Organic Gardens – Plant Health Essentials

Removing pests from your organic garden may not eliminate all your problems because your plants are susceptible to a wide-range of common plant diseases. This can cause some headaches but there are many easy and effective solutions to plant diseases. Here we shall cover the main symptoms and some of the controls available to the organic gardener.

Now, the thing about plant diseases is that some of the symptoms look a lot like the signs of a pest control problem. For example, you might notice:

• Yellow or brown leaves.

• Wilted or curled leaves, some of which may fall off the plant.

• Spots (such as blight spots) on the leaves or other parts of the plant.

• Malformed leaves.

• Plants with stunted growth.

• Fruit or vegetable rot.

• Lack of flowers, blooms, vegetables or fruits.

• Discolored or stunted blooms, vegetables or fruits.

• Spores on the plant, especially on the leaves. These spores may be a variety of colors, although they’re commonly brown or black.

• Abnormal coloring (such as light and dark spots on the leaves or elsewhere on the plant).

• Splotches of white or gray mildew on the plant (AKA powdery mildew).

• Veining, which is where the plant looks abnormal right along the veins in the leaves.

Most of the above symptoms can indicate a variety of diseases or even pest damage. For example, a plant with brown leaves may have a problem at the root. Without digging up the plant, it’s hard to diagnose whether you have a problem with nematodes or with root rot. A dog or a cat scraping the young roots can cause the same symptoms.

Don’t panic! If for example you are growing a particular variety of potato and the leaves look to be in poor condition, check to crop because poor leafing does not always indicate a problem. If the crop is good does it really matter what the leaves look like so long as they are doing their job? A bit of experimentation and experience will help you diagnose any problems quickly and treat your plants. Here’s how:

• Research your plant species so that you know what a healthy plant looks like. You see, some gardeners assume they have a pest or disease problem when the leaves on a plant change color. That’s often true. But there are many plants, trees and shrubs whose healthy leaves naturally turn colors.

• Eliminate pests by appropriate means. If you eliminate pests and you still have a problem, you need to start checking which specific diseases most commonly affect the type of plants you’re growing.

TIP: Alternatively, you can treat a plant for disease first and then eliminate pests. Either way works. It’s this type of experimenting that will help you discover what’s causing your plant problems – and you’ll know better in the future why similar plants are unhealthy.

• Experiment. Don’t wildly treat your plants for every type of disease and pest at once. Instead, treat for one thing at a time, which will help you determine the true cause of your plant’s ill-health.

• Consider your environment. Whether you’re dealing with a certain type of pest or a certain type of diseases depends, in part, on where you live in the world. For example, you might be dealing with root rot if you live in a humid, moist place.

• Get your plants health tested. If you’re not having any luck discovering through experimentation what’s causing the problem, then you may consider getting your plants tested. If you live in the U.S., contact the agriculture extension office to inquire about testing.

So whatever disease your organically grown plants contract; there is an answer, sometimes a difficult answer but no-one said it was trouble-free.