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Friday, July 24, 2020

How Do Garden Anti-Fungal Sprays Work and The Key to Spraying Success & Fungal Control

The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop

How Do Garden Anti-Fungal Sprays Work 
and The Key to Spraying Success & Fungal Control

There are many garden sprays on the market as well as many DIY garden sprays. It is not really a question of which one is the best, as most of them work. A better question to ask is how can I be successful at using anti-fungal sprays in my garden. Before I answer that, it is so important to test spray any new spray you introduce to your garden. Spray some leaves of each plant variety you want to treat and wait 48 hours. If there is no damage, spray the rest of the plant.

The sprays you purchase tend to work in 4 different ways, generally speaking. A spray like hydrogen peroxide, which I use often, works by contacting the fungus and fungal spores and it actually destroys/cleans them off your plant. The H202 reacts in the sun (once on the leaf), breaks down into water and oxygen when a oxygen bond is broken, and that energy cleanses the leaf of your plant. Too much H202 in your mix and the spray will damage your plant. The hydrogen peroxide mix, is a spray, that you apply and in 24 hours it is gone and it has done its work. Copper also directly impacts fungi and kills. The sprays are designed to place copper on your plant's leaves and the copper ions interact with the fungi, killing the fungi. Copper sprays stay on plant leaves for an extend period of time based on the spray contents. These type of sprays directly assault the fungi.

Baking soda spray or wettable sulfur spray, sit on the plant's leaf and they change the pH level of the leaf surface. Baking soda lowers the pH value and sulfur raises the pH value. This changes the natural pH level of the plant leaf that fungi normally find hospitable for growing on and reproducing. Again too much of either of these chemicals will damage plant leaves. These spray make the surface of the leaf inhospitable to fungi. They tend to last 5-7 days and it varies on how much rain and how hard the rain falls. 

Oil sprays work by coating the leaf surface but, more importantly, also coating the fungus and fungal spores. This impacts the fungi's ability to reproduce and thrive. Essentially the oil sticks to the fungus, keeps it from spreading, and disrupts the life-cyle. The oil sprays can last 5-10 days based on rain and the type of ingredients mixed with the oils that might help them stay on the plant leaves.These sprays keep the fungi in place until they naturally die out. 

Finally you have sprays like Daconil, milk and Seranade (works in multiple ways) that coat the leaf and fill the pours of the leaf where fungi like to attach. The fungi have to compete with these type of sprays to establish and they lose out. Two of these sprays place microbes, that don't harm your plant, in the areas fungi want to inhabit. One of them just fills the areas and becomes water proof.  They each have to be applied at different rates.

You might be asking... well which one do I use? How often do I use it? When do I use it? Can I mix them? Let's start with can I mix them. The answer is probably not. The more applications you add to plant leaves, the more risk you have to damage them.  Some applications will cancel each other out such as baking soda and sulfur. Add something acidic, like sulfur, to copper sprays can make the copper more harmful to the plant leaf. I recommend picking one or two sprays that you most feel comfortable with and sticking with them for a season, because in general they all work. I have actually used them all over the last 10 years.

What makes anti-fungal sprays the most effective, allowing you to win the battle against the bad fungi, is your spraying routine. If you don't have a routine, you might slow the progress of the fungus but, ultimately you will be defeated. The concept to understand is that all fungi have a life-cycle. They all require the right conditions which are typically temperature, moisture, and a host plant. When all three of these are in place, the fungi appear and use this window to multiply as fast as they can. The window is fairly small but devastating to our crops. This is why you dont see powdery mildew when it cooler or other fungi when there is no humidity.

Spray on a routine for the victory.This will vary garden to garden. Take notes, look up arrival times or ask nursery staff what fungi show up in your area and when do they typically arrive. Start your spraying routine early, 2-3 weeks before they typically arrive. Stick to a routine which is generally every 7-14 days depending on the spray and frequency of rain. Stick to this routine and you will have success against the bad fungi that come to your gardens. This approach also holds true to manage bacterial issues and insects. There is no one and done spray. The routine is the key.


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