Rust doesn't just mean oxidized metal. It is also the name of a deadly plant fungus.
Well, it’s only deadly if you let it get completely out of hand, but it can significantly reduce your harvest and make plants susceptible to other diseases and pests.
There are several different strains of rust that attack a variety of garden and ornamental plants:
This is only a partial list, but you get the idea.
How rust grows
Rust fungi thrive when temperatures are warm (65 to 85°F) and conditions are damp, like most spring mornings. It is easy to identify. Simply look at the underside of leaves and you will see bright orange, yellow, or red spots of growth. These growths may start out as tiny white bumps. Before long, they turn into clusters of little clumps. These clumps are pustules made up of millions of fungal spores. These spores are easily dislodged and can spread to nearby plants.
How to control rust
Rust is easily spread by ants, aphids and garden tools. If you find a leaf infected with rust, remove it and throw it in the trash. It is a good idea to remove any leaves below the infected leaves, as they have already been exposed to fungal spores, which will begin developing soon. Good airflow, aphid control, and avoiding overhead watering are your best rust control measures. You can also apply sulfur or other fungicides. Just be sure to completely cover every surface, especially the underside of leaves.
Always be sure to disinfect your tools after removing rust-infected leaves, to avoid spreading the rust fungus to healthy plants.
Frass is bug poop.
Frass can indicate a caterpillar or other insect infestation. It adds nutrients to the soil, but can sometimes prevent certain plants from growing. For example, insects that feed on eucalyptus leaves poop out a substance that prevents plants in the mustard family from growing nearby. Weird, huh?
A drought is a period of drier-than-normal conditions that results in water-related problems.
According to the USGS, 2016 was the hottest on record and 2019 came in second. These are trends that can have a big impact on our gardens and landscapes.
With responsible water conservation, you can reduce water stress to plants in your yard by improving soil quality with compost and mulch and watering more frequently, but with less water. Just as a dry sponge allows water to runoff, rather than being absorbed, soil works the same way.
Another way to reduce water use is to replace your lawn with drought-tolerant plants that are better suited to your local climate. Plants have evolved over millions of years to survive and thrive in very specific environments. By growing native plants, you can take advantage of all that evolution! Contact your local CA Native Plant Society to learn how!
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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