No matter how hard you try there is no such thing as a perfect gardener. You walk out to your garden one morning and something just doesn't look right. How do you diagnose the problem and create a solution? First you need to know how to recognize the signs. Some signs are easy to detect, others may remain invisible until it is too late. Routine maintenance, keen observation and the proper knowledge can help to avoid complete destruction of your crops. A garden requires constant nurturing in order to produce at it's fullest potential.
Tomato Horn Worm
I will never forget the day I walked to my garden to find my pepper plants had been striped bare. Not one leaf was left on the stalk. What I did find was one large and three small green tomato horn worms crawling all over what they had left behind. Not only are these creatures unpleasant to look at, in my opinion, they destroy crops quickly. Contrary to their name they are not prone to tomatoes. They are not particular how they sustain themselves. Horn worms survive anywhere within the US, Canada and Mexico including Alaska and Hawaii. The only areas that are not host to these critters are the coastal South East and the Great Plains. They travel easily and stay in pairs so don't fool yourself into thinking there gone. Quick reaction is necessary. Horn worms tend to avoid direct sun so protect your shaded plants by layering corn meal on the bed of the garden. Horn worms do not have the ability to digest the grain.
This plants has signs it is being eaten by insects
This picture on the right shows serious damage from insects. If you are watchful and address this issue before it gets out of hand you should be successful in eliminating permanent damage. Another reason why routine garden maintenance is mandatory. Aphids are common garden insects, but there are numerous trouble makers that feed on your harvest. The best defense against insects is to address the issue before it has a chance to occur. Place a fly strip along the garden wall to capture any flying critters and apply a mixture of vegetable oil, dish soap (not detergent) using a 1:1.5 ratio. Spray on the plants in the cooler part of the day.
The most obvious signs of distress on a garden are plants that simply don't look healthy any longer. The leaves are droopy and begin to turn yellow. Don't make the assumption that your plant is not getting enough water. It could possibly be quite the opposite. Check the soil to determine if the ground is moist enough. Have you properly nourished the plot? Plants can not survive without the proper nutrients. Compost is by far the best advantage you can give your garden. On the other hand do not over expose the soil. A high level of PH may also my the culprit attacking your harvest. Many local agricultural agencies will test soil for free to analyze it components. Your plant may be over infested with bugs that rob nutrients and moisture from crops. Determining the cause of yellowing on plants may be tricky. Trial and error would appear to be the best procedure. Elimination can help determine the best plan for saving crops.