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Growing healthy vegetables

healthy vegetables: tomatoes and peppers.

Michelle Grabowski

Spots, rots, wilts and other plant problems often appear in the vegetable garden. Below are a few strategies to keep plant diseases at a tolerable level. Remember the goal is a good harvest of tasty vegetables. It is ok to tolerate low levels of plant disease.

Find information about growing healthy vegetables Extension's Yard and Garden website.

Start out right

Soil before planting. Keep soil moist but not soggy.
Planted soil. Wait until soil is warm enough to plant and provide good air movement around plants.


  • Look for disease resistant or tolerant varieties of disease problems you have seen in the past.
  • Purchase seed from a reputable source.
  • If saving your own seed, collect seed only from healthy plants.
  • If you suspect seed may be contaminated, soak in 1:4 bleach solution for 1 minute and rinse in running water for 5 minutes just before planting.
  • If starting seeds indoors, use new potting mix with new pots or pots cleaned with 10% bleach.
  • Keep soil moist but not soggy. Provide good air movement around plants.
  • If starting seeds in the garden, wait until the soil is warm enough to plant.

Pots, trellises, and tools

Remove all dirt and plant debris. Clean everything with 10% bleach solution before using in the garden.


  • Purchase healthy transplants from a local reputable grower.
  • Inspect all transplants prior to purchase. Reject any plant with dark, discolored or soft sunken spots on leaves, stems or roots.

Rotate crops

Plant in a location where no member of the same plant family has been grown for 2-4 years.

Cabbage family

Cabbage family

Tomato family

Tomato family

Squash family

Squash family

Bean family

Bean family

Onion family

Onion family

Managing disease throughout the season

Scout for problems

Diseases are easier to deal with if identified early. Once disease is severe, there is little that can be done.

Vine plants when possible
Use drip irrigation or water with a sprinkler
Cover the soil with mulch or plastic or organic mulch

Manage moisture

  • Fungi and bacteria thrive in humid conditions.
  • Use drip irrigation or water with a sprinkler early in the day so that the plant dries quickly in the sun.
  • Space plants for good air movement so plants dry quickly after rain or dew.
  • Stake vining plants like cucumber, bean, and tomato.
  • Mulch to completely cover the soil with plastic or organic mulch like straw or woodchips
  • Do not work in plants when leaves are wet. Fungi and bacteria easily spread under these conditions.

Manage weeds

  • Weeds crowd the crop and increase humidity on leaves and fruit.
  • Weeds steal nutrients and water from the plant, resulting in plant stress.
  • Many pathogens can survive on weeds and then move into the crop.
Diseased plant material can be composted

Remove diseased plant material

  • Completely remove plants infected with a virus or aster yellows.
  • Pinch off leaves infected with leaf spots and remove them from the garden. Never remove more than 1/3 of a plant's leaves.
  • Remove rotten fruit from the garden to prevent spread to developing fruit. Do not harvest rotten and ripe fruit together or rot may spread in the refrigerator.
  • At the end of the growing season completely remove diseased plants.
  • Diseased plant material can be composted if the compost pile gets hot (>148°F) and the plants completely break down.
  • If the garden is very large, bury plant debris to begin the decay process and rotate to a different plant family the following year.


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