Organic Gardening in Southern Climates

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Flower

by Holly Brooks, principal, King Landscaping The weather in Atlanta this year—a wet winter followed by a rainy

Photo courtesy of Holly Brooks, King Landscaping

spring, and a soggy summer plagued with both heavy downpours and late afternoon pop-up showers—has created a perfect environment for fungal and insect problems. Before rushing into battle with an arsenal of chemicals, set realistic expectations; nothing, chemical or otherwise, will eradicate fungus or insects completely. What you can do is achieve some level of control without causing harm to the health of your family, your pets, and the environment by going the organic route. Fungal diseases thrive in hot, humid environments. One of the best strategies to prevent them from infesting your lawn and plants is to water at the right time of the day, around 4 a.m. Dew settles on grass or plants several hours before that, and watering will wash off fungus spores in the dew before they have a chance to take hold. It’s also advisable to set aside dreams of a lawn that rivals the green of a

championship golf course. Since a fescue lawn will wither under the summer’s heat soon enough, a heavy application of disease- and weed-killing chemicals is not only a potential health risk but a waste of money. Insect life also thrives in the hot, humid Southern summers. From an organic standpoint, patience is key to minimizing their damage in your garden. Where there are insects, there will soon be a natural predator. An infestation of aphids on your tomatoes will be eliminated by ladybugs within a week or two. You can also take matters into your own hands, literally, by hand picking some troublesome, larger insects off your plants, such as beetles or borers; you could also use gardening tools to remove the bugs if you prefer. If the problem isn’t resolved in a couple of weeks, try an organic insect control product. For long-term prevention and control, stock your landscape with perennials and other plants that will host the beneficial insects. If you choose to spray or dust, use an organic or alternative product that will target a specific insect; chemical-based, broad spectrum insecticides will kill the beneficial insects as well as the harmful ones. Neem oil, which is pressed from the seeds of the neem tree, applied in a targeted and sparing manner is a good choice for organic pest control. King Landscaping is a design/build/educate landscaping company in metro Atlanta. www.erickinglandscaping.com

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