Good garden sanitation prevents plant disease
Proper preparation and sanitation can ensure a disease-free, productive garden, according to Steve Vann, assistant professor-Extension urban plant pathologist for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
"Some of the more common diseases that we see each and every year are powdery mildew, black spot, and several anthracnose diseases on our woody ornamentals," Vann said. "Most disease organisms overwinter on dead plant debris around the garden and infect plants as the growing seasons begin.
"So many of these organisms are actually lying in wait for the right environmental conditions," he said. When spring rain comes and temperatures warm up into the 60s or 70s, "many of these organisms come out of hibernation."
Composting the fallen leaves and plant debris or sending it off to the garbage collector will reduce the chances of disease. If composted properly, the heat from the compost will kill the disease organisms. The sanitation should be done before spring to reduce the chances of the disease spreading to living plants. Dead plant material on woody shrubs and trees is also a potential source of disease. Annually pruning dead plant material and removing it from the area will eliminate sources for many disease organisms.
Another option is to choose disease resistant varieties of plants for the garden. Varieties such as "Brandywine" tomatoes and "Carolina" cucumbers are adapted to be resistant to many of the common garden diseases.
Crop rotation is also a good way to prevent plant disease. If different crops are planted in different areas annually, it is more likely that disease will be unable to find a host and die.
"Prevention and sanitation of disease before it becomes a problem is easier than eradicating it," Vann said.
For more information, contact your local County Extension or Conservation District Office. The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.