Hobby Farms Editors
September 16, 2011
Squash bug on stem of squash plant
Photo by Stephanie Staton
The Pest and Disease Detective helps gardeners identify pests, such as the squash bug, that damage edible plants.

At the height of harvest season, when pest and disease problems are in full force, organic gardeners who want to avoid herbicides can have difficulty pinpointing the problem. Coming to their aid, Gardener’s Supply Company, an employee-owned company that provides garden-tested, earth-friendly products through catalogs and online retail, developed an online resource to help gardeners identify pests and diseases and figure out earth-friendly solutions. 

The free Pest and Disease Detective tool identifies 47 pests and 41 plant diseases through photos and detailed text descriptions to aid gardeners in the sometimes maddening task of identifying and taking action against what’s destroying their plants. To use the tool, gardeners can select the vegetable under siege and identify what area of the plant is damaged (leaves, stems, flowers, fruit or roots).  The Detective then narrows down the possible pest or disease problems for the gardener to reference.

Gardeners may view an unlimited number of profiles—which include information on insect life cycles, feeding and disease patterns, and recommended counter-attacks—to determine exactly what’s plaguing their plants. The Detective also recommends preventative strategies to keep plants healthy and minimize damage, and generates a list of earth-friendly controls, especially important to gardeners who don’t want to use harsh chemicals on their edible plants.

Gardeners can then share their own photos through the Detective, ask questions and provide their own tips for combating the pest or disease. There’s advice for dealing with animal pests, such as rabbits, groundhogs and birds, as well as ideas for attracting and protecting beneficial insects, especially those that prey on problem pests.

This year, blossom-end rot has been a major concern for gardeners.

“Spring’s wet weather stressed plants and created ideal conditions for disease,” explains Maree Gaetani, public relations director at Gardener’s Supply.

When tomato plants appear lush, healthy and nearly ready to harvest, it’s discouraging to encountrer blossom-end rot, decay that appears at the blossom end, spreads rapidly and spoils the fruit.

The Detective recommends that gardeners maintain consistent moisture levels and prevent calcium deficiency, as well as ensure the soil pH stays at or near 6.5. It also recommends products and fertilizer solutions for controlling the disease.



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