How to Prevent Rain and Disease Damage to Your Plants
The beginning of the South Florida planting season brings lots of heat, rain, and humidity, the perfect combination for bacterial diseases to thrive and kill your crops. In this guide, you will learn some basic tips that’ll help you take precautionary measures to protect your plants and set your garden up for success.
Prevent Rain Damage to Plants
Make sure all seedling trays are under an overhang (so they don't get destroyed by the rain)
It’s important for your young seedlings to get at least 45% direct sunlight to prevent plant stretching. However, it’s best to tuck seedlings in containers or trays under an overhang if it’s raining. This will prevent our heavy South Florida rains from exploding seeding mix everywhere while also preventing serious plant damage for the impact.
- Before bed, Bring them under an overhang so no secret rain storms blast them apart
- We don’t recommend those clear plastic covers. They increase the heat and humidity which can be bad for your young plants
Raised beds reduce problems from flooding
Plant roots need to breathe oxygen just like you and I do. Your plants can literally drown when the soil is flooded. Building raised beds in flood zones makes sure there is plenty of oxygen by keeping your soil high and dry
Watch for damage to seedlings in the garden and be ready to re-plant.
Sometimes it’s tough, but your best move is immediately remove any damaged plants. Be diligent. Every day or week you wait to replace a plant means that many more days until you get a good harvest. Plus, damaged plants increase pest and disease pressure.
Plants & seedlings that are most susceptible to rain damange
While all plants are susceptible to damage from heavy rains, these three “crop families” are much more likely to get fungal and bacterial diseases. If you are successful growing these, it’s safe to say you’re a solid gardener!
Prevent Spread of Plant Diseases
Don't touch your plants when they are wet
Plant pathogens transfer easier through moisture. So, if you touch a plant that has a disease, you are more likely to spread it while it’s wet.
Prevent soil from splashing onto your plants by mulching under them
Specific bacteria and fungi that live in the soil can be detrimental to your garden plants. As the soil splashes on your plants, imagine a trampoline of disease bouncing up to your plant.
Mulch prevents the rain from slamming the soil and splashing it back on your leaves (in addition to cooling your soil, conserving moisture, providing habitat for good soil microbes, and building organic matter).
Wash hands & sterilize tools after using them
Remember, plant diseases can spread just like human diseases. Tools can store pathogens that will spread to and from plants every time you use them.
We aren’t saying wash your hands between every plant, but definitely try to keep in mind that you can spread plant pathogens especially after touching infected plants.
Create airflow around your plants to help them dry quicker
It’s not heat that is a major problem to South Florida, it’s the humidity. Have you ever had wet shoes that you had to wear all day? We bet that resulted in stinky, wrinkled up feet.
Moist environments encourage bacterias and fungi to thrive, so make sure to always find ways to increase airflow, like proper spacing, pruning, and using a trellis.
Look for any yellow, brown or wet spots forming on leaves
Lower yellow leaves, yellow leaf edges, white-veined leaves are often signs of nutrient deficiency.
Circular spots, angular spots, strange puzzle-like formations that are yellow, brown, or even reddish are more than likely an infection going on.
Immediately remove and destroy contaminated debris by composting or burying them.
Four Organic Products We Recommend to Prevent the Spread of Disease
We highly recommend the products below, all of which we have been using in South Florida as organic farmers over the years. Remember, preventative is always more effective than curing a problem.
This product is made from a bacteria often found in soils, grasses, and human guts known as Bacillus subtilis. It’s a natural antibacterial and antifungal properties disrupt the cell membrane of fungus cells, interfere with the attachment of the plant, and removes the food sources to pathogens.
This is made of Potassium Bicarbonate. You may have heard of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) as a solution for preventing or treating plant pathogens. That can work, but you risk applying too much sodium to your garden. Sodium (salt) is notorious for destroying agricultural lands. The use of potassium bicarbonate is a much safer alternative for organic gardeners.
Don’t use dish soaps. Those are perfect for stripping grease off of your dinner dish; however, they also can strip natural waxes off of plants.
Instead, use horticultural oils/soaps like Jadaam Wetting Agent (JWA).
These work by suffocating pathogens and preventing them from attaching by coating the leave
Neem oil is derived from the neem tree. It has many properties that benefit the garden including preventing the spores of fungal pathogens from germination or penetrating your plant leaves. Whatever you do, don’t spray this on plants during the day time. It’s like rubbing coconut oil on pale skin and laying on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Your plant is bound to get burned by magnifying the sun rays.