After many requests, this week we’re taking some time to talk to you about a very serious issue plaguing gardens across the world.

There’s a lot more in common between that tricycle deteriorating on your back lawn and the unhealthy plants in your garden than you might think. The common denominator? Rust.

The context that most of you have probably heard the term rust used in is that of the red iron oxide as a result of exposure of iron and it’s alloys (such as steel) to water and oxygen. This chemical reaction often turns the metal brittle or flakey and it’s surface into a wide spectrum of red, orange and brown hues. This is undoubtedly where the name of the plant fungus we’re discussing today originates.

Plant rust will often appear at first as a small array of red, orange or ‘rust’ colored spots that become lumps on your plant’s leaves. Over time these zit-like ulcers will burst releasing a batch of spores that are often spread by air or by splashing water to infect surrounding plants.

Being that Rust fungus is technically a parasite of the biotroph variety (one that cannot survive in a dead host) it will not kill your plants but may stunt growth, decrease yields and cause leaves to drop prematurely.

Unfortunately once you have rust it is incredibly hard to eradicate. The germination process can be stunted by sulphur pellets and fungicides but not much else. Removing the affected leaves, praying and burning them to prevent the spread of the disease are the most natural and hopeful methods for those of you growing organic.

The best defense you have against rust is taking preventative measures. Much like the tricycles name-sharing affliction, plant rust thrives in moisture. As such, over-watering is the most common culprit. Using drip-irrigation to keep water off of the foliage or being sure to water earlier in the day so your plants have time in the sun to dry off can help keep your plants dry and rust-free.

Remembering to help your fellow gardeners by pointing out symptoms on your neighbour’s plants as they begin to show can help prevent the spread of the infection to your own.  Lend a helping hand or just directing them to a resource such as this might save your garden’s life.

Late spring and summer, our prime gardening seasons, are when the rust threat is the most prevalent, so be careful and best of luck! If you have any more information on the subject or any of our research is off, be sure to let us know so we can do our best to help those that have been affected by plant rust and prevent the imminent rust invasion!

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