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Preventing Disease Part 1: At least as much as possible!

Preventing disease is much easier than treatment.

Powdery mildew on tomatoes - St. Clare Heirloom Seeds
Three leaves infected with with powdery mildew showing different signs and symptoms. – St. Clare Heirloom Seeds

Preventing disease in your heirloom vegetable garden is much easier than treatment. Isn’t this the truth in so many things? The old adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings true in the garden, too. Treating a problem with plant disease is much harder than taking some precautionary steps ahead of time. And, if you wait until it’s too late, you may lose the battle and all your hard work will be lost.

Follow good sanitation practices to keep plant diseases to a minimum.

Preventing disease includes good sanitation. Picking up plant debris, trimming away dying or unhealthy stems and branches, and keeping weeds to a minimum. Foliage or stems left over from diseased plants can result in having to deal with those same diseases or pests next year. Clean tools are another important step in a preventing disease in the heirloom garden. If you cut or trim diseased/dead foliage make sure to clean your tools, to prevent spread to other plants.

Fertilize just enough to keep plants healthy, and no more than that. Healthy plants resist disease better than weak ones.

Bacterial Canker on a heirloom tomato leaf. - St. Clare Heirloom Seeds
Preventing disease in your heirloom vegetable garden is much easier than treatment. – St. Clare Heirloom Seeds

Over-fertilizing can lead to problems; this causes plants to put out large amounts of weak foliage, fresh growth that is attractive to pests and diseases (it also causes lots of foliage with no fruit, not a happy result). An even sparing amount of organic fertilizer (or regular applications of compost or composted manure) will help your plants stay healthy. Healthy plants are much better able to fend off diseases.

If you buy plants at the nursery don’t buy any with evidence of disease.

Look out for fungus on soil or heirloom plants, evidence of insects, and steer clear of yellowing or wilted leaves. Healthy plants are much better bet at being a healthy addition to your garden, avoiding unnecessary introduction of diseases from elsewhere, causing you more work from the get-go.

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