Plants, like people and animals, can develop a number of diseases. Whether you see it in your houseplants or out in the garden, diseases can destroy your greenery quickly if not treated, prevented, or destroyed. It’s probably not the end of the world if you lose a houseplant to a disease, but if you rely on your vegetable garden for food, it can be a major problem.
There are a number of diseases that could be affecting your plants. Some may occur on any type of plant, while others will be specific to certain plants. Some of the most common issues are mildew, leaf spot, and fungal infections. These and other plant diseases can often be treated with a natural remedy. In most cases, there is no need to get a harsh chemical from the gardening store that could harm you or your family.
Before you try the remedies, however, be sure that you have a good understanding of the diseases and what they look like. Especially if a plant is very important to you, be careful that you are treating the disease accurately. Read up on plant diseases to learn what the signs of various problems and pests are. Choose a treatment that suits your needs but that is also convenient. There are several treatments that work on the same disease, so pick one based on the ingredients you happen to have on hand.
Many of these treatments involve making and using a spray. It is best to use the spray in the early morning or in the evening. Do not spray when it is too hot, or it may burn your plant’s leaves. Before trying any spray, you would be wise to test it on one leaf first. Observe the leaf twenty-four hours later to see if there was an adverse reaction. Only spray the part of the plant that is diseased. Protect yourself while spraying. Some of the ingredients may be irritating to your eyes, nose, or skin.
- Apple cider vinegar. Dilute one tablespoon of vinegar in one gallon of water and use to treat fungal infection on any type of plant. It can also help treat black spot on aspen trees and on roses.
- Baking soda. Another fungicidal spray is made with baking soda. Mix one tablespoon of soda with two and a half tablespoons of vegetable oil and add to a gallon of water. Shake the mixture well and add to it one half teaspoon of castile soap. Shake the spray bottle regularly while you are using it to keep the ingredients together. They tend to separate out. When using this spray to treat powdery mildew, first spray down the affected leaves with water. This can help to loosen up spores. You can also use the baking soda spray to treat early tomato blight, leaf blight, and anthracnose.
- Chive spray. This mixture is useful for treating downy mildew on vegetables like pumpkins, squash, and cucumber. To make it, steep a large bunch of chopped chives in boiling water. Strain the chives out and use the liquid to treat the vegetables. It can also help prevent apple scab.
- Garlic and corn spray. To prevent fungal infections in any plants that you feel are susceptible to them, you can use this effective spray. To make it, you need corn leaves, clematis leaves, and the papery outer covering of garlic. Chop them up together in a blender or food processor with water. Strain the liquid and use it as a spray.
- Elder leaf spray. Elder leaves are known to be fungicidal. If you have a shrub on your property, collect several of the leaves and simmer in water for about thirty minutes. Use about two times as much water as leaves. Strain out the leaves and add a tablespoon of castile soap per sixteen ounces of solution. Spray on your affected plants.
- Horseradish spray. Horseradish is a potent substance, as anyone who has eaten it can tell you. That spicy flavor indicates a potent cleanser that is an excellent way to prevent fungal infections and particularly, brown rot in apple trees. Process one cup of horseradish roots in a blender or food processor and mix with two cups of water. Let it sit for twenty-four hours and strain out the roots. Dilute this liquid with two quarts of water.
- Milk spray. A milk spray has several uses. It can treat common mildews that occur on tomato, squash, asters, and cucumbers, as well as mosaic disease in cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce. The milk changes the pH on leaves, making it a poor environment for the growth of the disease. To make it, mix one part milk to nine parts water. Spray plants thoroughly every three to four days when mildew has already formed, or just once a week as a preventative measure.
- Chamomile tea. Chamomile tea is a good fungicide. Spray tea on the seedlings and on the soil to treat damping off disease, especially if you see fuzzy white growths.
- Seaweed spray. To make it, steep about two-thirds of a cup of kelp in a gallon of water, and spray it on plants to prevent and treat damping off disease.
- Cinnamon. Perhaps the simplest remedy for preventing damping off disease is to sprinkle a little cinnamon over your seedlings and surrounding soil. It will not harm the sprouts, but will kill fungi.
- Hydrogen peroxide. Right out of your medicine cabinet, three percent hydrogen peroxide can be sprayed directly on leaves to prevent both fungal and bacterial infections. It will not harm the plants, but do not use it on seedlings. It can also help to treat infections that are already present.
Why not prevent the diseases from forming in the first place? Certainly, you can’t anticipate and stop every problem that may arise, but there are some steps you can take while your plants are healthy to avoid the onset of diseases.
- Disinfect your tools before working. When making cuttings, trimming, or shaping, disinfect your tools with bleach between each use. Be sure to rinse the bleach off thoroughly before using the tools on a plant. Keeping your tools clean can help remove any parasites and fungi before they get a chance to infect your plants.
- Use new or disinfected containers. When transplanting or starting seeds, use containers that are either new or have been disinfected. As with the tools, this can prevent the spread of any diseases that might be lingering in a well-used pot.
- Allow plenty of space between plants. Having adequate space allows air to flow between the plants. Fungal diseases in particular thrive in the close, damp environment that develops when plants are too close together. Putting plants too close together also makes it easier for disease to spread if one plant happens to get infected.
- Take care of your plants. Healthy plants will be less susceptible to infection, so take care to give your plants everything they need: organic matter, sunlight, and adequate (but not too much)water.
- Stick with local plants. As much as you can, grow plants that are native to your local environment. A plant that evolved to live in the tropics is going to be more likely to become diseased when grown in rural Oregon than a native plant.
- Be observant. The sooner you notice and begin to treat a disease, the more likely you will be able to cure it with a treatment. Check your plants every day and make sure there are no signs of disease.
- Watch out for damping off disease. Damping off affects seedlings and can potentially destroy your little sprouts if you start your garden from seeds. Being careful about the soil you use is a good way to prevent damping off, but you can also try sprays for extra protection.
- Rotate your crops. When growing vegetables, rotating crops each year will help prevent diseases from building up in the soil.
Your plants, especially those in your vegetable garden, are an important part of your lifestyle. If you rely on growing your own food, you need to be very careful when it comes to plant diseases. Take precautions and take care to set your garden up for success. When that fails, try some natural treatments to eradicate the infections.
©2012 Off the Grid News