One of the biggest challenges that many vegetable gardeners face is fending off plant diseases. There are many factors that can contribute to plant diseases, such as cultivar type, weather, insect pests, and crop rotation just to name a few. Prevention can go a long way towards keeping diseases at bay. Becoming proactive in your vegetable garden defense is always much better than being reactive. Usually once a disease has started rearing its ugly head, it can be too late to control or eliminate it.
Here are some tips you can use in your garden to help prevent plant diseases.
Don't Crowd Vegetable Plants
Always try to plant vegetables at recommended distances given on seed packets or plant tags. It may look sparse to start with, but the recommendations keep full-grown plants in a healthy environment with plenty of air circulation, which will protect against many diseases.
Avoid Reusing Potting Soil
This includes dumping soil from containers into a vegetable garden bed. Diseases lurk in the soil and will infect the next plant that is grown in reused potting soil. You can actually sterilize soil by cooking it in the microwave. Cook on high for 90 seconds for every 2.2 pounds of soil. For information on making your own potting soil, check out How To Make Your Own Potting Soil
Clean and Disinfect Garden Tools
Garden tools that are used to care for, prune, or dig up a diseased plant may carry the disease unless they are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. This will keep the disease from spreading to the next plant the tool comes in contact with. Use a 10% bleach solution or rubbing alcohol.
Keep Vegetable Plant Leaves Dry
Obviously vegetable plants will get wet when it rains, but try to avoid watering overhead. Keeping leaves moist can promote disease such as powdery mildew or blights. It’s best to water at the roots if at all possible.
Avoid Walking Through or Working In Wet Vegetable Gardens
In a healthy vegetable garden this shouldn’t be much of a problem, but if you’re fighting a disease on any of your plants, the simple act of moving through the vegetable garden bed and touching first one plant and then another can infect a previously healthy plant. Working in a soggy vegetable garden can also result in damaged root systems.
If you would like more information about a few common plant diseases, please visit the Diseases page. If you have some plant disease prevention tips, please share them!