The first rule of disease-free gardens is prevention. Keep your plants healthy and they are less likely to become diseased. Keeping plants healthy means providing the proper soil pH and fertility, the correct sun exposure, the right amount of water, and proper spacing for good airflow around plants. All these go far to prevent problems from starting in the first place.
Here are some ideas for keeping diseases and pests to a minimum in your garden this year:
The Vegetable Garden
Be sure all the debris from last year’s spent crops has been removed. Turn the soil over to expose weed seeds and pest eggs and larvae.
If you’re starting plants from seed, look for disease-resistant varieties of plants when choosing what to grow. You’ll find that information on the seed packet.
Practice crop rotation. Putting the same plant families in the same spot year after year allows diseases particular to those plants to build up. Plan on planting your vegetables in different spots each year. Your local extension service’s website will have detailed information on crop rotation.
Mulch! Mulch helps keep soil-borne diseases from splashing up on plant foliage. It also suppresses weeds, which not only can carry disease, but also stress your plants by stealing moisture and nutrients from them. Stressed plants are vulnerable to pest insects and diseases.
The Ornamental Garden
If you haven’t cleaned up plant debris already, go through your beds, paying special attention to areas where there were diseased or pest-ridden plants. Throw diseased plant material away.
Plant diseases live in the soil, and when plants are watered by rain or overhead irrigation, the soil splashes up onto the leaves. Prevent this either by watering earlier in the day so the foliage has a chance to dry or by using drip irrigation.
If you have roses, be sure that you’ve removed any fallen leaves. Blackspot lives on rose leaves.
More mulch! As noted above in the vegetable gardening section, mulch is your best weapon for keeping diseases from spreading from the soil to your plants.
Blackspot on rose.
When plant shopping, make sure the plants you choose have no trace of diseases or pests.
Keep pest insect populations at bay. Insects can transmit plant diseases from one plant to another.
Don’t put diseased plant debris in your compost. Temperatures in home compost piles rarely stay high enough to kill diseases.
If you are using pruners on diseased plants, wipe the pruners thoroughly with alcohol before using them on other plants.
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By Natalie Carmolli, Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs
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