The same garden conditions that help to compost organic matter, namely moisture, air and heat, unfortunately also provide conditions that can allow pests to propagate on garden surfaces. Good garden and greenhouse hygiene, or what is sometimes referred to as “clean gardening practices”, will help to prevent the build up of pests. Several steps are outlined below that will help keep unwanted pests from finding a home in your greenhouse and/or garden.
Decaying vegetation is the ideal refuge for many pests and diseases. Remove plant debris on a periodic basis from greenhouse and garden areas and, if it is not already showing signs of infestation, place them in a proper composting environment.
Once a plant has a pest or disease problem, it should be treated and near by plants should be checked and treated as a preventive measure. If possible, container plants can be moved away from other plants while being treated. Most plants will begin to respond and recover quickly if pest or disease problems are properly diagnosed and treated. If recovery looks unlikely, it is often best to remove the infected plant(s), rather than struggle with sick plants that may never regain full strength and production and may infest other healthy plants nearby.
Disease-spreading organisms can, and will, be carried from plant to plant by using contaminated pots, flats, seed beds, soil, tools and even human hands if proper precautions are not taken. Pots, seed trays and propagating tools should be kept scrupulously clean on an ongoing basis. Growing containers should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before each replanting. They can be scrubbed and cleaned using water and a natural detergent and then disinfected by soaking in a 10% bleach solution before being rinsed with clear water and allowed to dry. Better yet, a quality garden disinfectant may be used for this purpose. Cutting and digging tools, including hands, should also be washed and disinfected after each use. Hand sanitizer is inexpensive and should be readily available in the garden and greenhouse for use between different gardening activities. Washing and disinfecting should be done away from the growing area.
During transitions between growing seasons is a good time to clean and disinfect greenhouse and garden areas thoroughly. Pay particular attention to all the nooks and crannies. Use a cleaner and disinfectant to remove mold, algae, fungus and other undesirables from paths, under containers and greenhouse walls, floors, tables etc. The products described below can be applied after cleaning and rinsing to help provide a barrier to some garden undesirables.
PHYSAN 20™ is a broad range disinfectant, fungicide, virucide, and algaecide which effectively controls a wide variety of pathogens on hard surfaces and plants. Its applications include greenhouses; hard surfaces, lawn and turf grass, seedlings and cut flowers, decorative fountains, pools and birdbaths and plants. This product is EPA approved. Great information and application direction on the many garden uses for this product as well as state by state ordering information is available online at Physan.com.
Judicious and regular garden and greenhouse cleaning and disinfecting will lead to a healthier growing environment and save time and plants in the long run.
Nick Fraser is a Garden & Greenhouse contributing editor.