In The Art of War, Sun Tzu writes, "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."
Beyond the range of human sight, armies of fungi, bacteria, nematodes and viruses are waiting to attack our vegetable gardens. But don't worry, there are things you can do to be victorious!
Here are a few ways to stay ahead of plant diseases.
Before you plant, choose a sunny, well-drained spot with good air movement.
Raised beds can improve drainage. Remove or plow under old crop debris from last year. Select disease-resistant varieties and, if purchasing transplants, check to make sure they are disease-free before you bring them home.
If you saved your seed from last year, be sure it came from healthy plants. Plant seed and transplants into warm soil to avoid stressing them and space plants properly to assure air movement between them.
Practice crop rotation by altering plant families, not just individual types of plants. Below is a list of plant families.
Cucumber, squash, watermelon (solanaceous family)
Pepper, tomato, eggplant (cucurbit family)
Turnip, kale, collards (brassica family)
Bean, pea (legume family)
Once you have established your garden, take the time to control the weeds. Pokeweed, johnsongrass, milkweed, wild cucumber, nightshade, ground cherry and clovers can harbor insects and disease pathogens.
Consider mulching around your plant. Avoid wood chips, instead use something that will break down faster such as newspaper, straw or grass clippings.
Avoid plant stress by watering correctly. Avoid getting the foliage wet. Water from below at the soil line or early in the morning, so the foliage will have time to dry before the sun sets.
Avoid working in the garden when leaves are wet. This will help to reduce the spread of bacterial blights.
With a little planning before you plant and monitoring throughout the growing season, you will be able to harvest a good crop of healthy vegetables.
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