Originally created 07/31/98

Air vital to plants' survival



Here are some landscape and garden tips:

•  Plants more often wilt from lack of oxygen than a lack of water. When the soil is compacted, the plant's tender feeder roots and root hairs suffocate. The problem is compounded when the gardener assumes this is a sign of water stress and immediately irrigates.

Well-aerated soil, enriched with organic matter, allows air and water to circulate freely about the root system.

•  Water your plants several hours before applying pesticides, especially during dry weather. Drought-stressed plants have less water in plant tissues. The chemicals that enter the leaves will be more concentrated and may burn the leaves.

•  Spider mites leave webs on the undersides of leaves and eggs are laid in these webs. The grayish, stifled appearance of leaves infested with spider mites is a result of their feeding on plant juices.

Spider mites thrive in hot, dry weather. For mild infestations, hose the foliage to wash off the mites. For severe problems, spray with an approved chemical according to label directions.

•  Inspect house plants for signs of insect damage. Pest control is easier and safer while plants are outside for the summer than after you bring them in this fall.

•  Don't prune spring-flowering evergreens now. Azaleas and camellias have started setting flower buds for next spring. Pruning will reduce or remove next year's flowering potential.

•  White flies may be a serious problem this month on tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and squash. There are no effective preventive measures, so it is important to control the population before they increase to damaging levels. Hang sticky yellow strips among your plants to trap these pests.

•  Many lawn weeds are really signs of poor growing conditions for turf grass. Chickweed and violets often sprout up in places too shady for most turf grasses. Sorrel, daisies and dock are a sign that the soil is becoming acid because of poor aeration and drainage and a lack of humus.

Wild mustard, morning glories and quack grass warn of crusty soil and possible hand-pan development. The presence of moss tells of soil compaction, poor drainage or fertility or too much shade.

Before you start tying to control these weeds, think about improving conditions for your turf grass.

•  If you irrigate your lawn, consider reducing overall lawn size to save water. For example, try joining trees into beds with shrubs and ground covers. Also, try to eliminate hard-to-irrigate lawn areas, such as narrow strips between a walkway and a building, or irregularly-shaped areas.

•  Spray kudzu with Roundup or mow all visible foliage in the last two weeks of August. Kudzu is at its weakest at this time of the year.

Sid Mullis is an agent with the University of Georgia Extension Service office for Richmond County.