Have you been getting a lot of rain and had a cool June? This this may be time to start some preventative treatments in your garden to reduce diseases. Cucumbers, summer squash, tomatoes, and potatoes are most susceptible and here are a few things every gardener can do to keep their plants healthy...
Perhaps the most important disease preventative for all garden plants is to keep them healthy and vigorous with organic fertilizers (granular or liquid fish/kelp fertilizer) and a good side dressing of mature compost. The excessive rains in some areas has washed away nutrients so be sure you are feeding the soil so it can feed your plants. Also, if you need to water your plants, avoid using a sprinkler or spraying of the leaves in the late afternoon or evening when leaves can stay wet all night.
Many plant diseases are caused by fungi that thrive in cool, wet conditions, especially when plants start setting fruit or growing tubers. Air flow and sunshine are two important ways to limit diseases infections. In tomatoes proper pruning and upright support is essential. Restrict growth to one or two main stems by regularly pinching off the "suckers" that form along the stems. (Here's a quick video) This keeps the plants stronger and opens them up to air and sunshine. Of course, keeping up with the jungle of weeds around our vegetable and flower plants is also very helpful in reducing shady, humid conditions for diseases.
Don't wait until the fungal disease become established in your garden. Now is the time to begin applying preventatives so fungal spores don't get started on your squash and cucumbers. Application of the beneficial bacteria in Serenade alternated weekly with a spray of Safer Garden Fungicide (sulfur) or copper is effective in reducing mildews and blights.
Finally, remember to scout for those disease carrying striped cucumber beetles on cukes and squash plants. (See our previous blog entry for details) Hand pick them a couple times every day or control them with Safer BioNEEM. Neem spray also directly reduces some plant diseases.
It's a great time to be in the garden and enjoy the healthy plants. Do you have any special tips to help other gardeners?