Regardless of how experienced you are or how much of a stellar gardener you are, garden diseases can happen to the best of us. Preventing or tending to a garden that has diseased plants is no easy feat, especially when you consider how easy it is to mistake one disease for another because so many show up in our plants the same exact way. The best way to avoid dealing with disease entirely is to prepare at the beginning of the season and set up various methods of prevention. However, when all else fails, there are also plenty of ways to manage disease before it gets out of hand and ruins your plants for the season.
Here are our top seven ways to manage and prevent disease in your garden!
Spaces Out Your Plants Appropriately
Do you know the recommendations you find on your seed packets that detail how much space should be allowed between each seed when initially planting? Well, the reason that is there is because a crowded garden can lead to disease or plants with weak roots, resulting in them being much more prone to disease. When you give your plants the proper amount of space they need to grow, you are allowing for better air circulation and better root growth; plus, when plants are closer together and one starts to show signs of disease, it is easier for that ailment to job from one plant to the next because of the close proximity.
Disease-Resistant Varieties Will Be Your Best Friend
When we first start looking at various plants, especially herbs and vegetables, to grow in our garden as a beginner, it can be overwhelming to find out that many of the varieties we can’t wait to grow are actually more susceptible to disease than at first glance. However, because of the centuries of research botanists and scientists have conducted, we now know that there are plenty of heirloom varieties of vegetables, herbs, and fruits that are resistant to all kinds of common garden diseases. For example, if you want to grow tomatoes but don’t want to settle for a hybrid variety just because it was engineered to repel a disease common to your area, you can always do your research and find an organic, natural option that has never been genetically modified instead!
Don’t Do Too Much While It Rains
While it may be obvious that your garden doesn’t need to be watered when it is raining outdoors, there are a few other things you should also abstain from doing when its drizzling outdoors. The first thing you should avoid in your garden is trimming back your plants; when you create an open cut on a plant’s stem or branch while it rains, you are running the risk of fungal infection, so wait until a sunny day comes along to prune your plants. Another activity to avoid when its drizzling is stepping on your soil; the structure of your soil, especially when there are multiple layers or a specific mix of additives, can be very delicate, so its best to avoid stepping on it and compromising it.
Rotate Your Crops with the Changing Seasons
Most garden diseases (and pests!) love it when you plant the same things in the same spots, year after year. This consistency lends to predictability, giving disease a better chance at taking hold of a plant and sticking around the long haul. However, the easiest way to avoid this is to rotate your crops, meaning you pull your plants from the soil when they are done with their final harvest of the season and plant something else in their place instead. You can do this when you pull your Summer crops and plant something new the following Spring, or you can do this with each new season (i.e., pulling a plant in the mid-Summer and planting a late-Fall/early-Winter harvesting plant in its place).
Keep Your Garden Beds Clean
There are so many tiny details that can go into caring for your garden that can be easily overlooked, but the sanitation of your tools and area are one that can be pretty hard to miss. Look around your garden beds: do you see any debris like dead leaves, dried up weeds, or old lawn clippings laying around? Not only can things like this give pests an easy place to hide, but it can also harbor disease, even if it is dead. If what you find is compostable, toss it in and you can eventually reuse it to help the health of your garden later on; if what you find is the remnants of a previously diseased plant, then safely toss it instead. It’s also a great practice to sanitize your tools after each use – you never know when it could save your plants!
Make Sure You Use a Good Soil Mix
Did you know that there is such a thing as too many nutrients? There are a few key nutrients that plants need, but it is all too easy to supply a plant with too much of a good thing and cause it to develop a disease from the roots up; this is known as root fry and it can happen to any plant, in or outdoors. To avoid this, always research the needs of the particular varieties you are considering planting and try to find plants with similar needs. This way, you can create a soil mix that has just enough of each element necessary to a healthy garden, but not too much that you’ll shock the plant into sickness and make it susceptible to disease.
Do Your Best Not to Over Water
Just like with indoor plants, it is absolutely possible to overwater your garden vegetables and herbs. When you over water your plants, you are drenching the roots in too much moisture, causing them to be too plugged up to be able to absorb anything else, including vital nutrients. While this is the most common disease (and eventual killer) of plants growing in containers, it can also caused waterlogged garden beds to be the catalyst for root rot, fungal growth, and development of water mold species that can kill the affected plant and others around it.
With all this being said, ultimately the best way to determine how to prevent and care for disease in your garden beds is the way that feels best to you! What may work wonders for one gardener in one zone may not work for you. So, depending upon your hardiness zone and particular circumstances, take from this list whatever resonates with you and leave the rest! If this is your first time tending to a garden on your own and you have extra questions, check out our other blogs covering all kinds of topics to do with gardening and caring for plants.
Is there a gardening subject you have questions about or would like us to cover? Let us know in the comments or message us on our Contact Page. We post more articles every other week, so check back for more tips and tricks every month!