There’s a fungus among us and I don’t mean mushrooms.
If you have attempted to grow any sort of vegetation for any amount of time, you have probably dealt with an unfriendly fungus. While a great many varieties of fungus are essential to plant life and a great many others are neither good or bad, there are a few bad varieties and they really cause problems.
Before moving to the island, the only real battle I had with fungus was black-spot on the roses and powdery mildew on my veggies. But, one summer in a tropical setting and I have had a crash course in fungus!
As I will chat about later, watering the soil is very important. One day, only one day, I got lazy and got out the hose and sprayed everything down instead of using the watering can. JUST ONE DAY! And, I even did it in the morning. BUT, in 72 hours, my Belinda’s dream roses were covered in black spot. Lesson Learned- water the soil NOT the plant.
Fungi live in the soil, on our skin, in our house, basically any and everywhere. The problems arise when conditions are just right, and the fungi populations begin to multiply at breakneck speeds. When this happens, the host of the fungi population will be destroyed- this means your vinca will wilt and turn to goop, or your zucchini will disappear under gray fuzz or your rose bush will turn brown and yellow before becoming naked stems. Or, all of the above if its are really bad day.
In the garden, this hyper-growth of fungi will lead to plant death or really fabulous compost. The problem is when the garden beds are turned to compost piles because the fungus took over where it did not belong.
So, instead of focusing on how to kill the fungus, we should focus on how to prevent the colonies from getting out of hand. The environment is what determines if the fungus will thrive or simply exist and not cause problems. As gardeners, there are several things we can do to set out gardens up for the best possible outcomes.
- Soil Health
- Plant Selection
- Effective Watering
Soil heath is essential for any aspect of plant life. A plant cannot thrive without healthy soil. Soil health will also determine the health of a plant’s immune system. Very few of us have perfect soil and even if you do, if you constantly take from the soil and never put back, you won’t have healthy soil for long. By amending the soil, you can put back into the soil.
Essential amendments are organic compost, green sand, lava sand, and rock phosphate. For a deeper look at fixing you soil, click here!
Choosing the right plant for an area is essential to success as a gardener. A plant that loves the sun will not survive a shady spot and a shade loving plant will die in the full sun. This seems like it shouldn’t need to be said, but I deal with folks everyday who just can’t accept the fact that a rose bush won’t bloom in a backyard that gets only 3 hours of sun per day. Plants have DNA and we can’t simply rewire them just because we want it that way.
Also, if there is a disease resistant variety- choose that variety. There are a lot of hybrids out there and some are bred to be resistant to fungal diseases. If those are available to you, then choose that plant.
If a plant is in a poor location or in poor soil it will be stressed. If a plant is stressed it will be compromised. A compromised plant will not have an immune system that can fight off disease.
More damage is done by overwatering than by underwatering. Fungus thrives in warm, wet conditions.
If you are keeping the soil soaked you are laying out a welcome mat for fungus.
If you water at night, you are laying out a welcome mat for fungus.
If you are spraying your foliage instead of watering the soil, you are laying out a welcome mat for fungus.
Do you see a pattern?
Fungi LOVE moisture.
So, water in the early morning so that what water does get on the leaves and foliage can dry. One inch of water once a week is sufficient water, except in times of high heat and drought, then water twice per week. If at all possible, water the soil, not the foliage.
One thing that a human cannot control is the weather. If you live in an area that is high humidity and warm, fungus is something with which you will battle. Galveston Island is my home and this year has been crazy with the fungal shenanigans.
Organic controls of fungus are fairly limited, but what is available is effective. Sulfur and copper are excellent fungicides but they can only be applied with the temperature is below 85′. Bicarbonates can be used at anytime. In an effort to be proactive, I spray a bicarbonate weekly, before signs and symptoms appear. For an indepth look at fungicides, read this article.
Don’t let challenges keep you from gardening- educate yourself and keep planting.
May the odds be ever in your favor!