Notes Phil Dudman
When you grow food plants, you are bound to run into one or two difficulties at some stage. Perhaps the weather turns against you, a pest or disease affects your crop or your plants just show a lack of vigour for whatever reason. Don’t worry, this happens to experienced gardeners just as much as it does to novices. The difference is, experienced gardeners have learned tricks on how to deal with problems.
We all learn these the more we garden. Prevention is always better than cure, so in this weeks notes, I’m going to share a few of these tricks with you so that you can enjoy the maximum return from your garden right from the start.
The best troubleshooting advice I can give anyone is to go out and have a good look at your plants as often as you can. I’m not suggesting a casual glance as you pass by; I mean get right down there and have a really close look. If they look unhappy, ask yourself why, and start with the basics. Are they getting enough sunlight? Is there enough moisture in the soil? Is it too wet? What about feeding? Are your plants getting enough?
When a plant is not looking so good, it often comes down to that fact that one or two of their basic needs are not being met. When you get it right, your plants are more likely to be robust and resistant to other problems such as pest and disease attack. Regular checking allows you to monitor change and respond to your plants needs quickly. Garden tragics like me check their plants every day, but for most people, a couple of times a week should suffice.
Pest and disease
Many of the crops we like to grow can be susceptible to attack from pests and diseases. The trick to managing potential problems is to get in and control small outbreaks, before they become major ones. If you notice an unwanted insect or a blemished leaf, pick it off before it spreads, multiplies and creates more damage. You don’t have to have a lot of experience or knowledge to start doing that, but it does pay in the long term to identify what the particular problem is so that you can understand it better and be ready to manage it in future. In some cases, there are simple preventative measures you can put in place that will make management even easier.
We will be looking at common pest and diseases and how to deal with them in week 8. If you ever are unsure about identifying a particular problem, you can always search the Internet for a positive ID, take a sample to your local nursery, or phone a bloke like me when I solve local gardeners questions every Saturday morning on ABC North Coast 8.30-9.30.
What makes weeds a problem? Well, they compete with our plants for water and nutrients (and sometimes light – when they get too big). When you manage your weeds well, your plants will grow better. Again, regular checking and action is the key. There’s an old saying ‘One year’s seeding make’s 7 years weeding’. Don’t let weeds get out of hand. Whenever you are watering, fertilising, harvesting or just pottering about, pull a few weeds, chip them with a hoe, scuff them up with a trowel, cover them with mulch to deny them of light, pour boiling water over them – whatever method suits you – just don’t ignore them, for too long anyway.
Ask any farmer, no matter how good a grower you are, one extremely bad weather event can destroy a beautiful crop in a moments. The beauty of small scale backyard growing is, with the right knowledge and skills, you can put safeguards in place that allow you to control the growing environment, so that your crops survive extremes and continue to prosper. It’s easy to do once you know how. Click here to download our fact sheet on how to prepare for extremes of heat, cold and wet as well as protect crops from hail and animals such as wallabies and brush turkeys.
Phil’s Top Tips
1. Check your plants regularly for changes and respond quickly – when you give plants what they need, they are more likely to be healthy, robust and resistant to problems.
2. Search and destroy – pests, diseases and weeds weaken and compete with plants. Remove them early and your plants will be much better off.
3. Be prepared – avoid disappointment of crop failures by putting safeguards in place to protect crops from adverse weather conditions such as extremes of heat and cold
Growing under adverse conditions – By Katrina Sheilds (pdf – 395k)