How to Deal with Pests and Disease in Window Garden


Give your window garden plants good quality growing compost, water them regularly (not too much, not too little), feed as suggested earlier, and you should have few real problems. Healthy, well-grown plants will be better able to survive unseen disasters like insect or disease attack, scorching hot weather, frosts and other gardening plagues. Poorly grown plants, on the other hand, will often give up the fight at the first sign of any trouble.

To fully describe and discuss all the diseases, pests and cultural disorders that can strike plants down would fill a book in itself. Let’s look briefly, however, at some of the most common troubles that might crop up.

GROWING PROBLEMS

Stunted growth, wilting, brown-scorched leaves and dying shoots may be due to various causes, but look first to the growing conditions. These symptoms are classic signs of drought, but they can also be due to waterlogged soil causing the roots to rot. Always check the growing compost first to see whether it’s either too dry or too wet (both conditions are equally serious).

How to Deal with Pests and Disease in Window Garden  Window Garden

Plants which have suffered drought damage in hot weather will revive more quickly if they’re given some shade and shelter from the wind in addition to watering. Pop plant pots over them, or pin shading material (netting or even sheets of newspaper) over the entire window box for a day or two after watering.

Frost damage, when severe, shows on tender plants and young annuals as a blackening and shrivelling of soft shoots and leaves. Mild frost damage may appear only as a yellowing of the leaves, and the plants will recover. Even hardy plants used in permanent displays may be damaged by severe frosts, this usually showing as a browning of the leaves. Where frost damage is bad, cut out all affected shoots to prevent rot setting in, and hope that new growth will appear. Annuals and tender plants killed to soil level will seldom recover and should be replaced.

If sharp frosts are forecast after you’ve planted tender things, protect them by pinning sheets of newspaper over the box as insulation. Always check that any annuals and bedding plants you buy in have been ‘hardened off; that is, they’ve been grown under cold conditions outside or in cold frames for a while, to acclimatize them to outdoor life and toughen them up.

PESTS

Birds may sometimes damage window box plants, pulling out seedlings, pecking leaves and tearing at flowers (especially in spring). If this happens, tie some strands of black sewing cotton between small sticks, criss-crossing the window box. Only two or three strands towards the front will be needed and shouldn’t look too unsightly. This will keep the birds off without harming them, and it can be removed after a week or so when the birds have given up and gone elsewhere.

Aphids are the commonest and most serious insect pests, crippling plants by sucking sap from young leaves and short-tips, and also sometimes infecting plants with serious virus diseases. Watch out for infestations on new growth, particularly in late spring and early summer, and spray immediately with malathion or (better still) a long-lasting systemic insecticide.

Slugs and snails may find their way up walls into window gardens, particularly in wet seasons. If they become a problem, scatter some slug-killer pellets into the box, underneath the foliage of the plants where these creatures hide.

Other insect pests are too numerous to list, but symptoms such as pale yellow-mottled leaves, notches eaten out of leaves, white ‘tunnels’ burrowed through leaves and twisted, malformed foliage often indicate insect activity. If serious symptoms appear, the best thing to do is to spray with a systemic insecticide recommended for dealing with a wide range of different pests (your local gardening store will advise on available brands).

DISEASES

Grey mould (botrytis) is one of the commonest diseases affecting the kinds of seasonal plants and bulbs used in window boxes, particularly where these are grown in crowded conditions, and most frequently in damp weather. It shows as a furry grey growth on soft shoots and leaves, which eventually rot and collapse. On many plants, and especially on bulbs, this starts low down, at or near soil level. It can be halted by spraying with a fungicide containing benomyl.

How to Deal with Pests and Disease in Window Garden  Window Garden1

Other typical signs of plant disease include mouldy, sooty grey or powdery white coatings on leaves and stems; sudden wilting despite the compost being neither too dry nor too wet; and brown spotting of leaves. The simplest thing, if symptoms like these appear, is to spray with a systemic fungicide that deals with a wide range of diseases (once again, local stores will advise on brands).

Finally, any plant which has suffered a setback from poor growing conditions, weather damage, insect or disease attack, may be given a quick boost towards recovery by foliar feeding. This ‘shot in the arm’ treatment is great for any plant that isn’t doing well, the foliar fertilizer being sprayed onto the leaves and absorbed straight into the plant tissues.

Do not spray insecticides, fungicides or foliar fertilizers onto plants in hot sun, otherwise scorch damage may occur. In hot weather, it is better to wait for lower temperatures in the evening.

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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