Cool, Wet Weather Brings a Host of Problems

Heuchera

I’m sure the talk over the garden fence these days is about the dismal weather we’ve been having.  While perennials and shrubs love the cool, damp forecast so do Botrytis, Black Spot, Shot Hole, Powdery Mildew and a long list of other garden related diseases that we’re just starting to hear about it at the garden centre as customers arrive with their baggies of plant samples, wondering what is going on.

Some things you’re just not going to get away from when you live in the wet, West Coast because our climate is perfect for a host of diseases and problems.  If you have roses you will have black spot, if you have peaches you will get peach leaf curl, if you have ornamental cherries and plums you will get Shot Hole, I’d almost bet money on it.  That’s just the way it is here.   However that doesn’t mean you have to sit back and take it on the chin.  You can gain some control over your garden and while you may not conquer everything you can at least minimize the impact of diseases.

Every spring at the garden centre we incorporate a foliar spray program for the roses that includes a fungicide.  We don’t sell any ‘bad stuff’ at Cultivate nor do we use any on our stock and up until last year we turned to Safer’s Defender as our defense against black spot and the like.  While Safer’s products are great and we recommend them there still is a chemical element to them and when Serenade Garden came along we were very excited.

Serenade Garden is a broad spectrum, preventative biofungicide and while that might not make you jump out of your seat and clap your hands in glee it should make you at least sit up and take notice.   Broad spectrum means that it is effective in a wide variety of ways, which is good.  Preventative, well, that’s pretty simple to understand and it’s good, too.  Biofungicide…lets break it down.  Fungicide is a chemical substance that destroys or inhibits the growth of fungi.  Throw ‘bio’ in front of it and it becomes a natural or biological product, not chemical, which is great.

Basically this product is a strain of Bacillus subtillis, a naturally occurring bacterium found in soil, water and air.  If you’re familiar with using BTK for tent caterpillars then this is the same bacterium but a different strain.

This one controls the growth of certain harmful bacteria and fungi by penetrating and destroying the disease pathogen.  This might still make your eyes glaze over so really all you need to know is that it’s natural, doesn’t harm beneficial insects or wildlife (and the not so wild life) and it works.

How do you use it? It’s available in a ready-to-use spray or a concentrate that you dilute and while Health Canada describes the ‘fragrance’ of Serenade Garden to be ‘sweet and earthy’ I would lean more towards plain yogurt that had been out of the fridge for a couple of hours.  While it’s not really offensive smelling I wouldn’t apply it before a backyard party.

Best applied as a preventative before problems show up, it can still be used at the first signs of disease.  Spray all parts of the plant for the best results and let it drip onto the soil underneath.  You can apply it anytime; day or night, sun or cloud, just not before or during a rainfall and it’s safe to apply up to and including the day of harvest.  As with all products, chemical or otherwise, you should always read the label before using.

While I’m not likely to be found singing in my garden (because my daughter claims I can’t sing and I don’t want to embarras her) I will certainly be Serenading my plants through this wet season.   I know…that was bad, I can hear you groan.

Shirley Eppler

June 2012