Edible Gardening

Organic Fungicides – Fact or Fiction?

Powdery Mildew & Squash Bug Eggs

“Have you ever tried any of these home remedies for controlling fungus on cucumbers?  Just wondering if this might work?”  My friend Linda sent this with an attached web link for a list of home remedies for powdery mildew.  Excellent question!  I don’t think I have ever grown a squash, cucumber or melon (the cucurbit family) that did not eventually succumb to powdery mildew. Our hot humid summers along with crawling insects that spread the fungus almost guarantee that our plants will get it.

Horticultural professors and researchers such as Jeff Gillman, Uv of Minnesota, have tested many homemade remedies and “organic” retail products. He found that a solution of 1 part skim milk combined with 2 parts water really works!  See http://jeffgillman.net/5.html.  The protein in the milk kills the fungus.  (Milk with higher fat content works too but leaves a residue on your plant that can attract insects.)  A wettable/sprayable natural sulfur solution is also very effective.  Jeff Gilman’s short video on Organic Gardening products is definitely worth watching.  http://gardenrant.com/2009/05/the-truth-about-jeff-gillman.html

If you are trying to control fungus, prevention is the key. Fungal spores can spread overnight and infect the whole plant.  Control the cucumber beetles and squash bugs that spread the disease in the first place and start spraying the milk or sulfur solution weekly before and after you see the powdery mildew.

The picture is of my squash plants today (Sept 2) with powdery mildew and a cluster of squash bug eggs. Spraying takes time and this late in the season, it is almost impossible to kill everything that is attacking your plants.  Truthfully, I rarely spray fungicides and I still collect a  respectable load of vegetables.  I put new seed in the ground as soon as my older plants are in full production so I get a fresh second crop.  Remove your sick plants and put them in the trash as soon as you have harvested the best of your vegetables.

Cabbage Looper damage on Collards

It is the season for cabbage, collards and brussel sprouts to already be in the ground.  Do not be surprised when little green worms start eating holes in the leaves & leaving a trail of poop behind. (Yuk!)  My beautiful new crop of collards already under attack.  You will find the culprits on the underside of the leaves, and about the same color of green. The looper turns into a gray moth, the worm becomes a dainty white butterfly – neither of which you want in your garden.  The best organic solution is called Bacillus thuringiensis or “BT”.  Read the label & buy the type that is specifically for caterpillars.  This naturally occurring pesticide is a stomach toxin that only kills caterpillars.  It will not harm beneficial insects, humans or the plants and soil you spray it on.  It takes a few days for the worms to die, but they stop eating immediately.

A Reminder About Classes – There are only 2 more for the year!   Please RSVP if you will attend.

September 7th & 8th (Fri & Sat)
Course #7 – Maintaining the Late Summer Garden, Seed Saving (& when to sow them), and Plant Propagation

October 10th & 13th (Wed & Sat)
Class #8 – The Fall Garden – What about that gap between when the summer Daylilies & Black-eyed Susans are over and before the leaves turn their beautiful fall color?  How do you make your garden fabulous right through early fall and winter? More about fall clean up, what to prune or not, what to plant, and all about mulches & how to use them.

I hope to see you soon!

Happy Gardening,

Ellen

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