Are you dealing with an outbreak of rust fungus in your vegetable garden or flowerbeds? The common but aggressive pathogen can do serious harm to your flowers, shrubs, and vegetables if you don’t get it under control.
Typically, rust fungus occurs in large crops where poor maintenance lets it spread fast. However, it’s also a concern for small backyard gardens.
If you don’t get the outbreak under control, it results in the pathogen killing young plants and seedlings while stunting the growth of mature flowers, shrubs, and vegetables.
One of the biggest issues with rust is its resilience once it establishes itself in your yard. It becomes challenging to remove it entirely.Many gardeners don’t realize that rust isn’t one specific disease. It’s a term used to describe a range of fungal pathogens, and each of them has slightly different properties.
As a result, it is difficult for gardeners to kill it off, as each variety has slightly different characteristics and resistance to treatment methods.
There are over 7,000 different types of fungal pathogens that have the propensity to cause a rust outbreak in your yard. This post looks at strategies for eliminating rust from your yard.
What Is Responsible for Causing Rust Infections?
As mentioned, there are thousands of fungal pathogens responsible for causing rust infections. However, all varieties of the fungus require similar conditions for the pathogen to develop and spread around the yard.
Initially, the rust requires a period of dark, warm, and humid weather for its spores to infest the plant and take hold. After the initial period, the spores start to multiply and spread.
After the wet weather conditions subside, the rust starts to spread aggressively as the weather warms. As the rust dries, it floats on the wind, infecting other plants in close vicinity.
After the spores establish, they can spread through normal watering processes where water splashes from infected plants or soil onto other vegetation.
How Do You Diagnose a Rust Infection?
In the initial stages of the outbreak, you can identify rust through its appearance as small black specks found on the underside of the leaves of your plants.
These black spots may also appear on the stems, but it’s more common than they appear on the leaves. Eventually, the black specks start to change color, developing rust-colored rings.
The rings vary in color, from reds to browns, and as the infection spreads, the rust blotches change to form abscesses. These small blemishes take the appearance of clusters of spider mite eggs or aphids devouring the plant.
If the gardener leaves the infection untreated, the rust spreads to the top side of the foliage, and the leaves start to turn yellow as the plant begins to wilt and die.
Rust causes death in plant matter by blocking the plant’s ability to create food through photosynthesis. As a result, the plant doesn’t receive the nutrition it needs, and it slowly starts to fail and wilt.
What Plants Experience Rust Infections?
Since there are thousands of variants of the rust pathogen, it affects a wide range of plants. Rust can infect all types of plants, from vegetables to shrubs and even trees.
However, it’s important to note that the infection typically doesn’t spread across plant species in the garden. In other words, if you find rust on your shrubs, it’s not likely to spread to your flowers.
How Do You Treat Rust Infection in Your Yard?
Unfortunately, when rust shows up in your garden, there’s no proven sure-fire method for removing the pathogen. Some chemical fungicides show promise with treating rust, but since there are thousands of variants of the pathogen, it’s often a hit and miss strategy using these products.
If the gardener decides to use a fungicide, it’s important to note that they should use a specifically designed product for the plant requiring treatment.
There are options for more general-spectrum rust fungicides, such as those containing lime sulfur or copper. These products work by slowing the rust germination process and its spread throughout the yard.
However, most fungicides are very toxic products. You’ll have to be extra careful when applying the product, as it’s harmful to humans, wildlife, pets, and insects.
Controlling Your Rust Fungi Infection
If you diagnose a rust infection in your yard, you’ll need to act quickly to remove it before it spreads. While fungicides can work, most of the time, they just slow down the process of the pathogen spreading.
It’s a better idea to remove the infected part of the plant. If the infection is bad, you might have to remove the entire plant from the flowerbed or veggie patch before it gets out of hand.
If you remove the plant, ensure you collect all the plant material and place it in a plastic garbage bag. Tie off the bag and throw it away in the trash.
Never, under any circumstances, throw the dead infected plant matter into the compost heap. The pathogen will infect the material, and you’ll end up spreading it around your yard when you fertilize it with your compost.
Rust pathogens can overwinter in the soil, and they can remain in the ground for several years after clearing the infection.
If a spot in your veggie patch or flowerbeds gets a rust infection, it’s best to avoid growing anything in the same place for the next few years.
You’ll need to ensure you clean your tools, as the rust spores can attach to the surface of your garden fork or trowel, transferring to the soil in other locations around your yard.
To prevent rust infections, make sure you give your plants enough space to allow for adequate airflow around the branches and roots.
It’s also important to avoid overwatering your plants to create damp and humid conditions leading to rust outbreaks.
If you’re buying new plants at the nursery, make sure you check them for rust infection before bringing them home.
When planting, make sure you place the plant in soil that drains well. If the ground remains waterlogged after watering, you’re setting yourself up for the prime conditions for a rust outbreak.
When watering your plants, it’s a better idea to water around the base than from above wetting the foliage also creates prime conditions for rust development, especially on overcast days.
Avoid using nitrogen-based fertilizers if you don’t need them. The nitrogen accelerates foliage growth, giving the rust more hiding places where it can spread.
Preventing Rust In Your Garden
The best practice for avoiding rust in your yard is to plant vegetables, shrubs, and flowers that are naturally resistant to the disease.If you’re selecting turf for your lawn, look at grass cultivars of perennial ryegrass and bluegrass. These species are highly rust-resistant.If you’re growing beans in your veggie garden, go with cultivars like the Golden Wax early bush bean or the Kentucky Blue Wonder pole bean. Both options come highly rust-resistant.
Check online forums and speak to other gardeners in your local area for information on rust-resistant plants to add to your flowerbeds or veggie garden.
Instead of watering with a garden hose from above, set up a drip irrigation system around your flowerbeds and vegetable patch.This strategy keeps the foliage dry while maintaining adequate water levels for your flowers and vegetables.
It’s also important to note that it lowers its immune response once a plant has a rust infection. As a result, it’s common for plants and vegetables to experience an infection with other pathogens, like white powdery mildew, alongside a rust infection.
Rotating your vegetable garden crops is a great way to ensure that you don’t develop rust infections. As mentioned, the pathogens can overwinter in the soil, infecting next year’s crop.By rotating, you clear out the soil and let it rest. Essentially, you starve the pathogen of a host, and it dies off.
You must never plant or sow seeds from infected plants, the rust is now part of that plant’s DNA, and it will show up when the plant reaches maturity.Clear away all infected debris and pinch off parts of the plant showing rust infection. Sometimes, if you catch the rust early enough, it’s possible to prune the plant back, stopping the disease from spreading.
Avoid working in your garden in wet weather conditions. Doing so might end with you inadvertently spreading the pathogen around your yard.When planting your crops, spread some organic mulch around the base. If any pathogens lurk in the soil, they’ll have a hard time penetrating the mulch to start the infection cycle.
Keep the foliage as dry as possible. If you have to water overhead, make sure you only do so on hot, sunny, dry days. Avoid watering in overcast conditions, especially from overhead positions.
If you’re growing in containers and the plants experience an infection, remove the plant and disinfect the container using a 10% bleach solution mixed with tap water. The bleach kills the pathogen, preventing it from reoccurring. Make sure you rinse the container thoroughly to remove any trace of the pathogen or the bleach.