Soil-Borne Plant Diseases
In all disease cases mentioned, the cause was found to be an imbalance of nutrition. It may have been too much nitrogen with too little phosphorus to balance it, or too little of all elements needed to produce a strong, healthy, disease-resistant plant, or a deficiency of some minor element. In some cases, it made little difference whether missing elements were supplied from chemical or organic sources. In others, existence of starches and sugars in organic matter provided food for fungi that caused a particular disease.

Again, an organic fertilizer might show better response because it is more complete, or contains an element missing from chemical plant foods. When no specific organism can be found that causes disease, full nutrition may be the remedy.

Gardener's Loam, with its complete supply of every element needed by plants, is the answer to many plant diseases.

Many garden experts talk about fall cleanup in much the same way that a dentist tells you to brush your teeth three times a day. He knows you won't take time to do so, but he's done his duty.

This cleanup recommendation has been echoed and re-echoed until it has lost most of its effect. In the past I have neglected fall cleanup, and four years out of five it made little difference in the amount of disease in my garden. In the fifth year, however, I was usually punished for my negligence, doubled and redoubled. The fact is that except for surface diseases which are carried by insects, such as aster yellows and virus diseases of some plants (carried by aphids and leaf hoppers from sources of infection outside your prop­erty), sanitation can prevent disease. The fall cleanup must not, however, be a perfunctory ritual. It calls for cutting off every standing plant about a quarter of an inch below the surface, removing a spoonful of soil as well as the stems. This is tossed in a waiting wheelbarrow.

Fall is a good time to start new compost piles (see Chapter Eight), "seeding" each new pile with bacteria-rich leftover material from an old pile. This old compost forms the foundation on which fresh garden debris is laid to form the first layer of the pile, unless the autumn leaf crop has already been added. Be sure that any plant wastes that might contain disease spores or insect eggs are buried deeply in the pile: they should not be closer than 12 inches to any exposed surface, for they must be subjected to the heat of fermenta­tion. Add a good mixed fertilizer as well as some extra sugar or starch if possible (a good place to dispose of spoiled jellies, jams, wormy flour, and so on).