7 basics of a sanitary and disease-free garden

Knowing how to maintain your vegetable and flower garden is a great step toward healthy soil and lush plants. Disease will strike plants from time to time, but you can better your odds with preventive measures.

7 basics of a sanitary and disease-free garden

1. Choose disease resistant plants

  • Plant catalogues often describe the disease resistance of their offerings, since most gardeners place a high priority on this valuable characteristic.

2. Avoid damping-off disease

  • You can avoid damping-off disease by using sterilized potting media or seed-starting mix when you start seeds indoors.

Damping off is caused by several strains of fungi that thrive in damp garden soil.

3. Keep leaves dry

  • Prune overgrown trees and shrubs to encourage better air circulation around and through plants.
  • Plant annuals and perennials far enough apart and far enough from hedges and buildings to allow good air circulation.

Most leafspot diseases and mildews are caused by fungi, which spread when leaves remain damp. Water your plants early in the day so the foliage dries completely before the dampness of evening returns.

4. Rotate each crop's location

  • Rotate each crop's location in the vegetable garden each year to stay one step ahead of any soil-borne diseases, which usually require the presence of specific plants.

Most of these diseases are caused by fungi that invade plant roots.

5. Rake up and dispose of fallen leaves

Rake up and dispose of all fallen leaves and fruit infected with fungi from around plants to reduce disease problems in the future.

6. Make a sanitation solution

Good sanitation keeps plant diseases from spreading.

  • A solution of 30 millilitres (two tablespoons) of bleach and one litre (one quart) of water will disinfect several kinds of garden equipment, especially flowerpots and shears.
  • Before reusing pots, wash them in the bleach solution, removing caked debris with a scrub brush or nail brush.
  • Let the pots soak for an hour or more, then rinse and dry.
  • You can sanitize garden pails in the same way.

7. Disinfect your pruning shears

Your shears can easily spread viral and fungal diseases as you move from branch to branch and plant to plant.

  • When removing branches that show obvious signs of disease — or have suddenly wilted for no apparent reason — dip the shears' blades into a bucket of undiluted bleach after each cut.
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