From the dinner plate to the doctor’s office, fungus is a part of everyday life. And the garden is no exception.
As a gardener, I have terrific respect for fungi. Its versatility is boundless. Many species are of great benefit to the gardener’s efforts, even providing nourishment. Yet others positively ruin the looks of the garden, literally overnight. Talk about a love-hate relationship.
Fungi reproduce by releasing spores. These spores travel by way of water (rain or hose), wind and gardener; say, if we use infected leaves as mulch for the garden. When the spores have found a host, the fungus begins its infection. When the conditions are just right (damp and dark), the fungus grows and begins to occupy the affected plant. Now the struggle begins.
Once leaves are completely infected, they start to drop. To prevent further fungal issues, clean up the fallen leaves. Otherwise a secondary infection may occur when water splashes from the fallen leaves onto newer, unaffected leaves.
But you’re not in the clear just yet.
Good gardening practices discourage the growth of fungus in our gardens. For example, water in the morning, and water the soil instead of the foliage. Allow enough time for the foliage to dry completely before nightfall. The warm, drying sun is the fungi’s worst enemy. Also, keep good air circulation around the susceptible plants by trimming away excess growth. It will allow for more air to circulate through the plant.
While selecting new plants for the garden, look for resistant varieties such as Crabapple “Prairiefire” or Phlox “David.” This gives you a chance to enjoy problematic plants without the worry.
And, from time to time, it may be necessary to handle fungal issues with a fungicide, regardless of how hard we try. Use fungicide as a preventative as early in the season as possible, just as the buds are beginning to break open, and then reapply after it rains. Ultimately, sanitation is the best prevention.
So, whether you’re talking mushrooms or mildew, don’t let a fungus drive you batty. When it has you feeling blue, smother a steak with your favorite fungi and you’ll feel better in no time.