Dis­ease-beat­ing sum­mer ve­g­ies

Sum­mer ve­g­ies don’t have to fall vic­tim to dis­ease, as there are plenty of tough va­ri­eties out there that can fight back, says JEN­NIFER STACK­HOUSE

Gardening Australia - - CONTENTS -

Sum­mer crops are go­ing into the gar­den right now as ro­bust young seedlings, but some will suc­cumb to dis­ease as the heat and hu­mid­ity of the Aus­tralian sum­mer kicks in. The usual sus­pects among ve­g­ies are pow­dery mildew, downy mildew, wilt and var­i­ous forms of blight. But you don’t need to throw in the trowel. Good breed­ing and good gar­den­ing will get you and your veg­eta­bles through the grow­ing sea­son.

With very few fungi­cides avail­able to treat gar­den ail­ments, es­pe­cially dis­eases of ed­i­ble plants, veg­etable grow­ers are turn­ing to good breed­ing to save the day and their crops, so look for va­ri­eties this sea­son that prom­ise dis­ease re­sis­tance. These have been se­lected from breed­ing pro­grams around the world, as they have shown that they can tol­er­ate ex­po­sure to dis­ease-in­duc­ing con­di­tions for longer than other plants. So, while they may not es­cape al­to­gether, these va­ri­eties will last long enough to pro­duce a good crop.

Se­lect­ing dis­ease-re­sis­tant va­ri­eties is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant where dis­ease has been a prob­lem in pre­vi­ous years. As well as choos­ing the best va­ri­ety, also prac­tise crop ro­ta­tion (see page 48) and good gar­den hy­giene to keep dis­ease at bay.

Some veg­eta­bles are less trou­bled by dis­ease. Those that are gen­er­ally dis­ease free and grow over the warmer months in­clude corn, cel­ery, pump­kin and sweet potato. When choos­ing ve­g­ies that grow in the cooler months, se­lect peas, kale, gar­lic, spinach or broad beans, as these crops are also usu­ally dis­ease free.


Most dis­eases spread by spores that are dis­persed by wind onto fo­liage and fruit, or they can come from the soil. A quick way to limit the spread of dis­ease is to re­move af­fected leaves, stems or fruit early. Place them in a bag and put the bag in the rub­bish bin (not the com­post). It’s good to do this as part of your daily gar­den in­spec­tion. Also, re­duce over­head wa­ter­ing (wa­ter the base of your plants, not their fo­liage), add a layer of mulch to re­duce splash from the soil, re­move the lower fo­liage from plants such as toma­toes, reg­u­larly weed the gar­den, and make sure plants are well spaced so there’s good air cir­cu­la­tion.

In­sects also spread dis­ease as they move from an in­fected plant to a healthy one. Aphids and other sap-suck­ing in­sects are of­ten guilty of spread­ing vi­ral dis­eases among plants. So keep plants free of pests to re­duce the spread of dis­ease. Ways to do this in­clude squash­ing aphids, hos­ing them off new growth or us­ing an or­ganic pes­ti­cide (fol­low the la­bel in­struc­tions to min­imise harm to ben­e­fi­cial in­sects).

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