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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Plant Doctor's Advice: Think Prevention

LAS CRUCES -- The adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is true for diseases in plants as well as people, said a New Mexico State University plant pathologist.


By carefully choosing landscape and bedding plants, homeowners can avoid many disease problems later in the season, said Natalie Goldberg with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service.

Look for varieties that are adapted to the climate and soils in your area, she advised. If a particular plant disease has been a problem in the past, check seed catalogs or backs of plant labels to see if a resistant variety is available.

"It's also important to select plants that are suited for the spot where you want them to grow," Goldberg said. "For example, choose landscape plants that require full sun if the location receives lots of sun during the day. If you have a shaded area, choose plants that are shade tolerant."

Proper soil preparation and planting will help container-grown shrubs or flowers from the nursery thrive, Goldberg said.

"Prepare the soil by digging a hole that's about two to three times wider than the pot the plant is growing in and about the same depth," she said. "Amend the soil with some compost or soil amendments that will lighten the soil, allow for good drainage and provide some nutrients for good establishment."

Position each plant at about the same depth as it was in the pot. "You don't want to bury it too deep or raise it too high out of the soil," Goldberg said.

To keep plants disease-free, water and fertilize for strong growth. "Plants that are neglected are prone to serious disease problems and may ultimately have to be removed and replaced."

Goldberg recommends a regular cleaning regimen that includes removing weak or diseased vegetation, raking up fallen leaves and sanitizing gardening tools.

"Diseased branches and leaves should be removed and destroyed to prevent problems from spreading to other plants," she said. "Many diseases are spread by contaminated pruning shears, so make sure to clean tools between cuts."

To disinfect garden tools, dip them in a 10 percent bleach solution or in rubbing alcohol.