Summer gardeners playing 'beat the heat' with pests

Sunday, July 13, 2003

First, the good news.

The precipitation welcomed in many parts of the country in the spring and early summer months was ideal for subsoil moisture and spring planting.

Now the so-so news. Weeds and troublesome lawn and garden bugs couldn't have asked for a better growing environment. Once the real heat of summer arrives, these pests may be more than a match for even seasoned green thumbs.

"You're going to fight a lot of weeds and bugs this year," says Mike Gettler of Lowe's nursery division. "It's just part of playing 'beat the heat.' It goes with the territory for gardeners."

Rather than raise the white flag of surrender, Gettler says homeowners can go on the offensive and still enjoy the relaxation gardening affords as the No. 1 hobby for adults.

The issue for lawns isn't food as much as weed control when temperatures rise. The growth of many grasses slows in the heat, but weeds thrive. Lawn buffs with big weed problems should opt for whole-lawn applications while spot sprays contain weeds in established lawns. Some new products even color the grass momentarily so users can see the weeds they've attacked. For those who prefer old-fashioned methods of weed control, many garden tools are more comfortably designed to relieve stress on the back, hands and joints.

Bad bugs are ready to dine on your lawn and garden. Various species of moths and insects will lay eggs throughout the lawn, and the fall hatch of ravenous larvae can ruin healthy turf. Gettler says one-time or multi-use insect controls should be applied in the summer to provide an unwelcome surprise for marauding insects.

But it's not just insects that threaten plants. Leaf molds, blight and root rot are big problems for vegetables, lawns and flowering plants alike. Not surprising, the culprit is easily remedied -- watering at the wrong time.

"The cardinal rule is to water early in the day so water doesn't sit on foliage," says Gettler. "Humidity is higher at night and that just encourages all sorts of diseases."

He advises homeowners to water regularly, rather than binge watering on a sporadic basis.

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