The Villages Voice - June 2015

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The Fungus Among Us!

by Kathy Porter UF/IFAS Sumter County Master Gardener

The Fungus Among Us! We enjoyed a pleasant winter with no hard freezes in our area.  The aquifer was overjoyed to get abundant rains in April, usually one of our driest months. So what do you get when you combine warm winter weather and an early rainy season? Fungus! Just look at those mushrooms that seem to pop up in your lawn overnight. The vast majority of the plant issues brought into the Ask the Master Gardener Plant Clinics these past weeks have been related to various types of fungi.  Unfortunately, 85 per cent of plant diseases are caused by fungi. We are seeing a noticeable increase in large patch (formerly brown patch) in turf, fusarium wilt in our Queen and Washingtonian palms, sooty mold and rust on the stems and leaves of our shrubs and ornamentals, blackspot on roses and target spot on tomato plants. Most fungi reproduce via spores which are easily dispersed by wind and rain. They can also be spread by garden tools and lawnmowers. Before you run to the store to buy a fungicide, and there are a whole host of products on the shelves available for homeowners, you need to know whether you do indeed have a fungus problem.  The symptoms of fungus, bacterial and virus diseases often overlap, so correct diagnosis is of paramount importance. Bring problem plant material to one of our Ask the Master Gardener Plant Clinics for diagnosis. It is very important to bring in leaves, stems, etc. in various stages of disease so the Master Gardeners have a clear picture of the disease. Then consider these facts about fungicides:
  • There is no one fungicide that is right for every situation.
  • Fungicides suitable for palms, shrubs, trees and ornamentals are not suitable for turf and vice versa.
  • There are two types of fungicides:
    • Contact which is sprayed onto plants
    • Systemic which is applied to the soil and moves into the plant
  • Read and carefully follow the label directions for mixing and applying a fungicide.
  • It is important to note that the product you used previously may have been reformulated and mixing and application can be very different for the new product.
  • The timing of the application of a fungicide is critical for it to be effective and reapplication may be necessary.
  • The application of a fungicide will not return the affected plant to its pre-fungus beauty but only prevent new growth from being affected.
It is possible to reduce the spread of fungi:
  • Turnoff your irrigation system when we have significant amounts of rain.
  • Disinfect your pruning tools by spraying with alcohol or other household disinfectants before moving on to other plants.
  • Ask your landscape service to do the same especially when trimming palms.
For more information on the management of plant diseases caused by fungi, consult these UF/IFAS EDIS publications:
  • Homeowner’s Guide to Fungicides for Lawn and Landscape Disease Management:
  • Guidelines for the Management of Plant Diseases: Part II Diagnosing Plant Diseases Caused by Fungi, Bacteria and Viruses:
  • Turfgrass Disease Management:
Now I need to get out in my lawn and remove those mushrooms before the dog thinks they might make a tasty treat. Kathy Porter UF/IFAS Sumter County Master Gardener Phone: 352-689-6862 Send your gardening questions or sign up for The Gardener’s Journal at: