If Garden Maintenance is not prioritised plants will die, leaves will dominate and bugs will take over!Learn how to eliminate plant diseases by understanding and managing the conditions that cause them
When a plant gets sick, it’s one of the most baffling things that can happen in your garden maintenance. What went wrong? Is it going to spread? Will my entire garden perish? You end up not being sure how to get rid of it. The disease triangle is the most important concept to grasp when it comes to disease prevention. Disease can only occur when three factors come together: a sick plant (a host), a pathogen (such as a fungus, bacterium, or virus) that can attack the plant, and disease-promoting environmental conditions (such as humidity or drought).
The disease will not occur if any of these factors are missing, so prevention entails removing at least one side of the triangle. Consider the best defense against disease to be a good offense, rather than waiting for a problem to arise in your garden. Here are five ways to keep your plants healthy in your garden maintenance by eliminating at least one side of the disease triangle.
1. Examine plants carefully before buying
The simplest way to keep disease out of your garden is to prevent it from getting there in the first place. Getting a disease from a new plant isn’t something any of us wants as a bonus. Knowing what a healthy plant should look like is one of the most difficult things to learn, making it difficult to tell if the one you want is sick.
Collecting a few books, magazines, and catalogs that show what a healthy specimen looks like is a good idea. If a plant has dead spots, rotted stems, or insects, don’t take it home. These issues can quickly spread to your healthy plants and can be difficult to eradicate once established.
Always inspect the root quality in addition to the tops of the plants. In a garden center, one does not often see customers doing this, but it should be. Place the plant stem between your fingers and place your hand on the soil surface. Shake the plant loose by gently inverting the pot. To loosen the roots from the pot, you may need to tap the pot’s edge against a solid surface. Roots should be firm, white, and evenly spaced throughout the root-ball. Roots that are dark or mushy are not a good sign. Even if the tops appear to be healthy, a rotten root system will eventually kill a plant.
2. Use fully composted in Garden Maintenance waste
In a compost pile, not all materials decompose at the same rate. Some materials have degraded to the point where they can be used in the garden, while others have not. Composting produces high temperatures for long periods of time, effectively killing any pathogens in the material. Infected plant debris that hasn’t gone through this process will reintroduce disease unless you do some garden maintenance. If you’re not sure how your compost pile is doing, don’t use yard waste as mulch around sensitive plants, and don’t put potentially infected debris in your pile.
3. Keep an eye on your bugs
Plant damage from insects is far more than cosmetic. Viruses and bacteria can only enter a plant through an opening, which is often provided by bug damage. Some insects act as virus carriers, transporting viruses from one plant to the next. Aphids are a common carrier, and thrips spread the impatiens necrotic spot virus, which has become a serious problem for commercial growers in the last decade. Aster yellows (right photo) is a disease spread by leafhoppers that affects a wide range of plants. Insect attacks are another way to stress a plant, making it less likely to resist disease.
4. Clean up in Autumn
Even if you live in a mild climate, it is always best to clean out the garden in the autumn. This is not only an effective disease deterrent, but also a good way to control diseases that have already established themselves in your garden.
Diseases can overwinter on dead leaves and debris and attack newly emerging leaves in the spring. Iris leaf spot, daylily leaf streak, and rose black spot are just a few of the diseases that can be greatly reduced by removing the dead leaves each autumn. If you’re leaving stems and foliage up for winter interest, make sure to take them down before new growth begins in the spring.
It is always best to do garden maintenance in the autumn, even if you live in a moderate climate. This is not only an effective deterrent to disease but also a good way to control diseases already in your garden. Diseases can overwinter on dead leaves and debris and attack the new leaves as they emerge in spring. Iris leaf spot, daylily leaf streak, and black spot on roses are examples of diseases that can be dramatically reduced if the dead leaves are cleared away each autumn. If you are leaving stems and foliage to create winter interest, be sure to remove them before new growth starts in spring.
It is always best to clean out the garden in the autumn, even if you live in a moderate climate. This is not only an effective deterrent to disease but also a good way to control diseases already in your garden. Diseases can overwinter on dead leaves and debris and attack the new leaves as they emerge in spring. Iris leaf spot, daylily leaf streak, and black spot on roses are examples of diseases that can be dramatically reduced if the dead leaves are cleared away each fall. If you are leaving stems and foliage to create winter interest, be sure to remove them before new growth starts in spring.
5. Apply the correct fertiliser
When fertilizing plants, be cautious because too much fertilizer can burn the roots, reducing their ability to absorb water. As a result, the plants are more vulnerable to drought, cold, and heat stress. Plants that are deficient in nutrients are smaller and more susceptible to leaf spots, whereas a stronger plant can fend off disease. Another way to stress a plant is to give it too much of a certain nutrient.
You can get accurate information on nutrient levels in your soil by getting a soil test from your local extension agency. Without it, feeding your plants will almost certainly be a guessing game, resulting in too much of one nutrient or not enough of another.