Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Fungus Among Us

Ever notice how most everything offers mixed blessings? All during the long winter and spring dry season, we pine and whine for the return of the summer monsoons. But soon it seems that in the steamy heat various fungal diseases coat our roses and veggies and lawns like agricultural acne. Rarely dangerous, these various fungi can weaken and disfigure both our landscapes and our egos. So what’s a soul to do?

Some folks prefer the sometimes immediate results of using broad spectrum chemical fungicides like Daconil or Benomyl or Funginex, whose price tags stun even true believers. But since they can also wipe out the beneficial fungi that help control disease and nematodes, plus nourish plant roots while enriching the soil by decaying organic matter, they can be like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly on a piece of fine china. Such sprays simplify the ecology of a garden, but in nature it is the complex ecologies that are healthy and stable.

But those of us who garden organically to protect the health of our families and the environment can mimic nature’s billion year old wisdom and fight fungal diseases by adding teams of beneficial fungi and bacteria to crowd out the harmful ones. This "biological crowding" has kept my gardens and my clients’ gardens virtually disease free the last 20 years. And as you’d expect from a lazy tightwad like me, the technique costs little and takes little effort.
Fill a 5 gallon bucket with water and let it age 2-3 days in the sun to drive out the chlorine (rain or fishpond water is best). Then add two cups each of:

Calf Manna (25 & 50 lb. bags in feed stores)
any dry compost starter
fresh home made compost
Ringer Lawn Restore
sugar or molasses
1 probiotic tablet of ‘Primal Defense’ from a health food store
add a packet of baker’s yeast, stir and let this "Bio Tea" steep for 2 days.

Stir again, then use a watering can to splash it on the leaves of your roses and other plants to innoculate their surfaces with billions of good critters. Strain it through panty hose into your pump garden sprayer (make sure it has NEVER held herbicides) to spray it onto your lawn and shrubs to coat them too with these natural allies who will control disease FOR you as you tend to life’s affairs. Just think of this as your landscape’s equivalent of when you eat yogurt after taking antibiotics to repopulate your digestive tract to prevent the yeast infections so common after a tetracycline regimen.

As with most natural gardening and good health approaches, this "Bio Tea" is not a fast acting "silver bullet", but a gentle, steady means of achieving a stable and sustainable balance. Want an infomercial-style "cure"? Blast the garden with fungicides. Want fungus diseases reduced from scary plagues to minor cosmetic issues? Try a batch of "Bio Tea" and use the money saved for several nice meals out!

Ringer Lawn Restore

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