The good news is spring is just around the corner! The bad news is, with warmer temps comes the potential for some bothersome and devastating plant diseases. Here is what to look for and the steps you can take (even now!) to thwart disaster in the garden…
Cedar-Apple Rust: Can thrive anywhere you might have certain types of apple, crabapple and hawthorn trees that are grown near eastern red-cedar and various junipers.
This disease is a fungus that overwinters in galls on certain evergreens. The wet, warm weather of spring brings the fungus out of dormancy where it starts to produce spores. Wind will carry the spores to crabapples where the fungus takes root again and begins to form rusty-orange colored spots on leaves and fruit. The spores from this ‘rust’ are then transferred back to the evergreen host where the whole vicious circle happens all over again.
Prevention: Removing infected branches from the host (evergreen) is the best course of action. Be sure to use clean pruners and cut several inches below the gall. Remove all infected areas and place branches in a bag or trash bin where the spores can’t escape if the fungus decides to bloom.
If you are just starting your landscape design, keep in mind the placement of susceptible plants to Cedar-Apple Rust and keep them far from each other if possible.
Fireblight: Is extremely wide spread and infects many ornamental shrubs and trees including spirea, service berry, maples and cotoneasters, to name a few! It is also an ongoing problem for commercial and ornamental apple and pear growers. This systemic bacterial disease can spread to any part of the plant including the roots. It is most often identified through diseased blossoms that appear water-logged and quickly turn brown or black. After this stage, infected plants will usually show signs through blighted branches that turn dark and bend at the terminal ends, resembling a shepherd’s crook.
The bacterium lives in cankers where it waits for spring to start to ooze and spread. Spreading of Fireblight is caused by just about anything including, insects, wind, rain, birds and ‘infected’ garden tools.
Prevention: Removing infected branches at least 6 inches below the canker can be very effective. If possible do this before spring when the bacteria start to emerge. It is important to clean pruners or loppers with rubbing alcohol or bleach between every cut as this disease spreads very easily.
Sprays are available if cutting the disease away is not effective. However, the use of them should be minimal and need be applied during specific times of the year according to application directions.
Basically, proper pruning will greatly diminish if not eliminate these diseases if caught early. So get out there and start inspecting!
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