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Beginning gardener's tips: Surprising garden disease factors

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New to gardening? Doing everything right but plants are dying? There's more to curbing plant disease than diligent pest control, soil testing and proper watering. In fact, some garden illness factors might surprise you. If you have a garden that's failing despite your best efforts, one of these surprising factors may be to blame.

Wind does more than uproot plants.

We all know what high winds can do to vegetation. Did you also know that wind can intensify the effects of drought? It makes perfect sense. Still, many gardeners don't think about it. Wind can make a dry spell dryer. What's more, extra watering isn't always the answer. That's because high or hot, dry winds can cause plants to go into shock. Do you live in an area that's susceptible to drought? If so, be sure your garden includes wind breaks (such as fencing) to protect plants.

Drifting diseases are carried on the wind.

You bought your plants from a reputable greenhouse. You don't over-water or under-water. Your garden has proper drainage. Nevertheless, your prize tomatoes have suddenly fallen victim to a fungal disease. They were beautiful a few weeks ago. What happened? Unfortunately, some fungal spores travel by air from one garden to another. So, no matter how careful you are, your garden can sicken and die. Be sure to keep a close eye on plants for early signs of damage.

Do you see:

*Discolored, dried or spotted leaves

*Healthy plants going limp

*Fuzzy, white or moldy leaves or fruit

Head to your local home improvement store, greenhouse or garden center for environmentally sound disease control sprays. If you catch them soon enough, you may save your garden from airborne diseases.

Notes:

*Remove badly diseased plants to keep the issue from spreading.

*Don't forget to spray healthy plants as prevention.

Pollution can happen to you.

When gardeners speak of pollution, they're not usually referring to toxic waste and the like. Still, it helps to know the history of the ground you're planting in. What if the old owners of your home used the backyard as a vehicle repair spot or trash dumping ground? It may not be safe or productive to garden there. If this kind of thing happens to you, you might try your hand at container gardening, or choose a different location.

Do you see:

*Stunted growth

*Browning leaves

*Leaf loss

It could be one of these other pollution issues:

*High acidity or alkalinity

*Pesticide residues

*Salt toxicity

How to identify individual diseases:

Experienced gardeners have a wealth of knowledge and mistakes to draw on. If you're a beginning gardener, it's hard to pin down the root cause of failing plants. My best advice to you is to keep a log, noting changes in your plants. That way, you have a complete history of the disease's progression right in front of you for research purposes. So, when you hop on the web or ask a pro gardener for advice, you'll get a more accurate diagnoses.

This article was previously published on a now closed Yahoo property.

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