Georgia’s weather is funny, and it does not take long for it to change on a dime. Spring was cool and wet, and now we are hot and humid.
Both weather conditions provide their challenges, which keeps gardeners learning new things in the proverbial “classroom” of Mother Nature. But for now we just need to deal with what is in front of us and make the best of it.
With all the high humidity and rainfall, plant diseases are potentially on the rise. This is not a call for alarm or panic. Most leaf spots in the landscape are not a real threat to the overall health of the plant. But be aware conditions are favorable for them and be proactive by looking out for the warning signs.
If you have leaf spots on some of your landscape plants, there are things you can do to keep the disease under control.
One of the basic concepts of gardening is putting the right plant in the right site. If the plant does not grow and thrive because your landscape does not provide what it needs, then you are stacking the deck against yourself. Before you buy new plants, know the growing requirements needed for the potentially new tenants of your landscape.
If you have plants in the ground, make sure the growing conditions are as good as you can make them. Provide adequate mulch and optimize soil fertility by following soil test recommendations. Gardeners also must allow for good air circulation so the plant does not stay wet any longer than need be.
Many fungi causing leaf spot diseases will survive the winter in leaves on the ground. Rake them up to reduce the amount of disease carried from year to year.
In the vegetable garden, the same principles apply. All spent plants should be removed entirely from the garden. This will help reduce the chances of the disease harboring in the soil from year to year.
Follow a three-year rotation with not only the same vegetable, but family. One example of vegetables in the same family is tomatoes, peppers and Irish potatoes. All three are susceptible to the same diseases. After a couple of years of planting only tomatoes or tomatoes and peppers, switch to cucumbers or squash in that part of the garden.
Gardeners need to test the soil to verify optimal conditions for plant growth. Incorporating plenty of organic matter encourages rooting and water drainage.
Strong, healthy plants are more resistant to stress from weather and disease pressure. Plants are a lot like us in that regard. Many times when you get sick, you have been stressed or tired and not quite on your game.
If gardeners follow these guidelines, severe outbreaks of foliar diseases will be kept to a minimum and the plant will survive without too much trouble. Plenty of fungicides are available on the market, and sometimes they are simply needed.
If you have any questions on which fungicide would be best for your problem, call the office at 770-535-8293 and I will talk to you.
Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears weekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.