Plant diseases often cause big problems for home vegetable gardeners.


Plant diseases often cause big problems for home vegetable gardeners.  In many cases, once plants are infected, there is no available means of control.  In fact, an entire crop can be wiped out before any vegetables mature.  On the other hand, if the infection is spotted early enough, some diseases can be controlled with fungicides.  The big question is prevention, or treatment?



In this article we’ll talk about how to control vegetable plant diseases which will respond to treatment and how to prevent others from getting into your garden in the first place.  My information was provided by Extension Vegetable Specialist, Dr. Stephen Olson, of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.



First, let’s consider those problems which can’t be controlled such as some races of nematodes, and soil borne diseases, seedling blights, root rots, stem rots, and wilts.  If one of these infests your garden, you’ll probably have to remove the affected plant and start over, by moving to a new location in the garden.



That may sound like harsh advice, but the only way of coping with soil borne disease and nematodes is to never let them get established in your garden.  The key is prevention.  This means starting with freshly turned soil.  This should be done at least 30 days before planting. 



Next, plant disease-free seeds.  Those produced in the Western United States are more likely to be disease free than those from plants grown in the Southeast.  Also, most garden centers sell seeds that have been treated with a protective fungicide, which guards the seeds from infectious organism in your garden soil.  These will be brightly colored red, orange, blue, or green from dye mixed with fungicide.



When starting with transplants, buy the healthiest you can find.  Ask if the plants have natural diseases resistance, and if they were grown from threated seeds.  Many resistant varieties are available, and you should use them whenever possible.



Choosing a good planting site also will help inhibit the growth of diseases organisms.  Good drainage is especially important, because poorly drained soil can cause a host of disease problems.  You also can reduce disease damage by crop rotation, (by not planting the same crops in the same spot year after year).



Now lest talk briefly about those plant diseases which can be controlled, providing they’re treated early enough.  These are foliar diseases, ailments like rust, mildews, and leaf spot.  When properly selected and correctly applied, fungicides are usually effective against such problems.  Consult your garden center or County Extension Office concerning which chemical to use for specific foliar disease infestations.



In summary, remember that the damager of both soilborn and foliar diseases can be greatly reduced in your start your vegetable garden with disease free, well drained soil, and use treated seeds and healthy transplants of resistant varieties.  If caught in time, foliar diseases usually respond to fungicidal treatment.  The good gardening practices I have mentioned are your only protection against soil borne ailments, because these must be prevented, rather than controlled.



For more information on Controlling Vegetable Diseases in the Home Garden contact the Gulf County Extension Service @ 639-3200 or visit our website:  http://gulf.ifas.ufl.edu  or www.http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.