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UGA Extension advice: Scout your landscape now for disease and bug problems
Richard Evans
Richard Evans is UGA Extension Service agent in Bryan County.

The muggy heat makes working in the landscape less appealing than it was in the spring. But insect, disease and other plant problems need attending to. To keep your landscape looking its best, be a detective in your yard. Frequent visits to keep an eye on things is often all you need to detect problems before they get too big.

A trowel, a white index card and perhaps a hand pruner will help you with your landscape detective work.

First, visit your annuals or herbaceous perennials. These plants usually need the most immediate attention. Are they healthy, green and strong or spindly, yellow and weak? Perhaps they need a little fertilizer. Annuals, in particular, benefit from light, frequentapplications. Be careful, though. Look closely. Yellowing of these plants can also mean too much water, and recent rains have kept the soil very wet. Dig down a little to see how wet the soil is and how well it is draining. Heavy, wet soils can play havoc on many landscape plants and may be hard to remedy without renovating the bed.

Look at the blooms of these plants. Deadheading, or removing spent flowers, will help to keep plants blooming practically all summer. Check the blooms, too, for signs of insects or disease. Look carefully at the foliage on all plants. Are the leaves spotted or riddled with holes? Are they speckled, bronze-colored or different from the way you remembered? Remember that leaf spots can be caused by insects or disease.Usually, if it is a disease, a yellow or purple halo will be around the dark spot. You may need to use a fungicide. Sometimes, improving the air circulation by lightly pruning will improve a plant’s health, too.

Insect damage may appear as solid, blackish-brown spots, chewed areas or speckled leaves. Be sure to look at the undersides of the leaves. Many insects will feed and hide there. Properly identifying the insect is the key in selecting the correct control. Remember, there are far more beneficial insects out there than bad guys. Beneficials do an outstanding job of keeping damaging insects at bay on their own. Buy a good insect-ID book and learn how to tell the ‘good’ bugs from the ‘bad’ bugs. Treat plants only when pests are causing more damage than you can live with.

Some insects are so tiny they’re hard to see. This is where your white index card can help. If you see speckled or off-colored foliage and suspect insects but can’t see any, shake the leaves briskly over the index card. You may see tiny red specks called spider mites. Spider mites can build up heavy infestations quickly if conditions are right. To control these pests, use a product labeled for mite control. Check azaleas for off-colored foliage, too. A common summer problem is lace bugs, which feed on the undersides of the leaves of azaleas, cotoneasters and other plants. They have many generations of offspring, so keep a watch and control this particular pest all summer.

Chewing damage on leaves often indicates another type of insect damage. This can be caused by many insects, including Japanese beetles, leaf beetles, snails and slugs. Once you know which culprit is munching on your plants, select the appropriate control. Insects are usually easier to kill when they’re young than when they’re mature.

For more information on caring for landscape plants, contact the Bryan County Extension office at 912-653-2231 or

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