My husband and I live in rural Michigan. We have a large garden, a patch of corn and melons, some berry bushes we planted this year, a vineyard, and an orchard (well, it will be an orchard one day). Although my husband grew up with farming, it wasn’t organic, so we have been trying to learn about organic gardening. My question is this: we have had a problem for the three summers we’ve been here with some sort of fungus attacking our tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash, and this year our beans (only the romano beans, though).

Is there a solution? We planted varieties supposedly resistant to various fungi and diseases.We’ve already taken the advice to use soaker hoses to water, so as not to wet the leaves, and to water in early morning rather than evening. My husband always wants to grab a bottle of fungicide, but we both would like to find an organic solution. Also, our carrots are terribly deformed. My husband said he read that this can be caused by nematodes. Any advice? Should we move them to a different spot next year?

I think that I can field this one, fungus on the leaves has a lot to do with how much Dew is in the air, having a garden that is close to a lawn that gets overspray is a good way to make more fungus as the spores float on the air in water mist. Powdery mildew (white) Rust and other mildews will spread this way. Two things you can do: 1) Use natural fungicides, like foliar feedings of Kelp made with water from an extract seems to help plant leaves bulk up and resist mildew. Garlic is anti-fungal although I do not have a recipe to make it.

There are also mail order organic fungicides you can get. 2) Use a compost tea, which is not anti-fungal but just the opposite! The tea made from regular garden compost is simply teaming with fungi amoung other flora and fauna, when applied these multitudes of organisms tend to compete with the fungi that you dislike and really help to keep the attacking population down. As for the carrots, it does sound like root-not nematode, this is a problem from really unbalanced soil. First try to add a lot of organic matter, well aged compost is best, then try a soil test to see what your soil is deficient in, ammend the soil to make sure the right foods are there for your garden. As for the nematodes, there are beneficial nematodes that will attack the bad ones, they are available by mail order too.

Also there is a product that helps to prevent nematodes (bad and good ones) it is made from Crab shells and contains large amounts of ┬╗Chitin’ I have heard mixed results on this one. Last but not least, try growing the carrots in a different spot, somewhere that is fairly sandy, you could try planting with a compannion plant that nematodes do not like (like scallions). As a last resort, just dont grow them at all, buy your produce from a famers market or trade with a friend who can grow them. I hope this helps a little.

Our garden is far from our lawn, which in any case we don’t water, but we still have a problem year after year with fungus. So I’ll try organic fungicides and the kelp. As for the carrots, I can well believe our soil is the problem. Somehow we never got around to having our soil tested last spring, so that’s definitely on the agenda for fall–so we’ll be ready next year. We are also thinking to move the carrots to what we think is a more suitable soil for them.