I am often asked “Hey Larry, what can I spray for this or that?” Before I answer, I will ask if the weed, insect,...

I am often asked “Hey Larry, what can I spray for this or that?” Before I answer, I will ask if the weed, insect, fungus or other pest they want to control has been positively identified. The answer is often “no.” Here is a tip: Some garden issues cannot be solved with a spray.

Now is an excellent time to collect a sample of the pest or pest damaged plant and have it positively identified. Positive identification can be done by you on some pests such as weeds by pictures and internet research. There are numerous weed identification websites available. The information will be categorized by weed type, broadleaf, grass like, and woody. If you do not know what type of weed you have, don’t worry, the sites usually have tutorials you can click on; however, if you want to control or eradicate your pest issues, I suggest involving the cooperative extension office. Refer to my one of my columns last month where I gave details about the extension office and how most of their services are at no cost.

It is important to remember that pest identification begins with a proper sample. One brown leaf from the end of a stem or branch is not adequate. You may have to remove a whole stem or a portion of a limb with numerous leaves. If you are planning to use the extension office, call first at 751-4401 and ask for the master gardener on duty. Once you explain your pest concern to the master gardener, the master gardener will let you know what type of sample you will need to collect and when you can bring the sample to the office. Most pests can be identified within minutes but some diseases require incubation and could take a few days before the results are known.

Once the pest has been identified the next step is treatment. Some pests can be treated immediately; some require treatment at the appropriate stage of development which can be late winter, early spring, or early summer. Treat pests at the appropriate time and conserve that precious resource, your money.

Larry’s timely tip: Remove spent flowers and fertilize your annuals. Your plants will look better and produce another round of color before the first frost.