Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

The Easy Way to Beat Plant Diseases in Your Veggie Garden

By R. J. Ruppenthal

From the Community Blogs

It’s time to order your garden seeds for the upcoming season, if you have not already done so. When ordering seed, one of my major considerations is the disease resistance of particular varieties. At a recent book talk, one audience member was surprised when I admitted that I do not buy my seeds from the local nursery’s seed rack: why would I bother to mail-order them, he wondered, when the local nursery has seeds? Selection, selection, selection… I would prefer to choose from 20 varieties of cucumbers rather than one, 500 varieties of tomatoes rather than five, and so on. And it’s not just my taste buds, but disease resistance, that drives my purchasing decisions.

Here’s an illustration. Powdery mildew or downy mildew can be a problem for some gardeners. It can greatly reduce the productivity, if not essentially kill, certain veggie plants. Good soil management, aeration, and water control can help alleviate mildew in your garden, but may not eliminate it. The climate in my area offers plenty of moist, summertime fog (we call it liquid sunshine). Squash get hit the worst here, followed by other members of their curcurbit family, and sometime peas and even leafy vegetables will get the powdery white patches on their leaves.

You can try any and every legal means of alleviating this, but the easiest way to eliminate powdery mildew and similar plagues is to plant resistant varieties. The good news is that more and more resistant varieties are available every year. Take winter squash, for example. Cornell University and the University of New Hampshire have been leaders in developing mildew-resistant varieties, and more and more of these are appearing in seed catalogs and on seed companies’ websites. Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine has worked particularly hard to develop and promote mildew-resistant squash.

Whether it’s squash, or peas, or lettuce, or something else in your garden that is succumbing, try visiting some seed companies’ websites. I recommend Johnny’s, Territorial Seed Company, and Park Seed as three which have worked hard to add some mildew-resistant varieties. Johnny’s has lots of resistant squash, Territorial has a great selection of mildew-resistant peas (many via nearby Oregon State University), and Park Seed always offers seeds for plants that can handle the warmth and humidity of southern gardens. Each of these websites has a search box (as do most other seed companies’ sites), and you can just type in “mildew” or “fusarium” or whatever ails you, and then see what comes up.

These diseases can be a real plague and we are fortunate to have a way out. No, the resistant varieties are not likely to be heirlooms, but they are not GMO and often they are available as certified organic seed. Planting hybrid seed is not a crime against nature; it simply means you should not save your own seed for the next generation, because it may not grow plants with the same characteristics next year. Growing hybrids means you need to keep buying seed every year, but when you compare this few dollars with the cost of buying all the food that you should be growing, you’ll see that it makes sense. You don’t need to be an heirloom hero, though for veggies that you have no disease troubles with, saving your own seeds is wonderful and I recommend it.

I hope that some of you who have suffered from plant diseases finally can grow a decent vegetable garden and get yields that you have only dreamed of before. Happy growing!

We are Farmily: Everyday Life on Sole Food Street Farm

Food is the medium. The message is nourishment in its most elemental and spiritual form.That’s how author Michael Ableman sees the role of Sole Food Street Farm and the food it sells to markets, restaurants, and individuals.In the following excerpt from his new book, Street Farm: Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier, […] Read More

Who Produces More Eggs: Ducks or Chickens?

During our monthlong focus on homesteading in September, we received a number of great questions with several of them centered on … ducks and chickens.Here is one such question that came in via Facebook:“I have read that ducks produce more eggs over a longer lifetime of productivity than chickens, but recently talked with a farmer […] Read More

From Farm-to-Table to Farm-to-Everything

No longer restricted to the elite segments of society, the farm-to-table movement now reaches a wide spectrum of Americans from hospital and office cafeterias to elementary schools and fast-casual restaurants.Nearly a century ago, the idea of “local food” would have seemed perplexing, since virtually all food was local. Today, most of the food consumed in […] Read More

The Three Cs of Farm-to-School

Most people know about the three “R’s” – reading, writing, and arithmetic. But, have you heard about the three “C’s”?If you, or your kid, is at a school that takes part in the Farm-to-School movement, then you may already know about them.October is National Farm-to-School month, and in their book Farm to Table, authors Darryl […] Read More

Homesteading: Highlighting Our Need For Each Other

Homesteading isn’t meant to be a solitary adventure, or done in isolation.Building and living on the independent farmstead takes at least one partner, if not several. That’s the advice of authors Shawn and Beth Dougherty. In their book The Independent Farmstead, The Sow’s Ear model for regenerating the land and growing food covers everything from […] Read More
Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By