body shape.
How to Control: The bucket of soapy water treatment is effective for smaller populations of rose curculio, but major infestations will require intervention with one or more pesticides.
Symptom: Large, patchy holes in foliage and trails of slime.
It Might Be: Slugs. Definitely not the most subtle garden pest, these moisture-lovers are both messy and damaging. They have soft, saddle-shaped bodies with projectile tentacles that serve as their "eyes."
How to Control: Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the site of infestation. Re-apply after rainfall once the ground is dry. You can also use a commercial slug killer product.

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections are caused by fungus spores that, in the right conditions, can rapidly grow and take over a plant. While the below list can help you identify the fungus in your garden, prevention and treatment are virtually the same for each of them.
Prevent fungal infection by keeping the soil area neat and trimming plants back regularly to keep them from encroaching on each other. This promotes airflow between plants and prevents decomposing material to combine with moisture, an ideal environment for fungus.
Treat fungal infections by cutting off any area of the plant that is affected, and immediately isolate the discarded material in the trash. Do not compost it! Once the affected material is removed, follow the prevention tips to prevent it from forming again. Fungicides can also be helpful for treating areas that are prone to fungus.
Here are some common fungal infections found in North Dakota gardens:

Symptom: Grey and white patches that affect the stalks, stems, foliage, and fruit of the plant. Plant tissue looks visibly dead.
It Might Be: Late blight. Common on vegetables and nightshades, this killer mold's pathogens survive on living plant tissue, decimate the host plants, and then survive in the plant's seeds to return the next year.
Symptom: Yellow, circular "bullseye" patches on foliage.
It Might Be: Early blight. Not as devastating as late blight, but the control procedures are the same.
Symptom: White, dusty mold on foliage, a little bit like the plant has been dipped in powdered sugar.
It Might Be: Powdery mildew. Warm, damp conditions and poor airflow can promote the growth of this common fungus.
Symptom: Reddish patches and pustules on foliage.
It Might Be: Rust. The fungus creates a rust-like effect on plant tissue and is spread from plant to plant.
Symptom: Grey or white fuzzy growth on any part of the plant.
It Might Be: Grey or white mold. Many types exist, but they are instantly recognizable, and often caused by poor aeration, damp conditions, and infected plant material in the environment.
While these intruders are nothing short of nasty, there's plenty you can do to help your garden beat them. If you still can't seem to get in front of pests or fungus, call for backup! Visit our garden center to speak to a knowledgeable garden specialist today.

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