Garden maintenance and good bugs

20 January 2009
Hanno and I thank you all for the good wishes sent for Shane and Sarndra yesterday. It's a wonderful time for all of us and although I never thought I'd be like this, I kept thinking about it all day yesterday. Thank you for sharing our joy.

I mentioned yesterday that one of the things I had been doing on the weekend was a bit of garden maintenance. Maintaining our garden, tidying it up, removing dead and dying leaves and general, up-close checking of our plants helps us keep most thing growing as they should. The main problem I came across in our garden was the cucumber vine had signs of disease and needed to lose a few leaves. I got my garden snips and started snipping the damaged and diseased leaves off, picked up parts of the fallen vine and reattached it to the trellis.

These are two important elements of garden maintenance - clean up disease and damage, and make sure the plants are growing as intended. So if you see tomatoes that are falling over, tie then back to their stakes, and any vine that is touching the soil, needs to be pulled up and attached to the trellis again. Leaving damaged and diseased leaves on any plant will weaken it and make it more susceptible to attack by insects and other diseases. Clip off the leaves rather than pull them off because if you pull at the plant you may disturb the roots or strip off the plant tissue surrounding the leaf. While you're out there, give some time to making sure the mulch is not resting against plant stems - with the exception of tomatoes, they like it -pull the mulch back, or add more if it's needed.

Make sure all the diseased plant parts go into the rubbish bin, not the compost. You run the risk of transferring the disease to your compost and it's best to get rid of the material altogether. If you're concerned about putting it in the rubbish bin to be taken to your local dump - and this applies to weeds, particularly invasive weeds, and diseased plants, place all the plant parts in an old plastic shopping bag and seal the top. Leave the bag in full sun for a week so that whatever is in the bag is dead before you transfer it to your rubbish bin.

While you're in the garden, check on all your plants. You may notice that some are beginning to flower, and if you're a seed saver, that will alert you that seeds are not far away and you need to watch that particular plant. When I was in the garden on the weekend, I noticed our parsley plant is starting to flower. In a few weeks time, I'll harvest seeds from that plant from which I'll start more parsley.

Mother Theresa said:"Be faithful in all small things because it is in them that your strength lies." I apply that wisdom to insects, as well as to other small things. Look for beneficial insects and wildlife while you're in the garden because they can help you combat insects that harm your plants. Some beneficial insects are bees, hoverflies, some small non-aggressive wasps, some spiders, praying mantis, lacewings and the common spotted ladybird but NOT the 28 spot ladybird. They will help you combat aphids, ants, scale and mealybugs. Frogs and lizards will also help you keep a lid on the larger insects like grasshoppers and caterpillars.

To attract beneficial insects to your garden, you need to give them food and shelter in the form of a group of flowers they love. These include cosmos, marigolds, red clover, alyssum, dill, Queen Anne's Lace, buckwheat, lucerne and gypsophila. If you provide hollow logs and water, lizards and frogs might take up the invitation.

You don't have to be fanatical about garden maintenance but it's a good idea to deal with problems as soon as you see them and to make a special effort every week or so to inspect the plants up close. If you can do that, you'll have a healthier garden and a more bountiful harvest.


  1. Thanks for this timely reminder Rhonda,

    Blessings Gail

  2. Makes me feel like I was walking through my own garden - though it's still winter, or at least is supposed to be, here. I'll remember this about the diseased leaves for next summer.

  3. Another very helpful post, thank you Rhonda :)!

    I wanted to ask if I might... how often do you and Hanno water your garden - do you water a little bit each day or do a big water once or twice a week?


  4. Thanks Rhonda. And congrats to your son and future daughter-in-law!


    AM of the bread

  5. Congratulations to the news of the engagement. I must do some work clean up work in the garden as well.

  6. I agree this is a very important step in gardening and taking care of our outdoor environment. Every year, I have a serious problem with squash bugs on all of my squash plants. Do you have any good remedies for this? I was wondering if diatamaceous earth could be sprinkled all over the plant? What do you think? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Donna J.

  7. Good advice. I was not aware that tomatoes do better when you let the mulch touch their stems! Who knew?

    Slugs can be a big problem too, but don't use slug poison as you will kill every other living creature in your garden as well...I speak from experience on that one.


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