Vegetable gardens provide a wonderful bounty of fresh vegetables for the table, but growing them takes time, patience, and care. A variety of vegetable garden diseases can give gardeners more work than they bargained for, but knowledge regarding the most commonly found diseases---what they look like and how to deal with them---gives those same gardeners the opportunity to deal with them in a timely manner.
Garden diseases may be caused by a variety of factors, including weather, insects, fungus, and bacteria. Excess moisture and poor drainage can be blamed for many diseases, as can viruses carried by insects, birds, and animals. Insects can carry viruses and bacteria from garden to garden. Poor drainage and overwatering causes root rot, and weeds and dead debris may harbor bacteria.
Gardeners around the world deal with garden diseases in several ways: through the use of organic disease control methods or through chemical sprays. Some gardeners utilize a combination of the two, depending on preference.
Prevention & Solution
Avoid planting vegetables too closely together to prevent stress to plants. Remove dead weeds and leaf or grass debris from the garden, and make sure the soil drains well and does not allow water to puddle for long periods of time. Remove any diseased plant from the garden immediately and dispose of it. Limit overhead watering, and try to water in the morning, before the high heat of the day.
Plants need nutrients to grow. Essential nutrients for a healthy garden include potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. Properly prepare the soil prior to planting by adding fertilizers or soil amendments that contain these nutrients. Avoid issues such as calcium deficiency that causes blossom end rot or stunted plants. Phosphorus will help prevent viral infections, and iron stimulates growth.
Many types of garden diseases may be identified by inspecting plants. Root rot produces weak, wilty-looking plants, while end-blossom disease is noted by large black spots or areas found on the bottom of young vegetables such as tomatoes. Leaf tips that stick together and stunted growth are signs of calcium deficiency, while yellowed leaves are a sign of iron or copper deficiencies.