Ending the year with a virus – how appropriate!

I have a disease in my garden.  I noticed it a few days ago and toyed with the idea of ignoring it, in the hopes that it will go away.  However knowing how dramatically another virus that shall remain nameless has wreaked havoc all over the place, the last thing I need is the little world that is my garden to be devastated and require complete destruction in order to control it.  

Alfalfa Mosaic Virus
It all started when I noticed this strange leaf effect…

I resigned myself to the possibility of doom and gloom and took a few photos and then did what they say you should never do for yourself with medical symptoms and I consulted the great big internet.  With all sorts of alarm bells ringing to the tone of fear in my head, I spent a restless night filled with worry.  In the light of day I decided to face these fears head on and sent an email off to my favourite horticultural expert who very kindly and gently suggested I did indeed have a disease but not the one I thought I had.

Pepper plants
It was all a bit distressing because they were beginning to bear fruit

It turns out I have Alfalfa Mosaic Virus which has a wide variety of hosts including peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, peas and beans, which is a large portion of what I have growing in my garden.  Looking on the bright side it is just as well I decided to do something about it, or all would have been lost. 

Sick pepper plants
When I cast a critical eye over the pepper bed I realised they were a sickly lot

It is spread predominantly by aphids, but I imagine other saps suckers like Green Vegetable Bug wouldn’t have good proboscis washing behaviours between plants.  It also is transmitted by mechanical means, ie not sanitising my secateurs between plants when trimming them up.  I could have spread this myself!  I was being good at sanitising between tomato plants after the Pith Necrosis bacterial disease of last year.  I just got lazy with the peppers.  The disease also passes on through the seed and so now I’m not confident to save seeds from tomatoes or pepper or anything right now.

The doomed pepper bed
I guess it is quite appropriate I didn’t focus this photo of the pepper bed properly. It gives it an ethereal look, which matches the mood. Once I discovered the problem I couldn’t take another photo as I’d already ripped out the plants!

Most of the peppers affected are the ones I accidentally managed to overwinter.  So, I’m wondering if the overwintering increased the risk of problems.  I don’t think I’ll do that again.  It isn’t worth the hassle for a slightly early harvest.  It is better to just clear beds and let the garden rest in the winter without having host plants for pests and disease to overwinter in.  This is especially more important where I am because we don’t get killing frosts.  We don’t get any frosts. 

Tomato Potato Psyllid
Pests can spot a weak plant a mile off and so it was no surprise I also found Tomato Potato Psyllid making itself at home.

Fortunately, it is still early enough in the growing season that the garden centre still had supplies, so I was able to replace them all.  Not like for like, but they had enough interesting varieties for me to choose from.  It is a little frustrating as the ones in the garden were starting to do so well.  There are a few that I did have to start from seed because the last season ones didn’t make it through the winter.  These aren’t showing signs yet so I’m thinking of putting them in pots and isolating them in quarantine to see if they have symptoms or not. 

Diseased pepper plants
I started tentatively thinking I could save some of the plants, but as I got into it and saw just how bad things were, I was ripping them out with wild abandon

I also need to increase my pest watch vigilance and look out for aphids and other sap suckers and be ready with the spray.  Fortunately aphids can be treated easily with a range of natural products and my choice of sprays is Yates Nature’s Way Organic Citrus, Vegie & Ornamental Spray with is a pyrethrum and canola oil combination insecticide where the pyrethrum disrupts the insect nervous system and the canola oil smothers them. My other favourite is Yates Nature’s Way Vegie Insect Spray Natrasoap which is based on insecticidal soap, which is made from natural vegetable oils. The soap damages the protective layer that keeps the soft bodied insects from drying out.  It is good to alternate between modes of action on fast breeding insect pests, so they don’t get used to the treatment and adapt.

An empty pepper bed
I wasn’t expecting to see an empty pepper bed at this time of year, that’s for sure.

I don’t remember having so many terrible problems in my early gardening days, but I think it may have been lack of experience and naivety.  I didn’t know what to look for or what was normal and if there was a harvest there was harvest.  I gardened with an ‘it is what it is’ approach.  But now that I know more, I am all the more vigilant with the out of the ordinary and am seeing what I never saw before. 

New Pepper plants
It was just as well the new pepper plants were made to self isolate, I discovered psyllid under their leaves and need to make sure they have been fully treated before releasing them into the garden.

One of these days I will have that perfect season where there are very few pests, the diseases are scarce, and the weather is the most perfectly ideal.  In the meantime, I will carry on and hope for the best safe in the knowledge there is always next season. 

Come again soon – hopefully disaster has been averted.

Sarah the Gardener : o)


NB:  This isn’t a Yates sponsored post – I’m just super grateful to them for helping me diagnose my problem so quickly.


6 thoughts on “Ending the year with a virus – how appropriate!

  1. Total BUMMER! (I must add or subtract half a year to compare it to more familiar seasons, but even in my autumn perspective, this is no time for an empty pepper bed!)

    1. It is such a pain but I have new plants in the garden now. If you try to work it out time wise – it is the stage of where the flowers are just beginning to turn to fruit – for us that is around early summer so very early in the growing season to encounter a problem that requires pulling things out! : o)

    1. I don’t mind the weeds so much because there is such a sense of achievement after they have been pulled out but sometimes with disease it feels like you are fighting the unknown and pests are just a constant onslaught! It isn’t the first time I considered throwing in the towel for the season… but then I’d get bored and won’t know what to do with myself! : o)

    1. Thanks for your kind words. I checked and apparently it doesn’t linger in the soil. But it isn’t ideal to save seeds. But to be sure next year they will be in a new place and won’t be in the old spot for 7 years! I’m hoping for any kind of harvest at this point, but abundant would be nice. : o)

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