JoAnne Skelly: Get ahead of the pests!

At one time or another, we've all battled pests in our yards and gardens, from weeds to insects to plant diseases. In Nevada, many plant problems are caused by things we do that stress plants such as improper watering, pruning, fertilizing, mowing or putting the wrong plant in the wrong place. Pests take advantage of stressed plants. To reduce plant pest problems in the coming growing season, keep plants healthy in the first place.

Use these tools to beat plant problems:

• Build up your soil. Good soil helps keep plants healthy and pest-resistant.

• Plant naturally pest-resistant plants that are adapted to our climate.

• Avoid planting lots of one type of plant. If one plant gets a problem, the others are likely to follow.

• Leave room around plants for good air circulation.

• Rotate plant locations in your garden, rather than planting tomatoes or other veggies in the same area year after year.

• Irrigate the right amount for each plant.

• Keep beds and plants free from plant debris and weeds.

• Mulch to conserve moisture and reduce weed problems.

• Fertilize and prune plants properly.

Some useful tips: Buy plants that will do well in your yard. Find out what growing conditions are good for your plants, and don't fight Mother Nature. Don't get pests in the first place. Stop pests from becoming a problem by using clean fill soil, planting certified weed-free seed and buying high-quality, pest-free plants. Accept some pests. Focus on knocking back pests, rather than getting rid of every one of them.

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has a new pest management website to help you identify and solve your pest problems. There are photos of common insects, including beneficial insects, weeds and information on managing all kinds of pests including rodents.

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension is offering a free series of "Gardening in Nevada" classes on Tuesdays beginning today through March 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Bartley Ranch, 6000 Bartley Ranch Road, Reno.

The first is "Mulch 101" with Master Gardener Rod Haulenbeek. On Feb. 12 certified arborist, fruit tree expert and Master Gardener Michael Janik will teach "Training and Pruning Fruit Trees." He will discuss the art of espalier, production pruning of fruit trees and the how and why of thinning fruit for maximum production. Check out our horticulture website for more information.

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at or 887-2252.


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