Traditional commercial fungicides often contain harsh chemicals that may pollute the environment. Gardeners are making the transition to natural, or even organic, growing may want to avoid spraying toxic chemicals on edibles, in case they do not wash off completely. Luckily, several natural fungicide options exist to help prevent fungal problems in plants.
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Besides reducing the need for harsh chemicals in the garden, natural fungicides have a few other benefits. Firstly, gardeners can often make natural fungicides from things they already have around the kitchen, making them very convenient. The ingredients in homemade, natural fungicides often also cost very little money. Additionally, natural fungicides do not harm beneficial soil organisms or bees, like commercial fungicides sometimes do.
Baking soda helps prevent fungal diseases. It also kills existing fungal spores on plant leaves. Gardening Australia expert Jerry Coleby-Williams recommends mixing a drop of vegetable oil, a drop of natural detergent and 2 tsp of baking soda in a litre of water to make a natural fungicidal spray. The baking soda kills fungus, and the detergent and oil help the spray stick to plant leaves. This mixture kills powdery mildew, black spot and rust on roses, tomatoes, Chinese celery and other plants with soft leaves.
Both the National Gardening Association and Gardening Australia experts recommend a solution of 1 part milk in 10 parts water as an anti-fungal treatment. To use the solution, put it in a spray bottle and spray it over all of the plant surfaces. Raw and organic milk works best because it has natural antibiotic properties that pasteurisation and antibiotics fed to cows can destroy.
Montana Federation of Garden Clubs recommends introducing the beneficial fungus, Gliocladium virens, to a garden's soil to prevent plants from rotting (See Reference 3). This fungus occurs naturally in soils, and adding some extra Gliocladium virens protects plants from fusarium rot and pythium rot. The natural bacteria, Bacillus subtilis, also prevents fungal problems and controls existing plant diseases. Some natural fungicide sprays contain this bacteria, which helps kill powdery mildew, botrytis, blight and fire blight.
Natural Horticultural Oils
Most horticultural oils come from refined petroleum products, but the National Gardening Association explains that gardeners can also use natural horticultural oils made from vegetable oils or neem oil. Horticultural oils rubbed or sprayed on plant leaves control powdery mildew and also prevent many insects from spreading fungal spores, like aphids and whiteflies.
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- National Gardening Association; A Better Solution for Powdery Mildew; Charlie Nardozzi
- National Gardening Association; Got Mildew? Get Milk!; Charlie Nardozzi
- Montana Federation of Garden Clubs: New - Natural Pesticides and Fungicides
- Ohio State University; Bees Deliver Fungicides More Effectively Than Sprays, Study Finds; Yudhijit Bhattacharjee; September 2000
- Gardening Australia; Fact Sheet: Organic Fungicide; Jerry Coleby-Williams
- National Gardening Association; Horticultural Oil; Whitney Cranshaw