Diseased Plant Disposal: What To Do With Infected Plants In The Garden

By: Jackie Carroll

One of the most difficult problems that gardeners face is plant disease. In many cases there is no cure, and the only treatment is the removal of the affected parts of the plant. Plant diseases continue to live on leaves, twigs and other debris removed from the plant, as well as debris that falls to the ground. Hard rains can splash the disease organisms back onto the plant, and some diseases are carried on the wind, making prompt cleanup and disposal essential to prevent the further spread of disease.

Disposal of plant leaves, houseplants and other small debris from diseased plants is easily accomplished by sealing the debris in a plastic bag and placing it in a garbage can with a lid. Large debris such as tree limbs and large numbers of plants present special challenges. It is a good idea to learn about other methods for what to do with infected plants should this be your situation.

Can You Burn Diseased Plant Debris?

One of the most commonly asked questions in reference to diseased plant disposal is, “Can you burn diseased plant debris?” The answer is yes. Burning is a good way to dispose of diseased plant debris, but check with local authorities first. Burning is banned or restricted in many areas.

Where burning is allowed, local authorities may restrict burning when weather conditions, such as drought and strong winds, encourage fires to spread. Some locations restrict the type of containment used for fires.

Diseased plant debris must be disposed of promptly. If you can’t burn it right away, consider another method of diseased plant disposal.

What to Do with Infected Plants

Burying diseased plant debris is a good method of disposal. Some diseases can live in the soil for years, so bury the debris as far from the garden as possible in an area that you don’t plan to use for garden plants. Cover the debris with at least 2 feet (60 cm.) of soil.

Composting sickly plants is risky. You may be able to kill fungal and bacterial diseases by maintaining the compost pile at temperatures between 140-160 F. (60-71 C.) and turning it often. However, some viral diseases can survive even these high temperatures. Therefore, it’s better to use another disposal method rather than take a chance that you may spread plant diseases throughout the garden in your compost.

Plant diseases are also spread on gardening tools. Disinfect your tools with a 10 percent solution of household bleach or a strong disinfectant after caring for diseased plants. Disinfectants can damage tools, so rinse them thoroughly with water after disinfecting.

This article was last updated on

Read more about Gardening Tips & Information

12 Essential Spring Cleaning Tasks for the Garden

If you're a serious gardener, you'll be out in your garden the first warm second of spring. While there is no harm in cleaning up fallen branches and debris, wait until the soil is no longer wet enough to form a ball in your hand before walking on it and compacting it. But don't wait too long to start your clean up. It's much easier to cut plants back before the old growth gets tangled up in the new growth. Following these tips for a beautiful spring and summer garden.

Yard Waste Disposal Options

Looking for the best way to get rid of your yard waste? You should first calculate the amount of debris you have and establish how much time you have to clean up before choosing one of the yard debris pickup options below.

1. Rent a Dumpster

Renting a roll off dumpster is a simple, easy way to dispose of yard waste. You can rent it for the length of your project so you won’t have piles of debris stacking up around you. With a dumpster on-site, you can fill the bin as you work and then have the container and all the yard waste removed after the job is done.

2. Check Your Local Trash Collection Service for Yard Debris Pickup

Your weekly municipal trash service may be an option for yard waste disposal. Some cities collect yard waste in small amounts as long as it is at the curb on collection day and is packaged appropriately, most often in yard waste bags. Check with your local services to find out what type of debris is accepted and how it should be handled.

3. Hire a Junk Hauling Service

Junk removal services also accept yard waste, but charge fees based on the amount of space your yard waste takes up in the truck. When you hire a junk removal service for yard waste disposal, you’ll need to be prepared to be on-site during the two-hour window they provide and have the debris ready for pickup once they arrive.

4. Burn Your Yard Waste

Burning yard debris is a simple way to quickly get rid of your yard waste if it is legal and safe in your area. Only burn your yard waste in a fire pit that is at least 150 feet from any neighbors and 50 feet from your own home. Choose a calm, windless day and have someone on-site with a hose to monitor the fire the entire time.

How to Identify Common Plant Diseases

Learn how to spot common plant diseases and what you can do about them.

Related To:

Gray Mold

Mold in the garden is a common sight, especially during extended bouts of rainy, cool weather or high humidity. High moisture levels help mold to grow and spread. In botanical circles, mold that forms on dying flowers or leaves is known as botrytis or gray mold. Botrytis spores are present in soil and frequently already on plants that you buy. It lies dormant until conditions are right for it to blossom and spread. The best prevention is to remove dead or dying leaves, flowers and fruit, and to mulch soil so that rain can’t splash spores onto plants. Flowers that often get botrytis include zinnia, peony, geranium — plants with blossoms that are full and packed with petals.

Leaf Spots

Warm air temperature and days of rain can lead to leaf spot diseases on many different plants, including flowers, vegetables, trees, shrubs and herbs, like this golden oregano. Leaf spots originate with bacteria or fungus, both of which reside in soil or on nearby plants. The combination of warm air and rain foster ideal conditions for an outbreak, especially when leaves stay wet 24/7. Leaves develop individual spots, which eventually coalesce and kill the leaf. Once a leaf falls, filled with infection, it slowly rots and infects the rest of the plant. Gather and destroy any leaves that fall as a result of leaf spot diseases. When rain stops and plants dry out, they will usually outgrow the symptoms. This golden oregano looked beautiful about two weeks after this outbreak and stayed healthy the rest of the season. To prevent leaf spot, make sure mulch covers soil beneath plants to keep disease from splashing onto leaves.

Powdery Mildew Early Infection

Powdery mildew is caused by a fungus that multiplies when soil is dry and humidity is high. It often appears on plants in late summer. The first easily visible signs on leaves are white spots of fungus. Over time, the fungus grows and forms a network on the leaf, connecting the spots. After the fungus overtakes a leaf, the infected parts turn brown and disintegrate. Plants typically attacked by powdery mildew include bee balm (shown), zinnia, roses, lilac, squash, beans, cucumbers and tomatoes.

Powdery Mildew Advanced Infection

This is what powdery mildew looks like when a fungus-ridden leaf starts to fall apart. There are many different types of powdery mildew they’re actually rather specific to the plants they infect. The fungus that attacks your squash won’t, for instance, spread to your lilac. Treatments include disposing of infected plant material and cleaning up the garden well in fall to remove any infected leaf or stem residue. Destroy infected plant parts do not add to your compost pile. Mulching beneath plants helps preserve soil moisture and prevent fungus from splashing from soil to leaves. It also helps if plants have good airflow around them — space them properly.

Peach Scab Disease

A fungus is the culprit behind the black spots on peaches. It’s known as peach scab, and round spots that start out small and green slowly become black and almost velvety. With heavy infections, peaches may crack or be misshapen. As with most fungal diseases, wet weather is the trigger for infection to occur. It’s okay to eat peaches with scab. Just peel the fruit and remove any soft or brown spots. To help prevent this disease, clean up all fallen leaves, twigs and fruit. Prune to open up the tree’s inner canopy and increase air flow. Check with your local extension office for fungicide spray recommendations, which should start when petals fall from flowers in spring. Peach scab also affects nectarines and apricots.

Bud Blast

Nothing is more disappointing than watching peony buds develop and then fail to open. This condition is known as bud blast, and while it sometimes involves growing conditions, it’s often due to fungus. In bud blast, buds may develop to marble size and stay hard and dark, never enlarging but rather shriveling. Or they may start to open and reveal dried petals that are brown and hard. Often bud blast occurs with new peonies grown from divisions — and the condition disappears as plants mature. Other times wet spring weather leads to disease development. When peonies get bud blast, remove affected blooms and destroy them. Cut down leaves in fall and destroy those, too. Remember to sterilize pruners between cuts by wiping them with rubbing alcohol.

Early Blight on Tomato

A fungus (Alternaria solani) that occurs naturally in soils causes early blight on tomatoes. The name is a bit misleading because it can attack plants at any point in the growing season. The conditions that favor this disease are high temperatures, rain and high humidity. Rain can actually spread the disease from soil to plants — a raindrop splashes when it hits soil, and that droplet carries fungus to your prize tomato or potato. This leaf shows the classic symptoms of early blight on a tomato leaf: dark spots with a yellow halo. The dark spots eventually dry up and fall out of the leaf, creating holes. To help prevent early blight, mulch soil beneath tomatoes and remove and destroy any infected leaves, sterilizing pruners between cuts. Spraying plants with fungicides can help reduce outbreaks, as can removing all leaves beneath the first fruit cluster.

Late Blight on Tomato

Late blight is another dreaded tomato disease that absolutely destroys a plant. When infection is severe, this fungus attacks leaves, stems and tomatoes. Phytophthora infestans is the fungus behind late blight, and it usually arrives to your 'mater patch on the wind. Wet, humid conditions and high temperatures lead to an outbreak. Keep a watchful eye on plants, and you might spot its first appearance on lower leaves, which you can remove. Late blight doesn’t survive winter on plant debris, so you’re safe composting infected plant parts. Just be sure to bury them deep in the pile to keep from re-infecting your garden while tomatoes are still growing. Fungicide sprays can help keep late blight at bay. It’s also helpful to remove any volunteer tomato seedlings and water early in the day so leaves dry before dark.

Blossom End Rot

Blossom end rot affects many veggies — summer squash, tomato, eggplant, pepper and cucumber. Most gardeners mistake it for a disease, but it’s not. It actually develops due to growing conditions: uneven watering and/or lack of calcium. But blossom end rot often opens the door to secondary diseases, like mold, which can quickly destroy the vegetable. The easiest way to prevent blossom end rot is to add calcium to soil at planting. Use bone meal, gypsum or oyster shells in planting holes. Also make sure plants receive consistent water throughout the growing season, and apply a thick layer of mulch to keep soil moist. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers, which cause fast leaf and stem growth and inhibit calcium uptake by roots.

Rust is a fungal disease that forms rusty spots on leaves or stems. There are more than 5,000 types of rust, but common rust attacks many different plants, including hollyhock (shown), roses, daylilies, snapdragons, lawn grass and tomatoes. It appears first on the bottom of lower leaves as white spots. Over time, the spots turn reddish-orange, and eventually black. Rust blossoms when a period of low light (4-8 hours), warm air and moisture (dew, rain or humidity) are followed by bright sunlight for 8-16 hours, coupled with high temperatures and high humidity. That combination of conditions keeps leaves wet, which allows rust to grow. Rust survives winter on infected plants, so it’s vital to clean up and destroy all infected plant parts to help control the disease. Applying fungicides and copper or sulfur sprays can help prevent and slow rust’s attack.

Sunburn on Hosta

Pale, papery spots on hosta leaves that ultimately turn brown and crispy aren’t a true disease, but simply a sunburn. The problem with sunburned hosta leaves is that they weaken the plant as it loses leaves, and diseases can easily take hold. A hosta doesn’t need to be in full sun for sunburn to develop. Even hostas in part shade can suffer if clouds take a vacation. When that happens, water more, which can help plants cope with the sun exposure. If your hosta bed is in a part-shade location, fill it with sun-tolerant varieties, like Hosta plantaginea (the one with the fragrant flowers), 'Sun Power,’ 'Sundance,’ 'Honeybells’ or 'Sun Glow.’

Verticillium Wilt

These beautiful trees are susceptible to a fungus known as Verticillium dahliae. This fungus naturally occurs in some soils and enters a Japanese maple through the roots. Over time, as the fungus multiplies, it blocks water flow in the tree’s internal water transport system. The tree reacts to this invasion by blocking off the infected parts from the rest of the healthy, growing parts. This results in a dead branch in what looks like an otherwise healthy tree. Once verticillium is in the soil, it stays active for 10 years.

Verticillium Ring

If you spot a dead branch on your Japanese maple, cut it and check the end. When the problem is verticillium wilt, you’ll see a dark ring in the wood. Once a tree is infected with verticillium, it’s more sensitive to drought, soil compaction and waterlogged soil. A Japanese maple can recover from verticillium wilt. You can help by first removing infected branches. Next, provide ideal growing conditions — ample water during dry seasons and avoiding mowing or trimming injuries to surface roots or trunk. Create a mulch ring beneath the tree to help protect surface roots. Do not garden beneath Japanese maples, and never use wood chips from a Japanese maple because they could introduce the fungus to your soil. Also, do not use soil from beneath an infected Japanese maple anywhere else in your yard.

Snow Mold

When snow melts in spring, you might spot areas of your lawn that appear to be light tan or even dead. Look closer, and you may see threads of mold — snow mold, to be precise. This turf disease is caused by fungi that grow in cold, moist conditions, like those found beneath melting snow cover. The grass that’s hosting the mold often mats together, which prevents new grass from growing through it. This disease has an easy fix. First, when you spot it in spring, rake grass lightly to break up the mold and lift the matted parts so new growth can resume. Second, prevent the disease in the first place by cutting grass shorter on your last mowing before the snow falls. Tall grass tends to lodge or fall over beneath snow, which leads to matting and snow mold.

Tree Gall

Enlarged bumps that form on tree trunks are known as galls. They’re unsightly but aren’t necessarily a cause for panic. Arborists report that trees with galls usually have a shorter lifespan, but it’s not a reason to remove a tree. Several items cause galls to form. Some kind of injury can create an opening for bacteria, fungus or insects to enter the tree. The tree responds by compartmentalizing the attacker, and a gall forms as a result. While a gall isn’t a death sentence for a tree, it’s a signal that the tree has an uninvited guest inside it. When pruning, be sure to disinfect cutting tools after working with a gall-infected tree to avoid spreading a microorganism to healthy trees.

6 Eco-Friendly Ways to Dispose of Plant Remnants

If you’re an avid gardener or simply enjoy maintaining a neat and tidy lawn, you, without a doubt, have wondered what to do with plant remnants once you’ve clipped or trimmed them. While leaving these remnants on your lawn to rot may seem tempting, it can be detrimental in that decomposing plants produce mold and fungus, which can make you sick.

Luckily, there are countless other eco-friendly ways to dispose of plant remnants, so that you can help the planet while keeping your lawn looking fresh and tidy.

Photo by Adobe Stock/prophoto24

1. Compost It

Composting is one of the easiest, and most ecologically friendly, ways to improve your soil and to dispose of old plant pieces. You don’t need any special equipment or building in which to place your plant remnants. Just make sure your compost pile is a decent space away from the house–it can start to smell if you add in other organic matter, such as kitchen waste.

Compile all of your discarded leaves, grass clippings, or plants. Make sure the pile is not too big, as you’ll need to be able to turn it with a rake or pitch fork. Keep the pile moist and turn it with the fork every few weeks to allow air to permeate through the mix. It should be broken down and ready to use as garden or potting soil within just a few months

2. Mulch It

You can use whole plant pieces, pine needles, leaves, or grass clippings as mulch if you need to, but a better way to dispose of plant pieces is to break them down into fine, uniform shavings by using the mulching setting on your mower. Mulch like this is great to use in flower beds or around trees.

If you decide to pursue this option, make sure you’ve allowed the plant pieces to “cure” in the sun for a few weeks to kill any seeds. If there are any living seeds still remaining in the mixture, you risk introducing unwanted weeds to your flower bed or garden.

3. Turn It Into Fireplace Fuel

While this should be done with caution–you should never burn plant matter outdoors when there is an active burn ban, or when it simply seems too dry–there is nothing wrong with burning plant matter if it is serving a distinct purpose. If you own a wood-burning fireplace—leaves, twigs, and other pieces of plants are a great way to get fires started. You don’t want to overdo it, as decomposing plants can harbor allergens such as mold that can make you sick if burned to excess.

4. Artfully Repurpose It

This can be tough, and isn’t a good bet for large amounts of plant remnants. However, if you have just a few odds and ends you need to get rid of you can save them for arts and crafts projects. Dried leaves make great additions to festive autumn decor, while dried flowers and stems make heavenly scented potpourri.

5. Run It Through a Wood Chipper

If you are dealing with a lot of woody plant remnants, such as large branches, consider renting or buying a wood chipper. This is more suitable for heavy pieces, but is a great option for turning large amounts of yard waste into usable wood chips for walkways, garden beds, animal bedding, and other projects.

6. Yard Waste Pick-Up

This may not be an option depending on your location, but some towns have regular yard waste pick-up dates. These services allow you to simply rake your debris in a pile and then collect it into a designated bag. These bags are then brought to yard waste recycling centers, which grind the branches, brush, and leaves into usable mulch and resell it later on.

Don’t harm the environment by throwing your plant waste in the trash can. As it is, each human generates several pounds of waste each day—most of which cannot be, or simply is not, recycled. Dispose of your plant remnants by returning them to their natural state and breathe easy knowing that you have helped contribute to a healthier planet.

I like the picture! Never thought to use a laundry basket to collect weeds, then let it sit in the basket and mix up over time!! The basket is low enough so I dont have to raise my arm every time I have enough weeds to throw away! Thanks!!

A Fresh Start: Natural Spring Cleaning

Universal Storage Solutions

Easy Tips for Making Cheese

7-Step Recipe for an All-In-One Outdoor Kitchen

Related Content


All-Access Learn at Home!

Survival Skills, Garden Planning, Seed Saving, Food Preservation, Natural Health – Dozens of courses, 100+ workshops, and interactive Q&As.

DIY Natural Hand Cream

How to Make Rose Water

Get the latest on Natural Health and Sustainable Living with Mother Earth News!

Your friends at Mother Earth Living are committed to natural health and sustainable living. Unfortunately, the financial impact of COVID-19 has challenged us to find a more economical way to achieve this mission. We welcome you to our sister publication Mother Earth News. What you sought in the pages of Mother Earth Living can be found in Mother Earth News. For over 50 years, “The Original Guide to Living Wisely” has focused on organic gardening, herbal medicine, real food recipes, and sustainability. We look forward to going on this new journey with you and providing solutions for better health and self-sufficiency.

The impact of this crisis has no doubt affected every aspect of our daily lives. We will strive to be a useful and inspiring resource during this critical time and for years to come.

Best wishes,
Your friends at Mother Earth Living and Mother Earth News

Save Money & a Few Trees!

By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of Mother Earth News for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.


(By burying leaves, I mean incorporating them back into the soil either through composting or directly integrating them in the ground.)

Pros: Leaves can enrich any garden soil after they have decomposed over the winter. You can simply work them back into the dirt of your garden, or create or add them to your compost pile. Rather than purchasing amendments, use the leaves instead. Burying the leaves in your garden this fall or composting them means by spring, you’ll have rich, loamy soil for planting, and can save you money, too.

Cons: Whether you work the leaves into the garden directly or go the composting route, this is a labor-intensive option.

Tips: Shredding or mulching the leaves first makes it easier to mix them into the soil, and makes them decompose faster. It also prevents matting. Make sure the leaves are dry, then spread a 3” layer over your garden area. For best results, work the leaves into the soil with a tiller, spade or garden fork to bury the leaves 6” to 8” deep now in the fall and by spring, the soil will be richer and ready for planting.

If you compost, you’ll need to research the mixture required (50-50 green and brown matter helps speed decomposition), depths and dimensions as well as timing for turning. Be sure not to put house pet waste, meat or fat in the compost.

Questions & Answers

Question: What would be eating holes in the leaves of all my chars?

Answer: It very well could be a cabbage worm or cutworm.

Question: Can I eat the leaves of Swiss chard with Cercospora?

Answer: I wouldn't eat the leaves of Swiss chard with Cercospora. Cercospora is a fungus that leaves spots on the leaves of the plant.

Nothing will cure the fungus on the infected plant. However, spray the healthy leaves with a fungicide with either myclobutanil or azoxystrobin in its ingredients to prevent further infestation.

Previous Article

How to independently clean a pond or small reservoir

Next Article

Wild Orchids - Phalaenopsis