IT’S NO SECRET that this is my first year growing an organic garden. In the past I didn’t think twice about using harmful chemicals to control problems in my garden. I even used them to feed my flowers and vegetables. I realize now, years later, that there are so many less harmful and more effective ways that won’t hurt my family, or the environment. Chemicals will also harm many of the beneficial good bugs that are living in my garden. When you get a disease in your garden there has to be three conditions that align- Environment, Pathogen and Host plant.
Disease has been my biggest issue yet this year. Right now, the problem is powdery mildew on my Zucchini. A month or two ago it was blight on my tomatoes. The real secret to controlling any diseases in the garden is to take care of the problem ASAP and even better is preventing it before it happens. I will get into a couple of organic fungicides that you should keep in your arsenal in a bit, but I wanted to mention some other preventative methods that will really help decrease your chances of disease first.
Having good soil is your first step to fighting off disease. Making sure you have enough organic matter is crucial to keeping harmful microbes from multiplying and causing severe damage.While encouraging different beneficial microbes in your garden, they will suppress disease by feeding on the bad ones. The best way to do this is by adding organic matter, it will also help with drainage and prevent wet conditions that bad pathogens thrive in.
When watering, especially in leafy vegetable gardens, it is always better to water at the ground. Soaker hoses are your ideal watering tool. The problem is that they require a little more work to set up at first, but in the long run once you have them in place all you have to do is turn on the hose,walk away, and you’re free for a bit to do something else rather than standing there with a hose in hand. When you water from the top it creates a perfect environment for disease on the leaves.
Pruning your garden and the surrounding area is another measure that can be taken to help prevent disease. Air flow is key. If you have a dense crowded environment with poor airflow you’re only asking for trouble. More airflow means more sun and less shade. The more sun the quicker the leaves dry off from rain, watering and dew. Also the sun will kill many airborne microorganisms on your plants.
These are the items I said I’d talk about that should be kept in your organic arsenal for when or before you are showing signs of disease. The secret to using these items effectively is not waiting too long. (I will mention 3, and attach links to purchase at the cheapest price) It must be applied when you first see ANY sign of disease or even as preventative practice. All the fungicides here need to be applied with a sprayer like this. You can get bigger ones or smaller ones but they all work in the same manner.
One of the oldest, inexpensive, and many would say the best, organic fungicide is simple baking soda. Mixing 4 tsp. Baking Soda, 1 tsp. mild biodegradable dish soap ( with no soap phosphates- Dawn or Ivory ) and 1 gl. water mixed thoroughly in a sprayer is all you will need for this recipe. This fungicide is very safe and can be used to help effectively eliminate a variety of diseases by spraying the entire plant.
Serenade by Bayer is one of my favorites. It is a fungicide that is used to kill a wide variety of garden disease.One of the things I like about this product is that it can be applied on vegetables right up to the day of harvest. I usually buy a 32oz container of concentrate that has to be mixed with water. It can also be purchased in a premixed spray bottle for smaller applications or this easy to use bottle that hooks right up to your house so you don’t even have to worry about measuring or mixing.
Green Cure is a Potassium Bicarbonate fungicide and another great product that can be used to control or prevent a number of diseases. An 8 oz container makes 16 gl. and it also comes in a larger tub. Another great thing about all of these products is the wide range of plants and trees that the product can be applied to.
If there is one lesson that I can leave you with (and I mentioned it once already) and I wish I didn’t learn the hard way is DON’T WAIT ! With garden diseases, time is of the essence. It is amazing how fast some can spread, I learned the hard way with my annual flowers this year. I can tell you this, next year I will be spraying fungicide regularly as a preventive measure.