What’s to do when your plants, well nurtured with composting and organic fertilizer, are ravaged by mildew or other insidious fungi?
Do you break open the chemical based fungicide and lay to waste your plans for an organic garden?
For many, chemical fungicides are not an option since manufactured fungicides are sulfur based and largely toxic. If chemicals are out of the question there is no need to despair. There are plenty of natural and homemade alternatives to complement your organic garden.
Milk Builds Strong Plants!
Surprisingly enough, household milk is an effective fungicide. A study by scientist Wagner Bettiol showed that diluted milk, applied regularly, greatly decreases mildew and mold in plants by up to 90%, which is competitive when compared to synthetic fungicides. The milk also acts as a foliar fertilizer providing salts and amino acids that essentially boost the plant’s immune system.
To prepare try diluting your milk by adding 1 part milk to 9 parts water. Apparently skim milk works best for this. Put the diluted milk in a spray bottle and apply to your plants once a week.
All Natural Alternatives
This is the broken down chemical in cinnamon that is responsible for its taste and flavor. The synthesized version of this is made from steam distillation of cinnamon bark. Cinnamaldehyde is applied to the base of the plant and acts as a natural insecticide as well as a fungicide.
Made from pressed fruit and seeds of the neem tree, neem oil has various applications. It is widely used in India for medicinal purposes and as a bio-pesticide. Neem oil does show some toxicity and should not be consumed.
This oil is harvested from jojoba seeds. Commonly used as a replacement for whale oil, jojoba oil is also an effective fungicide that is also non-toxic.
Another home remedy for fungi is just baking soda. Make this mixture with 4 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon dish soap and a gallon of water. Be sure to spray the concoction on both sides of leaves.
Why Not Chemical Fungicides?
Fungicides usually entail a cocktail of chemicals to spread on your garden that can also be hazardous to your health. That is why the Worker Protection Standard requires limited exposure and protective equipment for field workers who spray fungicides. Exposure causes various skin and health problems not to mention the effect on your garden. The runoff of these chemicals kills soil life and seeps into the groundwater.
Of all the natural alternatives, milk is the cheapest and most accessible, which sparks an age-old debate between half and half and skim milk. Half and half is creamier. But skim milk makes a better fungicide. Regardless of your preference, even if you like your coffee black, it’s pretty cool that you can nurture your garden with coffee grounds and plain old milk.
Matthew Sommer writes about sustainable businesses.
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