Having a healthy garden is a hands-on activity. Although starting out right results in a lot less of our time later on, it’s still important to be “proactive” by heading off problems before they get out of hand. Accordingly, you’ll have a lot less potential for disease problems. In this podcast, hear what Joe Lamp’l has to say about proactively reducing the chances of disease problems in your garden.
BHG018-Proactive Tips for Disease Control
In a previous episode, we talked a lot about the importance of being proactive in your garden, to reduce the chances of pests and diseases, and for achieving an overall healthy garden. Today, we’ll take that discussion one step further, and zero in on one of the biggest problems that can affect any garden, and that’s plant diseases.
Plant pathologists will tell you, before any disease can be present in your garden, there needs to be three things; it’s commonly referred to as the disease triangle. First, you need a host, such as a specific plant that possesses certain traits for specific diseases to exist. Next you need the pathogen (or disease) to be present. And third, you need a certain set of conditions (like high humidity or temperature range) for the pathogen to infect the host. Remove any one of the triangle components, and that disease can’t manifest itself.
So how does that translate to being a proactive gardener to reduce plant diseases you ask? Well, assuming you can’t control whether a disease comes into your garden completely (and you can’t), let’s work at what we can control: the other two parts of the disease triangle–the host plants and the conditions.
As for the host plants, few people I know modify their desired plant palette, just to avoid the risk of getting certain plant diseases. For example, traditional roses are very prone to a common disease known as black spot. Yet few people avoid growing roses, if they love having them in their garden. Instead, they deal with the problem if it becomes one.
In the vegetable garden, blight and other bacterial infections are common. But since we’re not likely going to stop growing tomatoes or any of our other favorites edibles, we need to work on what we can control, at least partially, and that’s the environmental conditions.
Although we can’t control ambient temperature very practically, another environmental factor in which many plant diseases thrive in is moist conditions. So a practical step anyone can do to reduce the chances of problems is to minimize the amount of time foliage stays wet. And the easiest way to do that is to irrigate at ground level rather than from overhead, use mulch and provide plenty of space between and within plants to improve air circulation and sunlight. Simply doing these three things will greatly cut out many of the opportunities plant pathogens have to take hold.
Another important proactive way to thwart problems is to remove any and all leaves or parts of plants at the first signs of trouble, like spotting, yellowing, downy or powdery mildew, etc. The earlier you catch emerging problems, the better chance you have of preventing those pathogens spreading to the rest of your plants of the same kind.
And one more easy thing you can do; look for disease resistant plants when you buy them. Many Burpee Home Gardens plants are hybrid varieties, bred to include resistance to certain common diseases. You’ll find this information provided on the plant tags. But here’s one word of caution. Resistant doesn’t mean disease proof! But is should reduce the likelihood of plants getting certain diseases compared to non-resistant varieties.
So by selecting the right varieties of your favorite plants, and then taking proactive precautions once they’re in the garden, you’ll greatly improve your chances of having a healthy garden when it comes to plant diseases.
And finally, something we can all be proactive about; listen to all the Burpee Home Gardens Podcasts in this series. There are 26, all created to help your gardening success, all throughout the season. From planting to harvest, we’re here every step of the way. You can subscribe to the series for free in iTunes, or listen online at Burpeehomegardens.com, where you can also find great ideas and inspiration any time.
Now go get dirty!