[defeating Plant [diseases the Organic AJdy

Whether it's rust on your roses or powdery mildew on your pumpkins, the ugly symptoms and disappointing crops caused by plant diseases have no doubt resulted in suffering for you (or rather, your plants) All kinds of plants, from mighty oaks to dainty annual flowers, are susceptible to the bacteria, fungi, and viruses that cause plant diseases. But that doesn't mean that you're doomed to diseased plants. You have lots of solutions, from disease-prevention planting plans to homemade remedies that can help you keep your vegetables, flowers, lawn, trees, and shrubs healthy.

Prevention is the best defense. It's easier to keep your plants disease-tree than to try to cure them once they're infected. The best way to ensure your plants' health is to provide a healthy, fast-draining soil and appropriate growing conditions. Organic matter is the key to soil health and good drainage, so make sure that your soil has plenty. (See "Soil improvement and Soil Mix Formulas,'' beginning on page 56, for recipes for building healthy soil.)

The right plants can make disease prevention much easier, Choose disease resistant varieties whenever possible and match plants to the conditions in your garden.

Adopt a disease prevention routine. When you walk through your garden, always be on the lookout for discolored leaves or other symptoms that just don't look right. If you see diseased leaves, pluck them off of your plants to prevent the disease from spreading. If necessary, remove a sickly plant before it infects its neighbors.

If you're growing fniits and vegetables, be sure to clear out plant debris after your harvest so that you don't give diseases a place to camp out, waiting for spring to strike again. (Don't work in the garden when plants are wet because water is a great disease conductor.) Compost any healthy material you remove from your plants, but be sure to throw any diseased leaves or stems into the garbage.

Doctor plants with care. In some cases, you can use sprays, powders, and other treatments to discourage disease or prevent it from spreading. When treating plants with a spray or powder, keep these simple niles in mind:

• Test your treatments. Try both homemade and store-bought cures on one leaf first to test your plant's sensitivity. It's like trying out a stain removal product on a small area before going whole hog. Wait a day to see if any problems turn up before you treat the entire plant.

Proceed with caution: Before treating a whole plant, apply a disease-fighting spray or powder to just one leaf to gauge a plant's sensitivity. If you see signs of damage after a day, dilute the spray and test again or find an alternative method.

Organic Gardeners Composting

Organic Gardeners Composting

Have you always wanted to grow your own vegetables but didn't know what to do? Here are the best tips on how to become a true and envied organic gardner.

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