Gardening 101 – What’s bugging you?

So the plants are in … what’s next?

gardeningIf you are a new or seasoned gardener…this year could be different than all others. We have had wet, cold, wet and now hot weather. This can only encourage diseases and insects to come out and attack our flowers, trees and vegetables. No two years are the same as diseases and insects do not use a calendar.

So what do you do?

You turn yourself into an inspector. Look at the underside of leaves, where the leaf joins to the plant, at the bottoms of trees, at the bark, look up into the tree. Check in the crevices of the vegetables. Look at the plant’s overall health. Are the leaves a nice green color? Are the leaves straight or curled up? Are there holes in the leaves or flowers? Are any falling off? Have they turned a different color? Are there little (usually) black spots the size of pepper nearby (this is excrement from the bug) or sawdust by your tree? Is there something that just does not look “right?” You may have to wait a few days or a week to see some changes. Do some research on your plant (from a research-based website is the best) to make sure you know how your plant is to look and grow. Has there been any mention of what is going on with vegetables or flowers among friends or co-workers?

Uh-oh … you have spotted something! It’s a bug! The best thing to do is capture him in a container, preferably in a clear container so you can observe him. Make notes…does it have legs or wings? How many? What color is it? What plant was it found on? Write down the date you found him. Was there more than one? If so, how many? Have you noticed them on any other plants? Take a picture of it if possible. A lot of bugs have many different stages in their life. They may first be an egg, then hatch into a larva (worm) of some sort, then onto their adult life as a flying bug. It can be difficult to figure out what you have but it can be done.

If you like to do research on the computer, there are many websites that can help you identify the bug (Please make sure it is a credible source). Another choice would be to take him to the MSU Extension office for help or verification. It is important to get a proper diagnosis. Next, read about the insect to see if they will cause any harm to your plant. Most of them do not do a lot of damage, although some can. Also most do not hang around long. Remember if you do not see the bug on the plant, they have decided to move on because they have already ate what they want. So look at nearby leaves to see where they may have gone. If you have ate all the food on your plate, you are not going to look there for more food, you are going to go back to the dish or pot where there is more to eat. The same applies to bugs!

Karen J. Burke is an Advanced Master Gardener for Macomb County’s Michigan State University Extension program.

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