Natural Tips for Preventing Vegetable Disease


One of the most effective things you can do to stop a plant disease from wiping out your organic vegetable garden is to prevent it from showing up in the first place. One of the many benefits of an organic vegetable garden is that it will inherently be more resistant to disease. So, if you start off with a good foundation, later on when an insect introduces a fungal spore in your garden, it has a much better chance of making it through. Using organic compost and nutritive sprays like seaweed, along with an adequate and resourceful watering schedule, does wonders in keeping plants and vegetables healthy enough to resist pesky diseases common on tomatoes, squash, strawberries and grapes. But before you reach that point, you have to plant your organic vegetable garden.

First, shop around for disease resistant seeds. There are some better seed catalogs out there. Although you might have to pay more than the seed packets you'll find at your local hardware store, it will be worth it. Secondly, if you plant a new garden every year, rotate the location of each crop.

After your organic garden is newly planted, consider using an organic mulch like wood chips. Not only will this keep the soil from drying out, which stresses plants and leaves them more vulnerable to disease, the mulch will limit the splashing of soil microbes on the plants themselves. If you want to protect against viruses as well, you may want to use aluminum covered mulch, which reflects light back to the sky, thus confusing passerby insects, which happen to be the primary contractors of plant diseases. As mentioned earlier, overly moist conditions in an organic gardening can help sustain fungi. In order to ensure your garden plants dry out, especially ground covering vines like cantaloupe and squash, use wide-spacing trellises for the plants to spread out upon and receive proper air ventilation/sun exposure.

Still, Mother Nature is the most powerful of all, and no organic vegetable garden is entirely immune to plant diseases. Leaf blemishes systemic infections and even viral diseases spread by insects are no strangers to vegetable gardens, so if and when they do show up, it is up to you, Dr. Greenthumb (yes, that's you) and provide the remedy before it's too late. And if you do see a plant go downhill fast or it just simply looks strange and oddly different than the others, it's likely the plant has a virus, and the safest route is to uproot the infected plant altogether.

If you are dealing with a fungal outbreak (leaf blemishes, white patches of powdery mildew), which is common on tomatoes, squash, strawberries and grapes, the very first thing you should do is prune the affected areas. Be sure to do so when the sun is out and foliage is dry, for there is a much greater chance of spreading fungi in wet conditions. Also, be sure to sterilize your pruning shears afterwards and to not put the diseased clippings in your compost pile.

It's also a good idea to treat your vegetable garden with an organic spray once a disease shows up. A milk bath solution of 1 cup of milk to two cups of water is a great disinfectant against fungal spores, while a solution of one quart of water and one teaspoon of baking soda (a few drops of liquid soap to help it stick) is also an effective homemade spray.