A Gardener’s Diary: Mildew solutions

Garlic and baking soda can cut down on downy and powdery mildew, which create pale patches on the leaves and stems of the plants.

As I write this column, it is 39C in the carport in the shade. Some of my plants look like they will not survive and I know how they feel.

I try to be up by 5 a.m. to walk the dog and then the watering of plants starts. Tom does the front beds and the banks and I do the back. It is time consuming as we water by hand. The rain water is just about gone and I reserve the last for my potted plants.

I have found new culprits in the garden this year. I knew it was not the work of earwigs or slugs but some of my leaves and stems were damaged specially the horseradish. The guilty ones were snails. All the ground cover I had on the bank was the perfect spot for them. When I removed it to clean some of the overgrown spots, I found lots of them from very small with soft shell to very large ones.

We have been eating fresh tomatoes (Latah) since July 18.  Last year I had a lot of bottom rot on the early part of the season. This year, I put about a quarter cup of crushed egg shells and a tablespoon of organic fertilizer in each hole. I have not seen any rot yet despite the rainy days of June.

We lost some of the cherries this year. The Kootenay Cover we used to prevent the cherry fly to lay eggs also trapped some of the moisture because of the wet June. Some of the clusters didn’t get enough air circulation to dry properly. On the other hand, without the cover, the birds would have picked half of them anyway and they would have been full of worms.

Powdery mildew: Disease fungi are microscopic plants that take nourishment from the plants on which they live. In other words, they are parasites. Fungal diseases exhibit a number of distinctive symptoms, often indicated by their names.

Downy mildew and powdery mildew create pale patches on the leaves and stems of the plants. Fungal disease tends to spread over the entire plant somewhat slowly, occurring over weeks rather than days. However, this does not mean you should wait to confirm that you have a fungal problem, because organic fungicides are not very effective in controlling a disease if it is well established in the plant.  Fungicides are much less effective once a disease has become well established, so for best results apply them early in the season (kind of late now).

Researchers found that baking soda controls powdery mildew and other mildews when sprayed on plants at weekly intervals at a concentration of one level teaspoonful per two quarts water. Not only did the soda prevent fungal spores from germinating and stop the development of the disease, but it even appeared to help the plants repair fungus-damaged tissue.

Garlic’s antiseptic properties make it an effective control for mildews and other fungi. Apply it as a spray.  To prepare a solution, chop up enough garlic cloves to fill 1/2 cup (500ml). Mix the garlic with 1 pint (500ml) water and leave it to steep for a few minutes; then strain out the chopped cloves.

Another recipe calls for pureed several garlic cloves with a little water in a blender. Add the pungent mixture to a gallon of water. Make sure you strain the solution very well or you will clog your sprayer. Garlic spray is also a popular organic pesticide. A more natural application is to plant garlic, onions, or chives around your garden.

–– Jocelynne Sewell is The Morning Star’s gardening columnist.