SIMPLE Steps on How to get RID of Fungus in Garden Soil | 🌳

Different types of fungi exist naturally in soil, some of which are beneficial, others harmful. Unfortunately, there are thousands of fungi species that can easily mess up your garden and plants. These fungi are associated with root rot that messes up with plants’ root systems, affecting the water and nutrient uptake. Additionally, the fungi can also cause crown, collar, and stem rots. This guide will look at the various methods of dealing with fungus in the soil and the different types of beneficial and harmful fungi.

Knowing the Life Cycle

Like other organisms that might affect your garden, it is important to understand the fungus life cycle. It is worth noting that a fungus’ life cycle varies slightly from one species to another; some reproduce sexually, while others do so asexually. Here is a brief look at both modes.

Sexual Reproduction of Fungi

For fungus, sexual reproduction [1] involves three sequential steps; plasmogamy, karyogamy, and meiosis. Here is a deeper look into the three stages.

Spore (Haploid)

Every fungus life cycle begins at this stage. Initially, every fungus spore is haploid, meaning that it only has a single copy of its genetic composition. Haploid spores cling onto other organisms and move through the air. Once the spores get to a favorable environment, they develop structures known as mycelium, through which nutrients move and allow the pore to develop.

Mycelium (Diploid)

Once the mycelium develops and grows, it can occasionally encounter another fungus. If the two are genetically compatible, cells from both mycelium fuse into one new cell. At this stage, the new cell is diploid since it has more than a single copy of genetic information.

Meiosis

After the mycelium stage, the new cell enters a phase known as meiosis. During this time, the new cell splits into two cells with the genetic material of both the original spores. The new cells are not similar, though, and neither do they resemble the parent cells.

Asexual Reproduction of Fungi

The asexual reproduction [2] of fungi is similar to the sexual one only that during the diploid stage, the fungus produces mitospores that are identical to the parent spore. These mitospores grow into new mycelium, and the lifecycle process begins all over again.

Remove the Infection

If your garden is already infected with fungus, the first step would definitely involve getting rid of the infection. Here are some basic steps you can take to achieve this.

  • Use a garden hoe to get rid of all weeds and plants affected by fungi. Ensure to dispose of this plant matter and not compost it. The latter would only bring back the fungi infection later.
  • Get rid of all rocks and sticks from the affected area. If possible, turn the soil over to a depth of about six inches. Alternatively, dig up the affected area using a sharpened spade.
  • Using a hoe, dig up a deep trench around the affected area and line it with plastic to prevent the fungus from spreading. Make sure to seal the trench from wind penetration that might otherwise render your efforts futile.
  • Water the affected area generously to the point of near-saturation. You will know this when the water is no longer seeping into the soil quickly.
  • Cover the affected area with a plastic sheet, letting the edges hang into the trench you dug earlier. If using multiple sheets, overlap them to ensure you have covered the entire surface. Use the soil you dug from the trench to bury the plastic sheet into the trench, ensuring to stretch the edges tight. Remove the plastic sheet after 8 weeks, and your garden will be fungus-free.

Change the Environmental Conditions

Like any other living organism, fungi thrive under certain conditions and will die or struggle under others. Here are several steps [3] you can take to alter your garden’s environmental conditions to inhibit fungal growth.

  • Eliminate all sick plants: Once plants and weeds are infected with fungus, there is only so much you can do for them. It is advisable to get rid of the affected plants. Do not be tempted to compost them. Getting rid of these affected plants minimizes the chances of fungus spread.
  • Clean up your garden: After getting rid of the affected plants, you will also need to remove all the garden debris. Fungi feed on dead plants and can linger on even after you have removed the live plants. Rake up all the leaves and pull up or cut the annual and perennial plants.
  • Practice crop rotation: Do not plant the same crops you did last season on the same spot they were. For example, you can plant herbs where the tomatoes were and have potatoes where the herbs were. Doing this inhibits the growth of fungi specific to certain plant types. If you do not have sufficient space for crop rotation, consider leaving the garden empty for a year to deprive the fungi of feeding material.
  • Apply a fungicide: There are numerous fungicides out there; chemical, natural, and organic. Applying a fungicide even before the onset of fungi can prevent the formation and eventual spread. We will look at the basics of choosing a fungicide later in this guide.
  • Plant disease-resistant crops: Consider planting flowers, vegetables, or herbs with proven resistance to soil-borne diseases.

Soil Sterilization

Whatever measures you take, it is worth noting that fungi can be quite hard and can linger on for years, even on empty gardens. To further reduce the chances of a spread, you should sterilize the soil. Fortunately, there are several homemade sterilization products [4] you can make and use.

Using Cinnamon Powder

Cinnamon is an outstandingly effective antifungal agent and can be easily found in numerous outlets. To make this sterilization product:

  1. Scoop two spoons of finely-grounded cinnamon powder. This will be enough for a space measuring one square foot.
  2. Adjust accordingly depending on the area you intend to cover.
  3. Sprinkle the cinnamon powder over the affected area, taking care not to miss any spot.
  4. Mix the powder with soil, going to about 3 inches deep.

It is advisable to apply this remedy after the rainy season.
To increase the remedy’s effectiveness, repeat the application every month.

Using Baking Soda

Baking soda is arguably one of the most versatile household ingredients. The good news, it can be used as an antifungal agent. To use it, mix a teaspoon of baking soda with 2 liters of clean water. Shake thoroughly, and once mixed, add a few drops of vegetable oil. The latter helps the solution stick onto plant leaves if you have some you do not want to pull out.

Once the mixture is ready, spray it generously over the affected area using a handheld or knapsack sprayer. Alternatively, you can sprinkle a teaspoon of baking soda on a square foot of soil and mix it thoroughly like in the cinnamon solution. If you are not satisfied with the mixture, feel free to add some water to dissolve the baking soda into the soil further. It is worth mentioning that baking soda is highly effective against fungi and kills them almost instantly.

However, using baking soda comes with a significant downside. It can rapidly raise the soil’s alkalinity, affecting plants that thrive in acidic conditions. You should therefore use baking soda moderately and possibly avoid using it repeatedly.

Using Turmeric Powder

Besides killing fungus, turmeric is also said to kill bacteria and destructive insects. Just like cinnamon, this common household ingredient can help you deal with a fungal infection in your garden. To sterilize the soil using turmeric, sprinkle a pinch of the powder over the affected area. Additionally, feel free to use turmeric alongside cinnamon; it can only make your sterilization remedy more potent. After sprinkling the turmeric powder, sprinkle some water to enhance absorption into the soil and leave the entire area untouched for a day.

Unlike some commercial solutions that can harm plants, this turmeric solution is completely safe for plants.

Using Garlic Paste

Garlic is said to work wonders against fungal infections. For this remedy, crush 10 cloves of garlic into a fine paste. Resist the urge to use premade paste for this homemade remedy. If possible, use the freshest garlic you can get. Mix the paste with some water, making sure not to over dilute it. Once the mixture is consistent, add a few drops of vegetable oil. The latter inhibits airflow to the fungus, making the elimination process more effective. Spray the resulting mixture on the affected area twice a week. Keep applying and observing the progress and only cease when the fungi have been fully eliminated.

Using Neem

Neem oil is reportedly a great remedy against fungi infections. Additionally, the oil is also said to be effective against a wide range of pests harmful to plants. To use this remedy as a sterilizer, mix a few drops of neem oil with water and spray the resulting mixture onto the affected area. However, keep in mind that neem oil can ‘burn’ plant leaves and therefore needs to be applied in moderation. Alternatively, dry a few neem leaves, crush them, and mix them with soil on the affected area.
Once you have sprayed the neem oil or sprinkled the crushed leaves, let the soil sit undisturbed and then turn it over after two days. Doing this enhances aeration and lets the soil dry completely. If you are not feeling like creating the solution yourself, you can purchase one from online stores or your local gardening center.

Using Clove Oil

While clove oil is quite effective against fungi in the soil, it is not highly recommended due to its intensity. Clove oil can easily damage leaves on young plants and should only be used in a garden without plants. If your affected garden still has plants, you might want to avoid using clove oil.

Using Lime Juice

You can inhibit fungal growth by spraying a mixture of lime juice and water. However, keep in mind that sustained use of lime juice can upset your garden’s pH balance by skewing towards the acidic side. It is also worth noting that concentrated lime juice is not very friendly to young plant leaves.

Fungicide Treatments

A fungal infection in your garden can be quite tricky to get rid of. Luckily, we have come with some elaborate steps you can take to eliminate this problem.

Identify the Exact Fungal Problem

Like mentioned earlier in this guide, there are numerous varieties of fungi out there. This makes it important to determine the specific fungal problem you are experiencing in your garden. Doing this ensures you are not trying to combat a problem using the wrong products. Here is a brief look at the most common fungal infections.

  • Blackened or rotten leaves typically point to leaf spots and blight.
  • Dry, cracked patches on the plant stem point towards cankers. Additionally, spore-generating structures might sometimes be visible around the affected area.
  • Discoloration and fungal growth on the plant leaves most probably signify mildew.
  • Weak, withered plants often point to fungal-caused wilting. Typically, these plants need to be pulled out and disposed of.

Visit a Gardening Center

Besides having a wide collection of fungicides, gardening centers are excellent sources of information. For example, explaining your observations to a gardening expert can help you get a better-informed opinion, and consequently, a better solution than you might have thought. When visiting a gardening center, make sure to take with you a clear picture of the affected plants.

Additionally, you can visit major retail outlets if you are already certain of the fungal control product you need to purchase. The likes of Walmart have extensive gardening product ranges.

Natural or Organic?

Before choosing any fungicides, it’s important to research the difference between products marketed as ‘natural and those labeled ‘organic’. At times, fungicides labeled ‘natural’ might have non-organic compounds such as sulfur and copper. Generally, your best option is to use fully organic fungicides. Additionally, ensure the product you buy is USDA-certified.

Powdered or Liquid?

The fungicides you purchase from local or online stores come in two distinct types; powdered and liquid. The former can be sprinkled onto soil on the affected area without harming plants. On the other hand, Liquid fungicides need to be dissolved in water and then sprayed onto the plants or soil. While both products are designed to achieve a similar result, the application mode can cause significant differences.

Types of Fungi

Here is a look at the main fungus classifications [5].

Saprophytic Fungi

These fungi are typically known as decomposers. They decompose lignin and cellulose found in soil and convert them into energy. These fungi produce carbon dioxide and organic acids. Under the right conditions, some of these fungi can remain active in the soil for hundreds of years. Saprophytic mushrooms, for example, can thrive in a wide range of conditions due to their multiple nutrient uptake mechanisms.

Mutualistic Fungi

Mutualistic fungi are also known as mycorrhizal fungi and are known to colonize plant roots in a mutually beneficial relationship. The fungi derive carbon atoms from plant roots and, in turn, create phosphorus for the plants’ benefit. Additionally, these fungi also bring other benefits to plant roots, including nitrogen, micronutrients, and a wide range of soil nutrients. These fungi come in two major types; endomycorrhiza and ectomycorrhiza. The former grows within a plants’ roots and are common in shrubs and grasses. The latter grows on plant roots’ surface and can be commonly seen near or on trees.

Pathogenic Fungi

Unlike mutualistic fungi, pathogenic fungi only exist to destroy your plants. These fungi are also known as parasitic fungi. They colonize plant roots, resulting in plant damage and, in some instances, death. These are the ones you should be most wary of. On the flip side, though, some of these fungi can help control pests and diseases. For example, a nematode-trapping fungus can be quite effective against roundworms.

Summary

Fungi are some of the most common problem-causing microorganisms for gardeners. If left unchecked, these tiny living things can wreak havoc on your garden. However, you can follow the tips and guides outlined in this article to get rid of fungal infections in your garden.

Citations

  1. https://www.britannica.com/science/fungus/Sexual-reproduction
  2. https://www.britannica.com/science/fungus/Reproductive-processes-of-fungi
  3. https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/planting-and-maintenance/get-rid-fungus-garden-soil
  4. https://gardenbagan.com/how-do-you-get-rid-of-fungus-in-the-garden-soil/
  5. https://sciencing.com/common-types-fungi-found-soil-6365925.html
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