It’s not easy to manage and avoid disease in the garden, especially because identifying plant disease can be tough. Plant diseases can be spread in a variety of ways, including through the soil, leaves, or even seeds, depending on the disease. And, like human ailments, there are several sorts of diseases, such as fungal, bacterial, or viral infections. The simplest method to deal with plant disease is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
It’s best to explore cultural options for disease control before turning to chemical ones in an integrated, ecological disease-management system. Choosing disease-resistant cultivars, performing crop rotation, using drip irrigation, and ensuring good sanitation are all cultural techniques (such as removing plant debris from the field).
Select cultivars that are resistant or tolerant to diseases that may be a problem in your area to lessen the risk of plant disease. This requires some research and knowledge of which illnesses your garden is more susceptible to, as many cultivars may be resistant to only one or two diseases.
Rotating crops, or growing crop families in different regions of the garden each year, provides a number of advantages, one of which is disease management. Because many diseases are soilborne and can live for years in the soil, it’s best not to plant the same crop in the same area year after year. Plant diseases are often specific to plant families, so if you put tomatoes in the east corner of your garden last year, it’s advisable not to plant any Solanaceae crops (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers) in that area for a few years.
Planting in excessively chilly soil can cause seeds to rot and transplants to suffer from shock (thereby making them more prone to disease). For suggested sowing and transplant dates, consult your region’s planting calendar.
Another strategy to minimize the spread of foliar disease is to reduce overhead irrigation, such as sprinklers. Drip irrigation helps prevent foliar disease by keeping water off the leaves because it is administered directly to the soil surface and does not splash back up to the plant’s leaves. It’s also worth remembering that water aids the spread of fungal diseases, so avoid handling plants in the yard when they’re damp. Tomatoes, for example, are particularly sensitive to the development of fungal illness, so avoid harvesting or handling them in the morning when they’re damp from dew.
Sanitizing your tools and seed trays as often as possible, especially after intentionally touching diseased plant material or between seasons, is another simple technique to avoid disease spread in the garden. To clean instruments and seed trays, use steam, bleach diluted in water, or other sanitizing treatments.
Unfortunately, even following best practices can’t guarantee a disease-free garden. Local university extension offices often offer plant disease diagnostic clinics and provide useful books with information on common diseases in your area. Some plant pathogens can be identified by becoming familiar with common diseases in your area and their signs and symptoms, while others require microscopic examination of diseased tissue or sophisticated laboratory techniques.