Plan for Disease Prevention

Home gardens are often pestered with diseases that deplete yields at harvest. Many gardeners have found that proper planning and following recommended control practices keep vegetable losses to a minimum.

Select a well-drained garden site to prevent damping-off and other problems associated with wet soil.

Organic matter (straw, leaves, crop residue) is essential to productive soil, but can also increase the occurrence of southern blight. To avoid a buildup of southern blight, bury organic matter below the expected root zone of next year's crop. This should be done in the fall if possible.

Watering plants in the evening causes leaves to remain wet for an extended period and increases the chance of leaf diseases. Plants watered in the morning dry quickly, resulting in fewer problems. Drip irrigation also reduces foliage diseases.

Grow vegetables in the same location only once every 3 to 5 years. If this cannot be done, at least plan your garden so that you don't grow vegetables of the same family group in the same area season after season. Family groups are: (1) watermelon, cucumber, squash, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, pumpkin; (2) cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, rutabaga, kale, turnip, mustard, radish, collard; (3) Swiss chard, beets, spinach; (4) pepper, tomato, potato, eggplant; (5) carrot, parsley, parsnips; (6) onions, garlic, leek; (7) sweet corn; and (8) beans, peas and southern peas.

Certain vegetable diseases are seed transmitted. Don't save seed from the garden for planting the following year.

A number of diseases attack vegetable foliage and fruit. Diseases caused by fungi cannot be cured, so they must be prevented. When you see a fungus problem, irreversible damage has already been done. Cloudy, damp mornings encourage the growth of fungus spores. When such conditions exist, you may want to follow a preventive spray schedule or remove contaminated plants.¶