We all know to wash our hands for 20 seconds, cough into our elbows and practice 6-foot physical distancing.
But, with all the sanitizing of hands and homes, did you know it’s also important to sanitize your garden tools?
Diseases may be spread from plant to plant by pruning tools, such as hand saws, pruners and loppers. This is especially true for palms.
Fusarium wilt and thielaviopsis trunk rot of palm are two examples of palm diseases that may be transmitted by pruning tools. Fusarium wilt and thielaviopis rot are both lethal palm diseases. It can be costly to remove or replant a specimen palm.
Canary Island date, queen, Mexican fan and coconut palms are the most susceptible. If you have any of these in your landscape, be extra careful about pruning and sanitizing your tools.
If you use a landscape maintenance company, talk with them to make sure they sanitize pruning tools between properties and before pruning these types of palms in your landscape.
Common recipes for sanitizing tools:
- Pine Sol®: 25% Pine Sol® and 75% water
- Bleach: 25% bleach and 75% water
- Rubbing alcohol: 50% rubbing alcohol and 50% water (Must be 70% isopropyl alcohol)
- Denatured ethanol: 50% denatured ethanol and 50% water (Must be 95% denatured alcohol)
The most important thing to remember: Soak the tools for 5 minutes to 10 minutes. Dipping them into a sanitizing solution will not sanitize them. They must soak for the solution to work.
Also, be sure to replace the solution every two hours, or after 10 palms.
And, be sure to rinse the tool with fresh water after soaking it.
In general, palms rarely need to be pruned. When pruning, only remove dead or dangerous fronds.
Too much pruning may attract pests, such as palmetto weevils. Too much pruning can make nutrient deficiencies worse. It may also stress the palm, which makes it less able to withstand disease.
Take good care of your palms by not over-pruning them. Don’t “hurricane” prune or trim them into pineapple shapes.
If you have gardening questions during COVID-19, contact your local Extension office’s virtual help desk. Find an Extension office at this link: https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/find-your-local-office/
To learn more about palms, please check the references used for this column:
- Broschat, T.K. (2017). Phoenix canariensis: Canary Island Date Palm. IFAS publication number ENH-598. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Retrieved from: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/ST/ST43900.pdf
- Elliott, M. (2019). Fusarium Wilt of Canary Island Date Palm. IFAS publication number PP-215. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Retrieved from: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/PP/PP13900.pdf
- Elliott, M. (2017). Fusarium Wilt of Queen Palm and Mexican Fan Palm. IFAS publication number PP-278. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Retrieved from: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/PP/PP27800.pdf
Nicole Pinson is the Urban Horticulture Agent in Hillsborough County.
Published August 05, 2020