This year I have more beans in my garden than ever. Along with the opportunity for more beans, more diversity, and a greater chance for success — comes more of a possibility for common diseases that attack beans.
That’s one of the reasons that I usually test grow a small amount of a vegetable before I grow a lot of it. That way — should problems arise — I can deal with it on small scale to see if I even want to deal with it on a larger scale.
Until last week all the beans looked green and lush and free from any potential problem. The plantings that are heavy with beans (I succession plant beans numerous times) are starting to show signs of what I think are two common bacterial diseases.
The good side of that is: my beans were in the peak of health while they were developing beans and therefore, this small decline in their health should not effect the amount of harvest by more than a bean or two.
Causes and catalysts of disease over which we have no control:
Many blights are favored by high temperature and humidity. Others are favored by cool temperatures and heavy rain.
Some diseases appear rapidly when temperatures range from 60 to 80. Other forms appear when temperatures and humidity are high.
There’s not much we can do about weather conditions. But we still have a big advantage over conventional gardeners because we’ve worked with nature and many things are already in place to help control the outbreak of these diseases.
Working with nature :
If you’ve checked out bean diseases you know there are lots of them. But if you’re an organic gardener who has been working with nature a few years, have applied her principles, and have consistently improved your soil through the addition of organic material —- you’ve also discovered that you don’t have and never will have the vast majority of those diseases.
Things that increase the chances of disease are corrected automatically when working with nature.
- Because of your efforts to improve your soil you have beds that don’t remain sopping wet but drain well. Not only does it drain well, but roots of the plants to go deep because the soil is not compacted — giving plants a much better chance at health.
- And because you know to rotate your crops rather than plant the same things in the same place all the time — it’s less likely that these specialized bacterias (or fungi) will remain alive in the soil long enough to attack your next planting of beans.
- Your mulched pathways and beds have prevented splashing soil and disease spores up onto the plants.
- You’ve already planned for good air-circulation and proper sunlight — two of natures biggest hindrances to disease.
- Due to the constant addition of organic material you have a large thriving diversity of soil life to help your crops fight disease.
More things to help prevent disease:
Prevention is the best control of ANY disease. Here are other things that we can do to help prevent disease from destroying our harvest of beans.
- Get ’em up and growing quickly –If bean seed stays in the ground too long — especially in cold weather — there is a better chance to court disease. Plant seeds about one inch deep once soil temperatures are above 65 degrees F – so the beans can get out of the soil quickly.
- Many pathogens of bean diseases survive best in diseased residue left on the soil surface. (Anything left on top of the soil decomposes more slowly than material incorporated into the soil.) Either remove and trash the residue of diseased beans OR thoroughly bury the residue in the soil to promote their quick decay. Once the residue decays the bacteria are unable to survive.
- Some bacteria (like brown spot) can survive on the bean seed. This is good reason to buy only certified seed. I would recommend being very careful if you’re trading seed with someone. If they’re having a problem with any bean disease — it could be that you end up with it.
- Also, be aware of the beans you save! For example:
I’m testing two kinds of beans to use as dried beans for winter: Taylor Dwarf Horticultural Shell Bean and Agate Pinto Bean. I’m having more disease problem with one than the other (can’t find my marker – so can’t tell you which one). If I have as much or more problem with these beans when planting from my seed next year —- I’ll never plant them again.
Some varieties are more susceptible to bacterial or fungal diseases than others. When you can choose varieties with tolerance and resistance to diseases in your area do so. If you grow a variety and have a lot of trouble with it — it might be time to look for another variety.
Two More Precautions
- Diseases can be spread very easily when the garden is wet. Stay out of it if you can — or at least away from vegetables like beans and tomatoes that are prone to these bacterial and fungal diseases.
- Keep your tools and equipment clean because they can spread the pathogens also. Wipe them down with a 10% solution of bleach and water.
Just For Your Information
Some folks use copper sprays that are OMRI approved for use in organic gardens for the fungal diseases. Copper is dangerous and I don’t use it, because I’m not interested in exchanging one dangerous chemical for another even if it is approved for organic gardens.
Safer Brand has a Garden Fungicide with sulfur. I’ve never used it. Mainly because it’s just something else to buy and something else to do. But I would consider using it in some cases.
My take on pinpointing the exact name for a disease:
In my early years of gardening I wasted lots of time trying to pinpoint the exact name for this or that spot on a leaf. I think most gardeners in this day and age feel the urge to do that. But I refuse to allow myself to give into that. I take an approach to disease that I feel is a much more constructive approach and better use of time.
When you consider the information I’ve outlined above and realize that a relatively small number of conditions set the parameter for the causes (and spread) of all of the many diseases possible, you might agree that your time will be best used in working towards preventing the diseases next year — rather than worrying about the exact name of this year’s problem.
Organic Gardening is easy, effective and efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.
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