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Plan now to control vegetable diseases all season long

Although the following story is for Kentucky growers, some of the tips on gardening practices can apply region-wide. Be sure to contact your county Extension office for your state’s recommendations on planting and disease control.

LEXINGTON, Ky., (April 10, 2012) – With many vegetables already in the ground or soon-to-be planted, home gardeners can incorporate a few simple practices into their management programs to minimize diseases this growing season, said Kenny Seebold, extension plant pathologist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

Growers should consult their seed supplier or catalog for the availability of disease-resistant varieties.

“Resistant varieties can reduce or sometimes completely prevent damage from certain diseases and can allow a gardener to use less fungicide as well,” Seebold said.

When planting vegetables, growers may want to rotate where specific vegetables are planted in the garden. Crop rotation can help slow the build-up of pathogens that might have overwintered in the soil. Ideally, gardeners should do three-year rotations with each vegetable, planting them and similar plants in a different location each year. While this may seem hard to accomplish with limited space, keeping records of where things were planted each year can help.

Vegetable gardeners can also help prevent diseases by creating an environment that is unfavorable for disease development. This includes making sure plants have proper spacing, choosing a site with well-drained soils, only watering when necessary and only wetting the soil, not the leaves.

“Wet foliage can favor disease development and spread,” he said.

Gardeners should also clean and sanitize their tools after each use as plant pathogens can easily spread from tools to other plants. Any diseased plants should be removed from the garden and destroyed.

While UK specialists encourage growers to use preventative measures for disease control, diseases do sometimes develop, and gardeners need to use fungicides to control the disease. Home gardeners do not have as many products available to them as commercial growers. Gardeners should make sure they correctly follow application instructions on the label and get good coverage. For best results, apply fungicides before diseases occur when conditions are favorable for disease development or at the latest, when disease first appears. The UK Cooperative Extension publication ID-128: “Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky” has information related to products home gardeners can use, diseases controlled and use-rates, as well as information on preventative practices. This publication is available online http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf or through county extension offices.

Contact: Kenny Seebold, 859-257-7445, ext. 80721

Writer: Katie Pratt, 859-257-8774

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