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Preventing diseases in your home vegetable garden

POSTED: March 28, 2014 1:00 a.m.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

This really applies to reducing health problems with people, but it can be used in the plant world, too.

Many times resorting to using fungicides for disease control in the garden is needed. After all, we do live in the South where it’s hot and humid, which creates perfect weather for diseases in plants.

However, a few things can be done to reduce the need for chemical control, because you always want to keep the chemical-control method in your back pocket until absolutely necessary.

Tips include:

* Test the soil and follow the recommendation to correct pH and nutrient balance. Testing is $8 and results are normally in your hands within seven to 10 days.

* Rotate the crops by moving different vegetables around the garden from year to year. Do not rotate vegetables with plants of the same family, e.g., tomato and peppers. Other common vegetable families include crucifers (broccoli, cauliflower, turnips and greens), cucurbits (melons and squash) and legumes (peas and beans).

* Buy certified seed or clean transplants. Choose varieties resistant to diseases and nematodes.

* Amend your garden soil if it is too high in clay or does not drain well. Using compost to do this is quick and will give you long-term benefits. You may have to add some additional compost from year to year to help maintain the organic content of your soil.

* Do not plant your transplants too close together. Good air circulation is important to reduce the chances of diseases. If your plants are dry, then many times a disease cannot get established on leaves or stems.

* Mulch beds or rows to retain moisture and reduce soil from splashing on the underside of leaves. Mulch also helps with erosion and weed control around the vegetables. However, keep the mulch off your veggies to improve air circulation around the base of the plants.

* Do not overwater your plants. Overly wet plants invite disease on leaves and roots. If you have to water, water in the early morning from 4 a.m. (after dew fall) until 9 a.m. By doing this, plants are already wet from the dew so you are not getting them any wetter than they already are.

* Keep your tools clean so you do not transfer disease from one section of the garden to another. Clean them with a bleach solution or even a can of Lysol.

* Clean out diseased, dying plants from the garden. If you know a plant has had it, remove it and put it in the trash. Leaving a dead plant will allow the disease that killed the plant to take up shop in your soil and cause problems for years to come.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears weekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.


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