Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Silver Lining of Mosaic Disease

It appears that a couple of my potato plants have developed Mosaic, an easily-spread disease that can be caused by a variety of viruses and lead to stunted plant growth.  Mosaic can present itself as mottled yellow and green leaves, puckered leaves, or blisters. 
If infected plants are not removed early in the growing season, aphids will feed on infected plants and fly the disease to other locations in the garden.  In fact, the disease is so easily spread that gardeners should wash hands and tools that have touched infected plants in a strong soap solution. 

Interestingly, smokers may pick up the tobacco mosaic virus by handling infected tobacoo products then then spread the disease to their plants by gardening without washing hands after a smoke.  (Yet another reason to quit, if anyone is still looking for a good one:)

Tomatoes, pepper, potatoes, squash, cucumbers, melons, lettuce, spinach, and more are all susceptible to Mosaic.  Though they probably won't die, diseased plants will yield fewer fruits and squash-family plants will usually produce small, mottled fruits that have an off-taste.

So, I bit the bullet and yanked out these potato plants.

And, look what I found!  Yep, these guys came out with the two plants I pulled out.  I had been waiting for my potato plants to bloom like my garden guide had suggested.  But, I was forgetting that if I wanted new potatoes (as this variety is intended to be), then I should actually dig them up earlier. 

If not for the Mosaic, these would've outgrown their new potato phase.  See, silver lining!

So, I cut off the remaining plants and will leave the rest of the potatoes in the ground for 2 weeks to develop their tough skin that will help them last longer in the pantry.   The kids are especially excited about digging for potato treasures in 2 weeks!

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