Do you have problems with fire blight, black spot, powdery mildew, Fusarium wilt, early blight, and late blight? If this is the case, plant disease resistant varieties this year! Sure old time favorites are what you are used to but try something different with them this year. Mail order catalogues promise a bountiful harvest of fruits and vegetables without much work, but we all know that isn’t how it works. However, there is one thing that we can do easily that will save us a lot of hassle this summer, variety selection.
If you look in seed catalogues you will notice abbreviations next to or below the description of the plants you are looking for such as F, V, and N. These abbreviations are more apparent next to tomato varieties than anything else. These letters mean that particular variety is resistant to Fusarium wilt, Verticillium wilt, and Nematodes. Most catalogues will have a chart included to help explain the abbreviations. This doesn’t mean your plants won’t get any diseases just that they take longer to contract them, will live longer when infected, and can continue to grow and prosper longer than more susceptible varieties.
Many times plants that are resistant to fungal diseases will out grow the effects of the disease when weather conditions change and isn’t ideal for fungal development. This is very apparent with powdery mildew on pumpkin and cantaloupe as well as early and late blight, and septoria leaf spot on disease resistant tomatoes.
Disease resistant varieties along with good garden sanitation will reduce the amount and severity of disease problems you have as well as reduce the amount of fungicides you will have to spray in your garden; this will save you time and money! Planting disease resistant varieties is a safe, effective, biological way to help control diseases before they cause you problems.
Hybrid varieties are not genetically modified or chemically or biologically altered. Hybrids come about naturally when a cross is made between two particular open pollinated varieties. These offspring are tested for disease resistance etc. and are put through rigorous testing before they enter the market. Now, you can’t save seeds from these hybrids and be assured you will get the same thing back the next year but that same thing can be said when you save seeds from anything. Heirloom tomatoes are pretty stable when you save seeds out of them but I can tell you first hand sometimes you might save seeds out of a Kentucky Beefsteak and you might get ten nice orange beefsteak plants like the parent, but eventually one is going to be mixed with something else and you may get an orange tomato with red streaks. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, sometimes you might get a new tomato you like!
If you don’t like spraying chemicals in your garden planting disease resistant or sometimes insect resistant cultivars is the easiest way to start the process of low or no spraying.
Mail order catalogues print disease resistance information beside every cultivar that may have some level of resistance. There are disease resistant cultivars in all fruit, vegetable, and flower varieties. To find the best for your garden try a few new varieties every year until you find the one that is best for your particular area. Remember, what is best for your neighbor may not necessarily be best for your garden. Every garden has a microclimate that may enhance or inhibit disease growth. You don’t have to switch varieties completely, just try a few plants or so of a new variety until you find one that’s best for you. You could also call the extension office and I can give you a copy or list of varieties that have been tested throughout Kentucky by the University and are recommended for our area. Happy Gardening!
Submitted by Dennis Morgeson, Agent for Horticulture, Washington County Cooperative Extension Service