By Brad Haire
University of Georgia
Vegetable plants are more susceptible to diseases caused by fungi and bacteria when conditions are wet and warm. Scout your garden regularly.
When the garden is dry, nematode damage is more evident. You can test your soil for nematodes by submitting a sample through your county UGA Extension office.
Viral diseases can show up anytime, Langston said.
Many plant diseases can be on or within the seeds. "Seeds should not be saved from year to year," he said. "This is important to prevent a number of diseases."
Buy seeds from a reputable dealer. You can't distinguish healthy seeds from diseased ones. Make sure you follow directions on when and how to plant them.
Think 'resistant'Using varieties that are resistant to plant diseases is the best way to avoid disease losses. The types of disease resistance for each variety are noted on the seed container or in a seed catalog.
Don't plant your garden near or beneath trees. The shade will reduce the drying of plant foliage after rain and increase the chances of diseases. Besides, vegetables like a lot of sunlight, and the trees will compete for vital nutrients.
Crop rotation is important. If you keep planting the same vegetables in the same spot year after year, you're asking for soil-borne disease problems.
Grow the same or closely related vegetable plants in the same soil only once every three to five years, Langston said. This practice starves out most pathogens that cause stem and leaf diseases.
Rotate thisVegetable families include:
- Alliaceae (chives, garlic, leeks and onions).
- Apiaceae (carrots).
- Asteraceae (lettuce).
- Brassicaceae (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, mustard, radishes, rutabagas and turnips).
- Chenopodiaceae (spinach)
- Cucurbitaceae (cantaloupes, cucumbers, honeydew melons, pumpkins, squash and watermelons).
- Fabaceae (all beans, English peas and Southern peas).
- Malvaceae (okra).
- Poaceae (corn).
- Solanaceae (eggplant, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes).
Water carefulllyWhen you water the garden, don't splash soil onto plant foliage. If possible, run the water between the rows. Use a mulch layer of straw, bark, shredded paper or plastic to keep soil from splashing onto plants and keep fruit from touching bare ground.
If you use tobacco, wash your hands thoroughly before handling plants. This will prevent the spread of tobacco mosaic virus, which can infect many kinds of vegetables, particularly tomatoes and peppers.
After harvest, remove and destroy all plants from the garden and sanitize your garden equipment. This will reduce the overwintering of disease-causing organisms.
(Brad Haire is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)