Prevention is the best approach to managing plant diseases in the home garden. Choosing disease-resistant plant varieties and providing nutrient-rich soil are important steps to ensuring plant health, but sometimes diseases occur despite the best efforts at prevention. Here are some of the more common diseases and how to treat them:
• Anthracnose is a fungus that attacks tomatoes, beans, vine crops, and peppers. Look for small, discolored leaf spots or dead twigs. To treat, prune off the affected parts or apply a fungicide that contains copper.
• Damping off occurs most frequently in young plants, rotting off the stems near the soil. To prevent damping off, plant in pasteurized soil, and make sure to avoid over-watering.
• Downy and powdery mildews are two types of fungi that produce similar symptoms of white, powdery coating on leaves. These fungi disfigure the plants, but may not kill them if you catch the problem early. Use potassium bicarbonate, horticultural oil, or neem oil to treat affected plants.
• Rust fungus is most prevalent in humid and damp conditions and forms yellow or orange bumps on the underside of leaves. Provide good air circulation, remove and destroy infected foliage, and keep your tools clean to keep rust fungus at bay.
• Verticillium wilt is a fungus that affects tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, raspberries, strawberries, roses, olives, and cherries. Look for wilting and yellow leaves that may curl up before falling off. The best defense against verticillium wilt is to choose disease-resistant varieties of plants and to practice crop rotation in your garden.
The more experience you gain as a gardener, the easier it will be to identify and treat diseased plants in your garden, but remember if you run into any problems, you can always stop by your local Tractor Supply store for a little friendly advice.