By Mary Glazer
Watching gardens and growing older have something in common: Both can provide a lot of wisdom.
Over the decades I’ve learned the importance of regularly inspecting plants while admiring my garden. I don’t mean a casual glance while dragging the garbage can to the curb. I mean serious, ongoing, up-close-and-personal hanging out with my plants.
When I do a tour of my garden I start at one end of the yard and completely circle the area, visually inspecting all my plants. Not only do I derive great satisfaction from noticing the first buds of the season or enjoying the fragrance of scented flowers, but also this process enables me to spot small issues before they become big problems. Problems such as leaf-footed bug nymphs, pictured.
If harmful insects have taken up residence on a beloved plant, now is the time for me to take action. Five innocent-looking problem insects quickly turn into 50 big problems. Hand-collecting a few insect pests now is better than dealing with a thriving colony of errant bad-boys later. The same goes with weeds: Pull them when they’re young, not after they’ve rooted deeply.
I also look for wilted plants. Some wilting is due to pests, but often it’s because a gardener forgot to water newly purchased plants and Mother Nature was miserly on the rainfall that week.
Also you can spot nutritional problems early on. Are leaves turning yellow but their veins remain green? Are new or old leaves affected? Is the problem restricted to one plant, or is the entire row of a hedge affected?
Consider the time of year before taking action. Plants in active spring growth might need a nutritional deficiency corrected, whereas a plant experiencing the typical senescing of the fall likely should be left alone. With the warmer climate in the Gulf states, it’s easy to forget that what appears to be a problem is normal for that plant. One example is a robust crape myrtle undergoing a thinning of leaves and ultimately a change in leaf color.
Among the Master Gardeners at my local extension office, we had a saying: You’re not really a Master Gardener until you kill a thousand plants. I qualify. I have most certainly made all of the mistakes listed above. With mistakes comes experience, and with experience comes wisdom.
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