With billions of people around the world forced to stay at home, many have taken to vegetable gardening to fill their days. People who couldn’t be trusted to keep a cactus alive just a few months ago have now learned how to start their own garden. Our social media feeds are filled with photos of plants and freshly harvested produce. However, most people still have a long way to go when it comes to gardening, and these knowledge gaps manifest every time something goes wrong with their gardens.
Planting a seed is one thing; keeping a plant alive is another. One of the things that confuse people is when plants get a disease. We wonder about where the disease came from and how it spreads. Do plant diseases spread the same way as human ones? Plant diseases are often caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi. For a plant to get sick, three criteria have to be met: environment, host, and pathogen. To keep your garden safe, you just need to secure two of the three criteria.
It’s clear that vegetable gardening isn’t an easy job. Even if you have a good lawn irrigation system to make life easier, you still need to learn the basics. Here are a few other tips to get you started.
Check the plant before purchase
Whether you’re buying a sapling or a grown plant from a nursery, it’s important to carefully inspect the plants before buying them. Just as a quarantine can keep a disease from spreading within a population, keeping diseased plants out keeps your garden safe and healthy. The last thing you need is to buy a ticking time bomb.
Of course, identifying a healthy plant from a sick one isn’t as simple as you think it is. Symptoms of disease differ from species to species, so you need to take some time and read up on basic plant pathology. If you’re looking to buy a particular species, look for photos of diseased specimens so you can have something to compare to. If you’re still unsure whether a plant is safe or not, just avoid the big three: insects, rot, and spots.
Learn how to compost
Starting a compost pile is an essential skill in gardening. But you also need to learn how a compost pile works and when to use it. For starters, not all materials degrade at the same rate. Some items decompose faster than others, so you need to make sure that everything has been fully composted before using it.
The best way to check if a compost pile is nearing harvest is the presence of heat. After a while, the heat should kill any pathogen in the material. Premature harvesting could reintroduce diseases into your garden. If you’re still not sure about your compost pile, limit its use to common plants, and use specialized mulch for your rare plants.
Ward off insects
Insects have been known to eat leaves, stems, flowers, and other parts of the plant. But their damage isn’t just limited to appearances. Some insects are known to spread plant diseases. Viruses and other pathogens can also infect the plant through its wounds. For instance, one of the most destructive insects is aphids. If you see aphids and other plants in your garden, deploy the insecticides as soon as possible.
Keep the garden clean
Just as a dirty home can attract harmful pests, a dirty garden can also attract insects that spread pathogens. You need to keep your garden clean to avoid diseases from spreading. For instance, dead leaves can attract insects and other pests. If you remove any food sources save for the one in the ground, you prevent disease vectors from entering your garden.
Learn how to apply fertilizer
Using fertilizer can speed up the growing process and lead to a more bountiful yield, but too much of it can kill your garden as well. Applying too much fertilizer can destroy the plant’s root system, which affects its ability to absorb water from the soil. Without water, the plant is weakened, making it more susceptible to diseases and weather stresses. It’s not unlike a person with a weak immune system: it cannot defend itself and gets weaker and weaker until it dies.
The bottom line
These tips will help you start a better and stronger garden. Always keep an eye on your garden to keep it healthy. Gardening is a relaxing hobby, but you also need to prepare accordingly if you want to get it right.