Organic Plant Health Care

Learn how to add some compost and compost tea to organic plants instead of fertilizer.

Adding Compost

compost is important part of organic garden

Compost is an important part of an organic garden.

Once all the seeds are up, it's time to add a thick layer of compost to the top of the garden bed. This prevents weeds, but it does something even more important:

Compost Ingredients

garden tea created by mixing compost and water

Compost on the surface of the garden will drip nutrients into the soil just like a drip coffeemaker perks into a pot.

Each time it rains, more nutrients will be carried into the upper root zone.

Garden tea, or compost tea, is liquid fertilizer that's created by mixing compost and water. You can also add blood meal, bone meal and manure to the mix. Let it dissolve for a week before you use it. Just pour a little over each plant. Do this once a week, and it replaces the use of liquid fertilizer.

Plant Diseases

fungicides and bactericides for organic gardens

It's a good idea to start looking for plant diseases early, before they get out of hand.

There are four types of diseases that effect plants: fungus, bacteria, viruses and nematodes. All of these are treatable with synthetics, but the organic gardener has to try to prevent them.

There are only a few fungicides and bactericides available to organic gardeners, and these are often more damaging than helpful. Some common types are Bordeaux mix, copper sprays, lime-sulfur, streptomycin and sulfur. Be sure to read the instructions carefully before using any type of chemical treatment, organic or synthetic. The best way to fight fungus is through prevention and cleanliness in the garden.

Viruses, especially potato mosaic virus, can run very quickly through a garden, especially one that's full of plants. If you see an infected plant, pull it out immediately. If you wait to see what happens, it can spread to other plants. Infected plants have distorted and discolored leaves and seem to be stunted.

Nematodes

marigolds are rumored to repel nematodes

Below the ground there's a silent attacker called a nematode.

It's often listed in the disease section, but a small worm causes it. Diseases enter through the holes made by the nematodes, harming or killing the plants. Planting marigolds is rumored to repel nematodes and keep them away from your valuable vegetables.

Keep Yourself Clean

bleach mixture on shoes kills soilborne diseases

One way you can protect your plants from disease is to make sure you're not the carrier.

Fungus, bacteria and viruses can travel on your shoes and hands into the garden. A bleach spray for your shoes is a way to prevent soilborne problems. Mix one part bleach to nine parts water in a plastic spray bottle and label it with a permanent marker. Each time you enter the garden, spray a little of the bleach mixture on your shoes to kill any diseases that may be on them. Just be sure you have on your garden clogs or old tennis shoes when you use the spray -- otherwise you'll bleach your shoes.

Be Antibacterial

use antibacterial wipes on tools

Another way to prevent the spread of diseases is to use antibacterial wipes on your tools and antibacterial lotion on your hands.

This won't kill all harmful diseases, but it'll keep down the spread of germs, especially if you've had sick plants in your garden. Using these products after you've touched a potentially diseased plant is a quick and easy way to protect yourself and your plants.

Water is one of the biggest carriers of disease, so don't touch a wet plant. If you do touch one, dry and clean your hands before you move to the next one. Standing water on leaves creates a welcome home for mildew and rot. When you water, always do it early in the morning so the leaves can dry, or use a soaker hose so water stays off the leaves.
Make sure your harvest techniques follow the same rule: When picking vegetables, always put them in a clean basket or bucket. Make sure your hands are clean, and wash your harvest under clear, cold water. Pick vegetables just before you eat them for the best flavor.

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