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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Organic Fungus Controls in the Garden

Powdery mildew can affect bee-balm (Monarda) as well as roses, squash and other plants.

Copyright Jim Long 2013; Ozarks Gardening
Cool, damp weather encourages a new set of problems in the garden. We’ve had rains, chilly nights, humid and cloudy days, all things which create conditions for fungus and mildew to grow. If let untreated, either of those can slow down or kill garden plants. There are some simple solutions and remedies that cost little and are effective. 

Powdery mildew is a condition you may find on squash, cucumber, melon and rose leaves. As the name implies, the leaves take on a white or gray, dusty coating. Powdery mildew starts as a small, round white spot on the leaves. In just a few days, the spot has grown to cover the entire leaf. Here’s a simple treatment that shows good results.

Mix up 1 part plain whole milk from the refrigerator with 9 parts water. Pour into a garden sprayer and spray the affected plants in early morning. Repeat the spraying twice a week until the mildew disappears. There’s lots of research showing plain milk is as effective as chemical fungicides, and it’s a whole lot cheaper and more safe. It’s also good to avoid excess fertilizer in cool, damp weather as that can encourage mildew problems, as well. 


Pepper plant suffering from root rot.
Root rot is another common problem when the weather is damp and cool. Plants appear to wilt and die for no apparent reason. Watering the plant makes the problem worse as the fungi, including Pythium, Rhizoctonia, Pytophthora and Fusarium, can be spread to other plants by water run-off. Here’s a simple treatment that costs almost nothing.

Cornmeal, worked into the soil before planting encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria that combats various fungi from growing (which is why I always recommend using agricultural cornmeal in your tomato beds in February and March). But simply sprinkling a half cup of agricultural cornmeal (or even plain, cheap cornmeal from the grocery store) around each plant is helpful. Work it into the soil around each plant to prevent root rot. For plants that are already affected, use the same method, but if the plant doesn’t show some response in about 10 days, pull up the plant and destroy it to prevent the fungus from spreading to other plants.

I haven’t tried this one, but if you have, let me know of your results: Farmers in India are using Coca Cola as a spray pesticide on crops instead of commercial pesticides, with good results. Either the sugar or the caffein (or both) seem to deter insect problems. I couldn’t find the ratio of Coke to water, but if you have tried this successfully, please let me know. 

You can find more of my stories and gardening information on my garden adventures blog, jimlongsgarden.blogspot.com. You can order my books and products from my website by clicking on this link: http://www.longcreekherbs.com. Happy Gardening!

One of my newest books is the Make Your Own Hot Sauce. Check it out on my website.

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