BATTLING BLACK SPOT
Finding a blemish or fungus in your landscape can be frustrating and demoralizing. If you’re out enjoying your garden and yard and you notice little black spots on the leaves of your favorite blooms, you know you’ll have to put in a bit of work to defend your garden against this invader. Here’s how to get rid of black spot fungus so you can enjoy your healthy landscape again:
WHAT IS BLACK SPOT?
The more you know about what you’re up against, the simpler taking care of it becomes. Black spot is the blemish that results from a bacterial or fungal infection that can grow on any type of plant, though it particularly affects fleshy-leaved plants, like roses. It commonly develops in the hot and humid conditions at the beginning of the growing season. The good news is that it usually isn’t a fatal affliction, but it can easily weaken the plant and affect the quality of its blooms as well as open the doors to other infections.
It’s easy to assume that the spots of Black Spot would stand out on the leaves of your plants, but if they already have texture or spotty color it can be tough to notice. If your plant is showing noticeably large spots then the fungus has actually been developing for a while. When the disease starts, usually in the spring, the dots are as tiny as pinheads and are easy to miss. Eventually, they get bigger and start forming a yellow ring, at which point the whole leaf will wilt, turn yellow, and drop.
WHAT TYPES OF PLANTS CAN GET BLACK SPOT?
While Black Spot loves roses, that’s not the only plant that can catch the infection. Any flesh-leaved or stemmed plants, from deciduous to evergreen can be susceptible. Plants like fruit trees are prime subjects to black spot. Checking the leaves for telltale signs early in the infection process might help you fight it sooner and more effectively. Spotting the infection is the first and most important part of getting rid of it, the sooner the better.
HOW TO TREAT BLACK SPOT
Once you’re caught Black Spot in the act, here’s how you can tackle it and save your plants:
Avoid watering the leaves: Proper watering will help to avoid conditions that the Black Spot thrives in. Water your plants close to the soil, keeping water off of the plant itself, to avoid wet leaves and damp conditions. Consider something like a drip irrigation system if your yard is particularly vulnerable to infection. These systems water the soil directly, conserving water and saving your plants.
Clear away yellowed leaves: This includes those that have dropped and those still on the plant — consider your pruning shears a frontline defence against infection. If the leaves on your plant are yellow then they are likely past saving anyways, so snipping them off of your plant and removing them from your garden can help prevent the spread of illness. Yellow leaves are home to Black Spot spores, so don’t just cut them away, but remove them entirely, bag them and put them in the trash. Remember to sterilize your shears in between every cut so that you don’t spread any infection to the fresh wounds that pruning makes.
Pruning and mulching: When you’re pruning, start at the bottom to attack the leaves that are less likely to dry quickly or completely. The better airflow will also remove breeding grounds for Black Spot and prevent it from spreading. Add a layer of mulch to the soil to keep the moisture locked in despite the better air flow, simultaneously keeping the roots healthy and suffocating developing weeds.
Natural Disease Control: Toxic solutions might be effective, but they are damaging to your garden and soil and should be used as a last resort. Vinegar and baking soda are a great way to safely combat the growing fungus by changing the pH balance. A mixture of cow’s milk and water will do the same thing.
Neem Oil: This is a commercial oil that is derived from evergreen neem trees, and works great as a natural fungicide, preventing the Black Spot-causing fungus from thriving. Make sure you follow the directions on the container to mix the oil to the right concentration.
Commercial Fungicides: These should be a last resort tool as they have the risk of really damaging your garden and landscape and may be dangerous to use around children and pets. If you’ve exhausted all other natural options and still find yourself with a persistent a Black Spot problem, you might need to use a store-bought chemical to save your plants.
Black spot is resilient and can spread easily, but it doesn’t have to be a doomsday sentence for your garden and yard. Instead of waiting for winter to solve the problem for you, you can take matters into your own hands with these techniques to banish the bacteria and fungi causing the damage to your beloved plants.