Organic Gardening Tips and Plants – How to

Gardening Tips

Terra Viva Organics

& Terra Viva Update

Mildew? Get Milk!

Green, Green Grass of Home



& Terra Viva Update

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All the varieties are
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will keep production going well into the spring.

    Mildew? Get Milk!

    by Arzeena

    Less than 3 years ago, researchers in South America discovered
    a new alternative to controlling powdery mildew. Wagner
    Bettiol, a scientist from Brazil, found that weekly sprays
    of milk controlled powdery mildew in zucchini just as
    effectively as synthetic fungicides such as fenarimol
    or benomyl. Not only was milk found to be effective at
    controlling the disease, it also acted as a foliar fertilizer,
    boosting the plant’s immune system.

    mildew in the cucurbit family is caused by the organism
    Sphaerotheca fuliginea. It is a serious disease that
    occurs worldwide. For decades, organic gardeners had
    to rely on making a spray from baking soda to control
    the disease. Now, instead of measuring out the baking
    soda and combining it with a surfactant (a “sticking”
    substance) of either oil or soap, gardeners need only
    head for their refrigerators.

    In his experiments with
    zucchini plants, Bettiol found that a weekly spray of
    milk at a concentration of at least 10% (1 part milk
    to 9 parts water) significantly reduced the severity
    of powdery mildew infection on the plants by 90%. While
    some gardeners may be tempted to increase the concentration
    of milk for more control, Bettiol found that once concentrations
    rose above 30%, an innoccuous fungus began to grow on
    the plants.

    How does milk control
    powdery mildew?

    Scientist aren’t 100%
    sure how milk works to control this disease. It seems
    that milk is a natural germicide. In addition, it contains
    several naturally occurring salts and amino acids that
    are taken up by the plant. From previous experiments
    using sodium bicarbonate, potassium phosphate, and other
    salts, researchers have found that the disease is sensitive
    to these salts. It is possible then, that milk boosts
    the plant’s immune system to prevent the disease.

    Milk used around the

    The benefits of using
    milk to control powdery mildew haven’t been isolated
    to Brazil. Melon growers in New Zealand are saving thousands
    of dollars every year by spraying their crops with milk
    instead of synthetic fungicides. The melon growers in
    New Zealand have been so successful that the wine industry
    is taking notice and beginning experiments using milk
    to control powdery mildew in grapes.

    What kind of milk should
    be used?

    In Bettiol’s original
    experiment, fresh milk was used, straight from the cow.
    However, this is obviously not feasible to most home
    gardeners. The research work in New Zealand actually
    found that using skim milk was just as effective. Not
    only was it cheaper, but the fact that the milk had
    no fat content meant that there was less chance of any

    Wagner Bettiol’s original
    article was published in the journal Crop Science (Vol.
    18, 1999, pp. 489-92). It can be found on-line at:

    is an agronomist and President of Terra Viva
    Organics. When she’s not planting peas or picking zucchini,
    she answers questions about organic gardening at:


    Green, Green Grass of Home

    by Don Trotter

    Hello fellow Earthlings, and welcome to the front yard.
    This time our discussion will focus a bit on that lovely
    chunk of green, manicured monoculture called Lawn. So
    let’s take a stroll onto that green carpet and think a
    bit about toxic runoff and the health of our families.

    A lush, verdant green
    lawn is part of American culture. We spend hours trimming
    and mowing so that our green carpet is better looking
    than anyone else’s is. Advertising bombards us where
    a couple of neighborhood gorillas make fun of the poor
    sap with the brown lawn area. So he goes down to the
    garden center and picks up five hundred dollars worth
    of super chemicals to make his lawn perfect. Just like
    the stuff Bubba uses.

    The Natural Lawn

    The natural lawn can really
    be the envy of the entire neighborhood. The techniques
    used to grow nutritious vegetables, succulent fruit,
    and stunning ornamentals easily translates to turf care.
    When we focus on promoting biological diversity in the
    soil beneath our turf grasses instead on annihilating
    everything alive within a square mile our lawns can
    be better, cheaper to maintain, and at least as green
    as Bubba’s.

    A natural lawn grows in
    soil that is alive and whose roots can reach deeper
    thanks to earthworms and other garden helpers. The natural
    lawn doesn’t stress as easily in extremely hot or cold
    weather and doesn’t need watering as often because the
    soil and all of its organic matter hold onto water better.
    A natural lawn doesn’t require feeding every week or
    two, and most natural lawns only require two feedings
    per year. A natural lawn supplies the rest of the garden
    with super fast compost and stays green all the while.

    What to do With the

    Grass clippings are a
    rich source of valuable nitrogen to the lawn and to
    the compost pile. The new mulching mowers that have
    become so popular these days actually double chop the
    clippings and return them to the lawn to be eaten by
    beneficial microorganisms or by Aristotle’s plows of
    the Earth (earthworms). In the compost heap those grass
    clippings can speed up the decomposition of other harder
    to decompose materials making your compost ready to
    use sooner.

    I have also spoken to
    gardeners that save their clippings until they prepare
    the soil for their vegetable garden, they just add the
    clippings along with the other minerals and till it
    right into the soil. I like this idea very much. Using
    grass clippings as a soil conditioner is a very good
    idea. Grass clippings can be used in many places in
    the natural garden and should not be disposed of even
    if you are not inclined to make your own compost.

    Got Questions? Email the
    Doc at Don Trotter’s Natural
    Gardening columns appear nationally in environmentally
    sensitive publications. Look for Don’s books Natural
    Gardening A-Z, and The Complete Natural Gardener, both
    from Hay House ( at bookstores and on line everywhere.


    by Arzeena
    published at

    There are very few things that I like to plant in my garden
    that carry the name “hairy” but vetch is definitely one
    of them. Hairy vetch, Vicia villosa, is an annual legume
    that when planted as a cover crop, creates a lush layer
    of feathery leaves. It tolerates a wide soil pH range,
    from 4.9 to 8.2 but does best when pH is from 6.0 to 7.0.

    The seeds are not very common so why do I go out of
    my way to plant it? In ideal conditions, hairy vetch
    can fix up to 100 lbs of nitrogen per acre and the soft
    leaves break down extremely fast, providing a boost
    to whatever crop is grown after it. If left on the surface
    during the growing season, the vetch will smother out
    any competing weeds and help to conserve moisture.

    Hairy vetch grows well
    on most soil types, but is most adapted to loamy or
    sandy soils. Each plant produces from 3-10 stems, which
    vine their way over the soil, usually growing to 3ft
    in length. It is hardy up to Zone 4 and produces a purple
    flower that attracts many beneficial insects such as
    Seven-spotted lady beetles and big-eyed bugs.

    Planting Directions

    Most often, hairy vetch
    is planted as an overwintering cover crop and is seeded
    between July and mid-September. The earlier the seeding
    date, the more time the vetch has to establish a cover.
    Once temperatures drop below 50 degrees F, very little
    Nitrogen is fixed by the soil Rhizobia and it normally
    takes 3 weeks after planting for the nodules to form
    on the vetch roots. To ensure that the maximum amount
    of nitrogen is fixed, the seed should be coated with
    a pea/vetch inoculant prior to planting.

    In states like Ohio &
    Minnesota where vetch will winter kill, it can either
    be planted as an early fall crop or seeding in the spring
    for a summer cover crop. When seeded in May, the plants
    will flower by July and can then be incorporated. When
    seeded in the spring, care does need to be taken around
    heat-loving crops since the cover that the vetch provides
    will actually cool the soil, slowing down growth for
    plants like cucumbers & peppers.

    in the Pacific Northwest, a common practice is to mix
    hairy vetch with fall rye or oats. The cereal plants
    establish quickly and absorb any residual nitrogen that
    would otherwise be leached away during winter rains.
    In the springtime, the hairy vetch takes off and uses
    the rye or oat stems as a support to climb on. When
    both are turned over into the soil, the soft leaves
    of the vetch help to break down the more fibrous stalks
    of the cereals and allow nutrients to become available
    much faster. Research has shown that a combination of
    hairy vetch and rye or wheat would provide more winter
    soil cover and a larger yield of organic material than
    hairy vetch alone.

    Hairy Vetch Beats Black

    In an experiment in Beltsville,
    Maryland, researchers compared the yields of tomatoes
    when grown using a hairy vetch living mulch versus other
    clovers, black plastic mulch, paper mulch and no mulch.
    Yields of the tomatoes were more than double that of
    the unmulched plants and were significantly higher than
    even the plants that were grown with black plastic.

    The scientists found that
    hairy vetch helped reduce soil erosion, water evaporation,
    and moderated the soil temperature. The vetch cover
    also eliminated early weed competition and released
    nitrogen to the tomato plants over a long period of
    time. Further testing has also found that growing tomatoes
    in an organic mulch of hairy vetch also reduced damage
    from Colorado potato beetle. Yields of tomatoes just
    grown with hairy vetch were comparable to those of tomatoes
    grown using insecticides.

    Some Words Of Caution

    As wonderful as the plant
    is, there are a few drawbacks. Hairy vetch seed usually
    contains anywhere between 15-30% hard seed which will
    not germinate the year it is planted. I commonly see
    vetch plants poking their way up around my garden years
    after I seeded the area with vetch. In addition, when
    it’s not grown with a cereal crop, the dense mat that
    the leaves form can harbor aphids, tarnished plant bugs,
    armyworms, and cutworms.

    However, if these points
    are kept in mind and the vetch is combined with a cereal
    crop, I think it’s still worth growing. Not only will
    the vetch provide almost all the nitrogen needed for
    my vegetable garden, its uses as a weed suppressing
    mulch and safe haven for ladybugs still make it a favourite
    in my garden.

    For more information on
    Hairy Vetch, here are a few University websites:

    Arzeena is the Contributing
    Editor – Vegetable Gardening at

    Free Garden Catalog


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