To keep your plants in good health, you must concentrate on prevention. However if a problem arises, you should act quickly. The quicker that you react based on good information then the easier it will be to cure the plant without causing undue distress!
At the first sign of distress...
Inspect the plant in detail. It is better to be overly fussy than not notice the appearance of a pest that will cause you worries later on. Let us take the example of the lily beetle. This bright red insect (a beetle) installs itself on the shoots of the lily from April onwards. It feeds on the plant for a few days then lays its eggs before others arrive to do the same. If you do not stop the first individual, you will be faced with dozens of larvae slowly eating away at the plant. However, it will be worse if you do not stop the other beetles that arrive each week. Covered in their dung, the larvae of this beast are often not noticed and remain out of reach even for chemical treatments. The lily shoots are weakened, the plant looks ugly throughout the season and risks not flowering. However a little time spent at the beginning eliminating the first beetles would have kept your lilies in good health without needing to resort to chemical treatments!
A stained leaf ?
Just like those beasts that munch away at our plants, do not wait until your plants’ leaves are covered with stains before you ask what is wrong! Diseases, especially those caused by fungi are one of the major worries in the garden. They often appear gradually. In the case of a tree, such an illness may take up to 15 years to develop. However when it becomes very noticeable it is often too late and the plant dies although it could have been saved had we known earlier!
Strolling equals working
One of the most important tasks in a garden is walking around it! If you reproach yourself for spending too much time just looking at your plants, then justify it by telling yourself that you are actually gardening and checking that everything is ok... Even if your garden is only small, spend time looking at your plants. It is just as important in a small garden as a large one. Diseases can spread quicker in a restricted space and the resultant damage is more noticeable. On the other hand, in a large garden disease spreads less quickly. It may seem unjust but that is the way it is: in a large garden, it is easier to achieve the right balance between pests and predators. In a small garden where only some of the natural controls are present, you need to compensate for this by being more vigilant and spotting the first signs of anything that is abnormal or worrying.
Say no to the "spray"
Getting the spray out at the first sign of concern is not the answer! You risk making the situation worse if you use an unsuitable product. Furthermore, the commercially available products are quite restricted, it is better that the gardener thinks before acting...