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Organic pest control: My three best tips to tackle passion vine hoppers in your garden

It’s that time of year once again – the time to be vigilant as there are fresh bugs and insects aplenty in our gardens, scouting for food sources and places to breed. Let’s take a closer look at one of the peskiest critters that you will be spotting in your garden very shortly, as I reveal how to protect your garden and summer crops the organic way.

What is a passion vine hopper and why are they everywhere?

The passion vine hopper can be prolific in our gardens and people often remark that, all of a sudden, there are so many – where did they come from? In actual fact, the passion vine hopper lays eggs just once per year, from February onwards, but they can overwinter as eggs on host plants.

Nymphs hatch in late spring when the weather warms, and grow into adults over summer. They even stick around into winter, depending on your climate, but a good cold snap can put an end to the adult cycle and kill the eggs too.

Why are passion vine hoppers a problem in my garden?

Both the nymphs and the adults attack new young growing shoots, feeding on the sap of the plants, thus destroying new growth and causing damage to the plants. September to April is their biggest feeding time, so this is the time that the most damage is caused.

Adult passion vine hoppers are about 6mm long and have see-through triangle wings with a slight pattern. Passion vine hoppers are very good jumpers and can fly really quickly – thanks to three pairs of legs and two pairs of wings – making them harder to catch. Adults only take two weeks to mature and, when dusk arrives, this is when they mate. They lay their eggs in the late afternoon/evening, during the cooler temperatures.

An adult passion vine hopper

The female tends to lay its eggs in dead plant matter and garden stakes, but will also lay its eggs in neat little rows in the midribs of new young plants. When the nymphs hatch, they feed straight away on young shoots.

The nymph has five stages of development and the most common one we observe is when they develop their fluffy bums. When touched, these ‘fluffy bums’ jump so quickly, but miraculously seem to land on a plant nearby. Have a look under your plant leaves for clusters of these fluffy bum nymphs.

An egg ready to hatch

The adults have very sharp, piercing mouth-parts, which are pushed into the tender part of the plant to suck the plant juices out. Any excess juice is secreted as honeydew that puts a sticky coating on the plants’ leaves, and it can then cause sooty mould to grow, suffocating your plant.

How do I control passion vine hoppers in my garden organically?

Controlling these insects is extremely hard, unless you can spot where they lay their eggs. Sometimes, we can be fooled into thinking there is nothing to be done in the garden but, in these times, I recommend going around your garden and checking cracks in the bark of your fruit trees and looking on the underside of leaves for eggs and bugs. Another good way to spot these is if your leaves are all curled up – then you can pretty much guarantee that something is happening on the underside of the leaf!

Tip #1: My biggest tip for controlling passion vine hoppers is via observation – check your plants regularly by looking underneath leaves and between young shoots for any sign of eggs, removing the leaf they have laid on.

Tip #2: A good way to start your control of these pests is to grow plants that attract predator insects such as borage, alyssum and lavender. By planting these beneficial plants, it attracts the right kind of insect that will pray on the nymphs and eat them. These insects are hard to kill as they move so quickly, so it’s helpful to leave it to their natural-born predators. Nature always has a way.

Tip #3: I use a potent organic combination of EnSpray 99 oil and Liquid Kelp – my secret weapons! Spray in the evening, as these pests are much less active then. I recommend spraying the air first before you try to spray the plant itself, as they jump or fly so fast that you can catch them mid-air!  I then spray under all leaves and over every part of the plant, as they seem to be everywhere. Repeat the spraying weekly until the infestation reduces.

It is all about breaking the cycle and reducing the numbers.

If you’re looking for more guidance on pests and disease, along with companion planting, you might want to consider joining my membership site, The Grow Inspired Academy. Here, I can teach you how to manage your pests the organic way through a whole host of methods; along with detailed coaching on how to grow food and compost. We’re not accepting new members right now, but you can sign up to be the first to know when we open our doors next! Discover more here!

Happy gardening!

The Grow Inspired secret to preventing frustration with your summer garden

Welcome to spring and summer in your garden! It’s a time when we get to enjoy better weather, longer days and the joy of sunshine! These months are also when all the creatures, birds, bugs, pests and diseases wake up too though, and think that our newly prepared beds or pots are their playground! They seem to think that we provide mulch for them to remove and young plants for them to dig out, destroy or lay their eggs on…!

It is a source of frustration for people in every sector of the growing world. 

But did you know that you can prevent this with prior planning, a bit of effort and time? This is the Grow Inspired way, allowing you to sleep soundly at night or even go away knowing that your garden is protected!

Netting your garden is the key

Net your garden as soon as you have planted – do it once and do it well. There are many different ways of doing this, depending on your budget and what kind of netting you require for your plants.

Make sure you collect the right equipment to start with to avoid frustrations later on.

How do I net my garden or beds?

Personally, I find the easiest way is using hoops with netting laid over the top and fixed with stretchy string. If on a raised bed, I hook it on to nails. You can use re-bar, sticks, fibreglass poles, bamboo etc. The key is to make sure you get some alkathene pipe to slide over your support poles to create a smooth surface for the netting to slide over #toptip

Once your netting is over, you can either pin it to the side of your raised bed, cover it with soil or weigh it down with stones. This will keep birds, rabbits, cats and dogs out of your garden!

What netting do I choose?

There are a few different types of netting on the market now which give you choice. If you are looking to keep general creatures out of the garden, bird netting or old vineyard netting works wonders. 

However, if you are looking to keep whitefly, aphids and psyllids out, you will need insect netting, which has a very fine weave and will protect your garden very well. The fabric is light and easy to use, and really does protect your plants from not only insect infestation but weather extremes too. 

A great place to look for these, apart from your garden centres. is at Redpath or Cosio Plastics. You can order in different widths and lengths and even get end-of rolls.

When should the nets come off?

I generally like to remove my netting when my plants are ripening up, as I love to look at and enjoy my plants. If you have a regular spray programme, then rest assured that you can spray through these types of netting.

Remember, gardening is meant to be enjoyable and by pre-planning and netting your garden, you can avoid many frustrations in the long run.

Happy gardening!

This blog has been featured by Twinkl among their top tips for ”Starting a Kids-friendly Vegetable Garden

Has Spring sprung or is Autumn upon us? My top tips in your garden this month

Spring has sprung in the Southern Hemisphere, with the birds becoming active, flowers bursting forth and buds swelling. 

Preventing pest and disease is a job for Spring

Yet amongst this glory, the rain prevails, creating a humidity in the air that can cause pest and disease to be present early in the spring gardens. 

As most of the southern hemisphere is in lockdown, it is a prime opportunity to enjoy time in our gardens and be vigilant, checking for early rust on garlic, and black aphids on the leeks, chives and spring onions. Let’s get on top of these pests early before they infest our plants! Spray with a good organic oil and feed regularly to boost their health. 

Sow only when the temperature is right!

It is time to start sowing our spring/summer seeds, but I urge you to remember that summer seeds love a constant 20+ degrees for optimal success, so start indoors or in the greenhouse. Remember to prick out when the first true leaves are formed to avoid leggy seedlings that will become problematic later on. 

It is a great time to sow your flower seeds to provide food for the bees and to attract beneficial insects. Turn the compost now, ready for using on the garden when your new beds are formed, or to use as a side dressing for your establishing plants, garlic and leeks. All in all, it is prime time to give love to your garden and plan for the summer months to come.

Heading into Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere

Meanwhile, over here in the Northern Hemisphere, it has been a summer full of pest and disease and a high level of blight and fungal diseases, with torrential rain thunderstorms and then bursts of sunshine. Such a different growing season from last year!

With all this disease around, remember to spray an oil on your plants before pulling them out to help prevent the spread of fungal diseases for seasons to come. Also dispose of your plants, keeping them well away from your compost and sow a crop of mustard to help clean up your soil before autumn/winter planting. 

With those of you with apple and pear trees, please pick up your fallen fruit, as disease will spread to next year’s crop and remember all those chestnuts falling on the ground right now are so delicious boiled up and sauteed with salt. They are full of many vitamins and minerals, such as copper, manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, thiamine, folate, riboflavin, and potassium. Did you know they are also a good source of fiber, with 15% of your daily dose for just 10 chestnuts? 

A message to the lockdown cohort of gardeners:

For all those new gardeners that are in their second year of growing, and who may have started in lockdown last year, please realise that this is the way gardening goes… We are subject to the challenges of the weather and sometimes we might not get the crop we desire. 


Never give up hope and rise to the challenge, as growing food is so important in this new world, where food shortages and price rises are appearing everywhere. 

Healthy soil creates healthy plants; it grows nutrient rich food, which in turn gives us good gut health and energy, exactly what we all need right now! 

Take care of yourselves, and your plants and I hope you grow inspired.

Protect your garden with wildflowers: four steps to success

With the moon about to rise, it is the perfect time to sow wildflowers and beneficial insect flowers. If sown now, these will be up and flowering for early summer which is a great time to be bringing beneficial and predator insects into the garden.

How to sow these seeds in four simple steps:

Usually I am a gardener that likes to throw seeds around and leave the rest to Mother Nature.

However, with these types of seeds I have found that ground preparation is important for successful germination. The seeds for these types of flowers can be very fussy, as they are not too happy to compete with weeds.

Here’s my steps for success based on the experiences I have had:

Step 1: Prepare an area of garden you want them to go in and weed thoroughly

Step 2: Scatter some seed raising or potting mix on the areas

Step 3: Then scatter the seeds and cover with a light dusting of potting mix, pat down and water

Step 4: Cover with netting to prevent the birds or cats from disturbing the soil (eating or the other thing…!)

Top tip: I advise you not to put heaps of soil on top of the seeds, as too much will stop them from germinating. You can rake them into the prepared soil if you like, as this works just as well.

These seeds can be up and growing within a few days if planted at the right time of the moon. These flowers are not that hungry so huge amounts of food are not needed. A little lime can help sweeten the soil, but isn’t essential.

I never thin mine out as it gives a great blanket of flowers when fully grown. The flowers tend to germinate at different times, so don’t worry if this happens. They will push their way through to give you a grand display.

Top tip: The key to longevity for some of these flowers is to diligently dead head them, as new flowers will keep coming all the time. Then, towards the end of the season, let them go to seed and collect this for next season’s growing.

I sow lots of these seeds in all different areas of my garden for a few reasons:

#1 to bring beneficial insects in for my vegetable garden

#2 for the pure beauty of the flowers

#3 when planted towards your boundaries, as well as close to your veggie garden, the more insects you will attract.

Top tip: As your seeds grow into tiny plants, make sure you know what types of weeds are in your garden, as these could sprout amongst your seeds and take over.

This is especially important in the first 6-8 weeks of growth. After this time they are pretty self-sufficient and will grow and bloom, bringing both you and the insects much pleasure and benefit.

If you live in the warmer parts of New Zealand, you can start your sowing now and continue sowing for the next few months. This way you will ensure a continuous blooming period.

Beneficial flowers do not require huge amounts of water as, when densely planted, they cover the ground and help to retain moisture in the soil.

My last top tip: If you don’t have time to prepare the soil this week, I advise you to sow them in deep trays and transplant next month. I have successfully done this in the past, as long as you plant them out before they are too big. Alternatively, if you have a container garden, they will go well in this area.

Happy gardening!

How do you know if your citrus tree has borer and how can you treat it?

It’s the time of year to think about citrus tree borer – an irritating pest that can cause havoc with your lemons! 

Borer grubs are dormant for the next couple of months, so it is an ideal time to cut out and remove any borer. This is your time to act! Really, when it is dormant is the only time to cut it out, otherwise the grub will lay eggs on new cuts and then they will bore into the new growth of your tree.

Here are the signs you need to watch for and what you can do about it.

What do borers look like?

Borer grubs are quite big in size, and if your tree is quite young, they can take up nearly the width of the whole branch! They are fat and juicy, and half the thickness of my pinky finger, no wonder they do so much damage!!!

Borer grub
Borer

How can I tell if my citrus tree has a borer infestation?

A major sign to watch for is that your tree will lack vigour and have holes along the branches. In some cases, you will even be able to see mounds of sawdust on the branches and down the stem.

One of the easiest ways borer can get into your lemon tree is through a small cut on the lower trunk from a weedeater. Honestly, time and time again I have seen this, which becomes an entry point for pest and disease. If this happens to your tree, be sure to paste the wound to help it heal and to prevent pest and disease from entering.

An infected tree

How can I treat my citrus for borer?

The totally organic way of dealing with borer is to insert a G string from a guitar down the hole to pierce the grub, however this could take some time (and patience!). 

At Grow Inspired, we typically use a squirt of CRC down the hole, as this smothers the grub and causes it to die, without harming the trees. 

Following this, apply pruning paste over the holes or wounds to protect them from further infestation.

TOP TIP: It is so IMPORTANT to remember to either burn or dispose of your infected branches. 

Borer can kill citrus trees if left untreated. 

You can also keep your tree alive by removing the dead wood and keeping an eye on your tree, looking for new sawdust trails. 

When pruning the borer out of your tree, this is an ideal time to give your tree some shape and let the air flow through the middle to prevent a wee microclimate happening, where pest and disease thrive.

How can I best take care of my citrus tree right now?

Remember to feed your tree over the winter period as it will be striving to grow, produce fruit and get ready for the next season’s growth.

Over the winter months, it is also a great idea to build up a good mulch around your citrus trees. This will help keep the water in the soil and prevent it from drying out when spring comes, as citrus have roots very close to the surface. However, remember to leave a breathing space around the trunk and to mulch right out to the drip line of your trees (where the outer branches are).

You can also grow a living mulch around your citrus. The benefits of a living mulch is that they will also attract beneficial insects, which in turn will fight the upcoming pests of spring.

An ideal living mulch for citrus include comfrey, borage, lemon balm, nasturtiums and parsley. We have just dedicated an entire bundle in my Grow Inspired Academy to growing fruit trees, where we also talk about living mulch. If you’re keen to grow or improve the health of your fruit trees, find out more here.

Happy gardening!

Container gardening: How to grow fresh fruit on your balcony or deck

Growing fruit trees in pots….

Did you know that many fruit trees grow well in a pot? If you’re in rented accommodation or city-based apartments, abundant fresh fruit can be yours too! 

Citrus are a great option, with mandarins, lemons, limes and oranges all growing well in pots. 

But those aren’t the only options for you – you can even enjoy dwarf apple, plum and peach varieties, figs and feijoas too and let us not forget delicious blueberries! All of these do great in pots if given the right conditions.

How can I grow a fruit tree in a pot?

Choose a pot that is going to be big enough for your plant for up to 3 years. Your pot needs to be at least 35-60cm wide and be able to hold 40-80 litres of soil.

Most fruit trees have very similar soil requirements to one another, with the exception of blueberries, which prefer an acidic-based soil to thrive.

Place a good layer of stones or gap 7/14 in the base of your pot, creating a mound in the middle. This will ensure good drainage, which is imperative as fruit trees really detest wet feet.

Next, put a layer of compost and water, followed by a carbon layer of rotted leaves, and shredded, moist newspaper. On top of this, add your compost, rotted manure, bokashi, vermicast, and water it well.

Then, add a good layer of container mix and plant your tree, making sure it is planted below the top of the pot as this will allow space for a good thick mulch to be placed on top. Essential for moisture retention to give your tree the best start!

Plant your tree and be sure to push the soil in around the root base to prevent big air pockets, which will allow the water to run through. Once planted, put some sheep pellets or manure on top and cover with a thick layer of mulch. 

How much water does my tree need?

A fruit tree planted in a pot will require more water and food than one planted in the ground. 

My top tip: I highly recommend that you buy a base for your pot as, in the summer months, this will catch all the water that flows through and enable the plant to suck it back up.

Also, if you get into a routine of saving your shower or sink water over the summer months, this will give you enough available water for your plants.

What do I feed my tree?

A regular monthly feed of Liquid Kelp and EM (effective microorganisms), worm juice, bokashi juice or comfrey liquid will keep your plant healthy and vigorous.

What do I do when my tree outgrows its pot?

After three years, it will be time to replace the soil and restore the nutrients to keep your fruit tree producing for years to come, so be sure when choosing your pot to select one with a good open top to enable you to easily remove your fruit tree when the time comes.

Get ready to enjoy the abundance of fruit from your balcony or small back yard!

Keen to know more about growing fruit trees? We have dedicated an entire bundle in this quarter’s lessons in the Grow Inspired Academy! Find out more about joining our gardening members site here.

Happy gardening!

Sow with success – five easy tips for growing delicious organic carrots

This month is a great time to be sowing carrots. ‘Ooohhhhh,’ I hear many of you groan! ‘But carrots are sooo hard to grow!’ This month, I will share my top tips for sowing carrots.

Tip #1 – Direct sow

Carrots much prefer to be direct-sown from seed, as opposed to being bought from the garden centre and transplanted. Carrots roots are very sensitive and do not take kindly to being transplanted, as this can easily damage the roots and cause misshapen veg, stunted growth and a slow start while they recover from the shock of transplanting.

Sowing carrots from seed is so rewarding; once you have success, you will never look back again.

Carrots grow best in the cooler months and I sow every month for a continuous supply.

Tip #2 – Prepare your soil well

Preparing your soil before sowing is imperative, as there are things carrots must have and must not have. Carrots do not require any compost or fertiliser when sowing, as too much nitrogen will cause your carrots to fork.

Carrots ideally love a sandy loam, where there are no obstacles in their path under the soil. If you have heavy soil, try adding some sand and make sure to crumble the hard lumps in your soil, as these obstructions will cause the root tip to grow around them, and this is what causes misshapen carrots. Prepare your soil for as deeply as your carrot grows; but if you suffer with heavy soil and there is no way round this, my advice would be to try growing shorter carrots.

Tip #3 – Sow with care

Once your soil is prepared, water, then sow in drills about 2cm deep and 10-15cm apart. Sow your seeds sparingly about 1cm apart and cover with .5cm of soil. Lightly press the soil down and gently water.

Cover your seeds with wet cardboard or a plank of wood to keep the moisture in and aid germination. Carrots can take up to 21 days to germinate, so check under your cardboard or plant every week and gently apply more water if required.

Once you see your carrots have germinated, remove the cover. Your seeds will appear a very pale yellow, as they have not yet seen any light. My top tip is that I find it is best to remove the cover in the late afternoon when there are less daylight hours left, as this will give your carrots a good 12-14 hours to acclimatise to the elements and start to green up before the brighter sun hits them.

Tip #4 – Feed your carrots so they will feed you

Feed your carrots monthly with liquid kelp and EM (effective microorganisms) – their roots will thank you for it!

Tip #5 – Harvest don’t thin

Personally, I don’t thin my carrots – instead, I wait until they have grown for a few months and then I carefully harvest every other one and eat as gourmet carrots – and then leave the others to mature.

Also remember that a greening on top of the carrots is not poisonous, unlike potatoes.

Once you have tasted a freshly plucked, juicy, sweet carrot from your garden, there will be no going back to shop-bought ones!

Happy growing!

How to restore soil fertility with green manure crops

Did you know that the key to creating healthy soil is to cover it over autumn and winter?

With abundant rainwater and a drastic reduction in pests and disease, winter crops are the easiest to grow. But, whether or not you like to grow a winter food garden, it is paramount to cover your soil to prevent weed growth and to restore the soil food source.

The easiest way to improve soil fertility is to sow green manure crops. Their long root systems gather nutrients from the depths of the soil and they absorb nitrogen from the air, fixing it into the nodules on their roots.

Green manure crops also provide a valuable carbon source and increase the humus in the soil. The best thing about these plants is that they are easy to sow and germinate, and very simple to care for. They only require a couple of weeding sessions and, in return, they will replenish your soil for the next three months.

Mustard is a fast-growing green manure crop, which can be directly sown after your summer crops. Once you’ve cleared out the weeds from your growing space, water the soil and scatter the seed liberally. Mix the seeds into the soil with a rake or by hand, press down and water until germination occurs. If you are in a dry area, water once a week until the rain comes.

Broad beans and lupins are green manure crops that have a longer growing cycle. You can sow seeds in rows and push into the soil, or scatter the seeds and cover with a thin layer of soil or compost, then press down and water.

The key with these crops is not to sow the seeds too deep, otherwise they will deplete all their energy before reaching the surface. Lupins need to be sown about 1cm deep and covered, and broad beans sown twice the diameter of the seed.

The most crucial thing to remember is to not let these crops go to flower. These are sown specifically for fixing nitrogen to the soil, so cut them down or pull them out before flowering occurs, otherwise the nutrient goodness will leave the soil and transfer to the flower.

Once ready, green manure crops can be cut just above the soil and dropped straight on top, so that the root will release nitrogen into the soil and become soil-available carbon, which will build your soil sponge and soil web.

Alternatively, green manure crops can be dug into the soil by using a spade and turning it over, or you can pull the whole plant, and then chop up stalks and use as a mulch elsewhere in your garden.

Whichever method you choose, these fantastic crops will deliver their magic! So, give your soil some love, and sow a green manure crop today.

This article was published in the New Zealand Herald’s food and wellbeing magazine, Be Well. Look out for my monthly column in the New Zealand Herald’s Monday food and wellbeing magazine Be Well and on EatWell.co.nz.

How to grow a winter garden that will nourish you all season long

How to grow a winter garden that will nourish you all season long

Many gardeners sadly assume that a winter garden is boring and choose to focus on summer growing only. This is such a shame to me – not only is a winter garden easier to grow in as you have far fewer pests and disease to manage, but the tasty harvest is reward enough! This month, I’ve decided to focus on my favourite winter veg to grow and my top tips for mastering these crops.

Brassicas

There’s so much to love about the brassica family. Packed with nutrients,this powerhouse family includes broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.

In order to offer up those dense nutrients on your plate, the brassica family subsequently like rich soil, so I recommend that youenhance it with well rotten manure or your previous season’s compost. Your brassicas will love you for it, and the nutrients you put in will come back to you when you harvest. Remember, if nutrients aren’t in your soil, then they can’t be in your food!

A great addition for brassicas to enrich their nutrients is crushed up egg shells scattered around them, as this adds calcium into the soil which they adore!

I plant brassicas in April and May which gives them a good start before slugs and snails come out of summer hibernation. If these critters do become a problem, I usually break the lower leaves off and put them around the base of the plant. Doing so has proven to me that the snails and slugs will eat what is in front of them, rather than climb the plant. This method has successfully saved my plants, whilst the slugs and snails have also been allowed their fill! I also found that 10pm in the evening is a good time to go out and catch the blighters!

Beans 

Peas and Broad beans are good winter/spring staples and, in warmer climates, will produce by July/August if sown in April. These are also nitrogen-fixing legumes that will help to replenish your soil ahead of next season’s growing – a wonderful bonus!

Carrots and beetroot

Personally, I sow two lots of carrots and beetroot – one in April and the other in May. After May, the growing season slows down for the months of June and early July as we approach the shortest day of the year.

I have found that most things planted in June will just sit in the garden doing nothing until the end of July when we have more daylight hours, so my top tip here is to get your winter veg in the ground before June. Then you can sit back and rest as the nights draw in.

When you sow your carrots, make sure you direct sow them into previous season’s fertiliser (and not this season’s) as too much nitrogen will cause them to fork.

Direct sow beetroot too, as it grows much better this way. It’s a fabulous companion with all plants, so you can pick wherever you like to plant them amongst your garden and they like a rich, new composted soil.

I also sow coriander, rocket, arugula and winter salads at this time of year – this gives me a good harvest through winter until early summer before the heat hits and these plants go to seed.

Remember coriander doesn’t like too much sun, so choose a spot that is half-sun and half-shade which avoids the heat of the day. Just scatter your seeds into the ground and they will pop up, as transplanting coriander can cause root damage and stunt growth.

Arugula likes to be inter-planted with anything, and it’s a great, spicy green for winter.

So what do you like to grow at winter?

If you haven’t given a winter garden a try before, make this season your first! And if you’d like support and are keen to grow your knowledge as a gardener, come discover what the Grow Inspired Academy is all about. We’re still welcoming members right now, but just for a few more days!

Happy gardening and Grow Inspired!

How to combat fungal disease in your vege patch

Lots of our summer plants are being affected by fungal diseases this month — these include tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, squash, cucumbers and capsicums to name a few.

The highly-prevalent foliar diseases around at the moment are downy and powdery mildew that affect the cucumbers, squash and zucchini families. These appear on leaves and stems as a white powdery substance that spreads rapidly throughout your plants, causing leaves to curl and the overall health and production of the plant to suffer.

Powdery mildew
Powdery mildew is an airborne fungus spread by wind, rain, humidity, yellow and black ladybirds and humans. Preventing its rapid spread is the key, and good hygiene with your tools and hands is very important as it can get on your tools or gloves then spread to the next plant you touch.

Wipe your tools with methylated spirits and wash your gloves regularly. Spray plants with a good organic oil before removing the leaves as this will stick the fungus to the leaf to prevent spreading when the leaf is removed.

Downy mildew
Downy mildew is a different fungus affecting the above plants and is again spread by airborne spores. There are many different types of this fungus and they are plant-specific — so the one attacking your cucumbers is a different species from the one attacking your brassicas. The difference between downy and powdery mildew is that downy mildew can overwinter in your soil waiting for you to plant next spring.

Make sure your plants are well fed and watered as plants that are weak will be affected more.

To make an organic homemade spray for controlling the spread of these fungi, take one tablespoon of baking soda, half a teaspoon of natural liquid soap and four litres of water and mix. Spray this mixture all over your plants — on the leaves, under the leaves and down the stem — on a weekly basis.

Early blight in advance stage on tomato leaves

Blight
Blight is a fungal disease that affects tomatoes, potatoes, capsicums and eggplants. It appears as black or brown spots on the older leaves of your plants, and as they grow, round rings will develop and leaves will curl and turn yellowy-brown. Blight will kill the tissue in leaves, stems and fruit, and stunt the growth of your plant. Blight is spread by fungal spores that can be carried by the wind, insects and overhead watering.

Spray the plant with a good oil or soap spray to stick the fungus to the leaves, pull the plant out and discard, but avoid putting it in your compost.

A good way to process your diseased plants is through Bokashi fermentation which I have had great success with to control the above diseases.

This article was published in the New Zealand Herald’s food and wellbeing magazine, Be Well. Look out for my monthly column in the New Zealand Herald’s Monday food and wellbeing magazine Be Well and on EatWell.co.nz.