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July 3, 2013

July gardening tips: How to fight mold and fungus

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Mulch with straw reduces fluctuations in soil temperatures and provides as a barrier between fruits and vegetables and the damp soil.
By Maryanne Sparks
Fauquier Master Gardener
July is here with its steamy heat and sudden storms. What this means to the gardener is that conditions are ripe for mold and fungal diseases in the garden.

This year’s weather has been atypical so far, but we can still make plans for gardening based on experience. We can still scout and monitor for mold and fungal diseases. And we can reduce our expectations for the perfect summer harvest.

In the flower garden, annuals and early blooming perennials may be looking shaggy. Trim these plants back to improve appearance and promote more bushy growth. Trimming plants back also will allow for more air circulation around adjacent and later-blooming plants, thus reducing conditions for mold, mildew and fungus.

In the vegetable garden, use straw not only as a mulch to retain soil moisture and reduce fluctuations in soil temperatures, but as a barrier between fruits and vegetables and the damp soil. Remember that good air circulation is necessary to reduce the chance of mold and fungal diseases in the vegetable garden. Remove any rotted and diseased material to the trash to prevent the spread of disease. Disinfect gardening tools using a week bleach solution or rubbing alcohol after each cut of diseased plant material so as to prevent further spread of diseases.

In the lawn, turf typically planted in the Mid-Atlantic area is a cool-season variety. Unless lawns receive 1 to 1-½ inches of water weekly, they will go dormant. Raise mower-blade height to its maximum. The longer grass height will serve to shield grass crowns and prevent scorch and burn. Lawns will need ¼ to ½ inches of rain weekly to ensure continued growth. Should rainfall be less than this weekly amount, watering may be required. Remember, turf will typically return to green when cooler weather and regular rainfall resumes.

Pruning of shrubs and trees — with dead, damaged or diseased limbs going first —should continue. Prune flowering trees and shrubs after bloom drop has finished.

For more information, contact the Virginia Cooperative Extension Horticulture Help Desk at 24 Pehlam St. in Warrenton, or call 540-341-4950 extension 1, or by e-mail at http://www.fc-mg.org.

Fauquier Master Gardeners also have a table at the Warrenton Farmers Market on Saturdays from May through September.
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