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Fungi on plants

Many gardeners would like to know more about diseases and very often there seems to be some confusion between deficiencies, diseases and insect attacks.

As it’s a large topic, I decided to narrow it down and make a blog post about fungal diseases. To make this post more helpful, I have used photos from the web. Some show VERY CLEARLY the symptoms of each disease and some of them are added, to demonstrate the complexity of a diagnosis from a photo.

To start with, “A plant disease is defined as “anything that prevents a plant from performing to its maximum potential.” This definition is broad and includes abiotic and biotic plant diseases.

1. Abiotic diseases are caused by environmental conditions and not by living agents. They don’t spread from plant to plant, however many plants in a garden might show the same symptoms.

Examples of abiotic diseases / factors causing abiotic diseases are:

  • Deficiencies (caused by low supply of nutrients or unsuitable soil type)
  • Sun burn
  • Soil compaction
  • Ice and others

2. Biotic or infectious diseases are caused by living organisms, called plant pathogens when they infect plants. Pathogens can spread from plant to plant and may infect all types of plant tissue including leaves, shoots, stems, crowns, roots, tubers, fruit, seeds.

Some plant pathogens are:

  • Fungi
  • Fungal-like organisms
  • Bacteria
  • Phytoplasmas
  • Viruses
  • Viroids
  • Nematodes
  • Parasitic higher plants

To keep things simple, in this post, I will focus on fungi and fungal-like organisms, as they cause most of the infectious diseases on plants and also have more chances than the rest, to be treated.

3. Disease triangle: It is important to know that plants that are:

  • Young
  • Newly transplanted
  • Poorly Fed
  • Weakened or stressed by external factor (e.g. extreme heat in the summer)

Are much more prone to diseases. Why?

Because for a disease to occur in any plant system, there are three components that are absolutely necessary:

  • a susceptible host plant (weak, young, hungry – just like humans, these plants have a lower “immune” system)
  • a harmful pathogen
  • a favorable environment

When these three components are present at the same time, a disease will occur if a susceptible host plant is in intimate association with a harmful plant pathogen under favorable environmental conditions.

4. Classification

A gardener should have a general idea about the pathogens classification, in order to be able to select the correct treatment for the relevant disease. As said above, infectious diseases are caused by 2 main categories of pathogens:

  • Fungi
  • Fungal like organisms

The categorization happens based on molecular data (DNA), anatomical characteristics (cell walls) and mode of reproduction. (Their taxonomy is constantly changing, especially due to the developments of the research based on DNA comparisons). It is important to know that both categories can be transferred to our plants through the air, water, soil, insects, birds or other plants.

5. Common diseases:

The most common diseases in Qatar are powdery mildew, downy mildew, leaf spots and blight.In this post, you will see many photos from all of these diseases on different plants.

Powdery mildew: It is caused by various fugal-like organisms, like Golovinomyces cichoracearum for sunflower or Podosphaera pannosa for roses. The clearest symptom (or sign) of the disease called “powdery mildew” is the white “powder” on TOP of the leaves.

Photos from the Hellenic Society of Phytiatry

Downy mildew: It is also caused by various fugal-like organisms, belonging to a family called “Peronosporaceae”, like Pseudoperonospora cubensis for cucumber or Plasmopara obducens for impatiens or Peronospora megasperma for pansy.The way to separate downy mildew from powdery mildew is by the powder (usually grey) UNDER the leaves. Initially you will see pale blotches on the upper leaf surfaces and corresponding patches of fuzzy grey growth on the underside.

Leaf spot: Can be caused by the fungi Alternaria (tomatoes) or Diplocarpon rosae on roses or Cercospora on mulberry.Black spot looks like circular black spots on leaves. It usually occurs on the upper sides of leaves, but can also develop on the undersides. The outer margins of the black circles are ragged or feathery and they are usually surrounded by a ring of yellow. Spots usually begin on the older leaves and move upward.

If you read the label of a fungicide, you will see that each fungicide is suitable for certain diseases, so it’s important to identify which disease you have in your garden. In many cases, the symptoms can be confusing and the only way to know 100% what disease your plants have, is by a lab test. And this is another reason that THE RANDOM USAGE OF PESTICIDES is NOT RECOMMENDED; unless you are really certain about the disease you have, it’s better to avoid useless applications of dangerous chemicals.

6.Control

A. Organic control: Organic control is harmless, but its efficacy is generally lower than conventional pesticides.

The most common organic, human/animal/insect friendly treatments for most of the fungal (and fungal like) diseases available in Qatar, are:

• Neem oil (5-10 drops/1 lt of water – preferably mixed with a few drops of dishwashing liquid)

• Baking soda (1 tsp/1 lt of water)

• Mix of both (baking soda & neem oil)

• Biofungicides such as Tadmir / Pseudomonas Fluroescens or Trichoderma Viride from Mitras- AgriQatar.

If all of the above fails, the next option is using a Copper solution. It is slightly toxic, but it can work well if you apply at an early stage. It is recommended to wear protective clothing and mask when you spray it.

For any application, be cautious when the weather is hot and only spray very early in the morning, so that the droplets dry before the sun sees your plants.

B. Chemical control:

When it comes to chemical control, it is important to understand that fungicides are completely different products from insecticides. The first ones are used for infectious diseases (from fungi or fungal-like organisms), while the second ones, are used against insects. Following everything that has been mentioned before, regarding the classification and the identification of various diseases, I hope that it is clear that using any chemical fungicide off the shelf, without consulting a specialist, might not give you the desired result, as it might not be suitable for your case. (Apart from the obvious drawback of causing health problems, like cancer, or killing beneficial insects and damaging the environment).

Also, it is good to keep in mind that many diseases (like downy mildew or phytophthora blight) cannot be managed by fungicide applications alone; successful disease control is achieved only by a season-long effort to manage water and utilize other cultural practices, like aerating your plants, keeping them healthy, spraying preventively with neem oil etc.

In this post, I will use as an example of how bad the pesticides can be for our health, the active ingredient mancozeb, which has been used in agriculture for many years. In EU, mancozeb was recently classified as a category 1B reproductive toxicant and an endocrine disruptor and its usage is banned. I think that in Qatar it is still allowed, however it should be banned globally soon.

To close this long post, let me remind again that the first step for every plant problem is to identify if your plants suffer from water problems, a deficiency, an insect attack, a disease or anything else.

If you would like to know more, comment below or contact us.

Benefits of Gardening for Kids

So many of my childhood memories involved wide open spaces, adventures in the great outdoors and planting and growing vegetables with my dad.  Precious memories I now look back on in my adulthood and fondly remember those care-free days when I potter about in my own garden.

There are so many different ways kids can benefit from gardening and by having a connection to nature.  I’m reminded today of the time in my childhood that we planted corn all along the fence of our front garden.  I was so excited to see the plants grow and waited in anticipation to pick the fully grown corn.  The evening before we planned to harvest the corn, a herd of cows came walking along the fence and munched with much delight on all the plants!  I was devastated!  

Fortunately there won’t be any cows eating your lovingly grown crops here in Qatar and today I admire my recently planted corn and simply smile when I see it grow. 

Going on your own gardening adventure with your kid(s) is one of the best activities for the whole family! Not all kids will be budding botanists or tree surgeons, but they will certainly have heaps of fun on the journey of discovery.

“You have a chance to plant a seed of something very special in the hearts, minds, and spirits of your children as you garden together.” – Cathy James

(source: https://artfulparent.com/the-garden-classroom/)

These are our TOP 5 ways kids can benefit from doing gardening activities:

  1.  Knowledge

Planting a tiny seed that becomes a plant can be a magical experience.  Learning the process and what that tiny seed needs to grow can help build knowledge.  Gardening offers a complete sensory experience for kids, from getting their hands dirty with soil to seeing the plant grow to tasting the fruits and veggies grown. (Note: not all plants should be tasted!)

  1.  Environmental Awareness

What better way to enjoy nature with family and friends.  Gardening provides kids with an awareness of their environment and the role plants have in living a sustainable life. 

  1. Nutrition

I am fortunate that from my childhood I have had a fondness for eating any and all vegetables.  Gardening teaches kids to appreciate where food comes from and a vegetable or herb grown by yourself will always taste better than what you can buy in a food store.

  1. Self-Confidence

There can be many failures in gardening, but being able to plant a seed and nurture it to a mature plant is incredibly rewarding and this in-turn builds confidence in kids and gives them a sense of achievement.

  1. Mental and Physical Wellbeing

Gardening as a child is simply good for the soul.  It not only gives kids the opportunity to be active, but also supports their mental wellbeing through the release of positive endorphins or an opportunity for kids to express themselves freely.  Seeing a pretty flower or plant can bring a smile to anyone! 

Hadiqaa supports your child’s gardening adventure through their Kids Gardening Workshops. To find out more, go to https://hadiqaa.com/product-category/in-person-workshops/

The most important thing is to have some fun as a family, enjoy the outdoors and enjoy your kids gardening journey together!

Happy Gardening 

Winter Vegetable Growing Season in Qatar

The winter growing season in Qatar is from October to April, and if you have not yet started sowing seeds or planting seedlings, the time to start is now.

One of the most rewarding things about gardening is to grow your own vegetables. Whether you have an outdoor garden space or a small balcony, multiple growing options are available to suit your garden space. 

Whether you are a new or experienced gardener, it is always a journey of learning, growing, sometimes failing, but it is always a rewarding experience.

These are our TOP 5 tips on how to best prepare for the vegetable growing season:

  1.  Soil Matters

Refresh existing garden soil with compost or vermicompost.  These products are available at gardening stores and plant nurseries in Qatar, or you can utilise homemade compost.

For planters and pots, a good soil mix comprises 1/3 coco peat/coir, 1/3 perlite and 1/3 good quality compost.  Mix well and ensure that the soil is moist but not drowning in water.

  1.  Location, Location, Location

Plant according to the amount of sunlight you get in your garden space. 

Sun-loving vegetables include tomatoes, okra, eggplant, corn, green beans and cucumber.  These can also tolerate partial-sun-shade areas, but they might yield less produce.

Many vegetables are shade tolerant; some include broccoli, beets, cabbage, carrots and garlic.

A wide selection of herbs (basil, rosemary, thyme and oregano) and flowers such as marigolds can also be planted as companions to repel pests away from your vegetable plants naturally.

  1. Seed Selection

There is a wide variety of vegetables and herbs to plant during the growing season.  Select seeds according to the space you have available.  Some plants like tomatoes, green beans and cucumbers require a trellis and other plants like broccoli, zucchini and cabbage can grow quite large, so it is always good to keep in mind, when selecting your seeds, what the mature plant size would be and the support or care it would require.

Locally produced seeds from Mitras can be purchased in their store and local nurseries such as Floranza and the Garden Center.  When ordering heirloom seeds online, always get heat-tolerant seed varieties and select seed packets with the most recent packing date; this will provide a higher success rate during the germination process.

  1. Tools

If you are a new gardener, start small and add more gardening tools as you progress on your gardening journey.  Some of the essential tools you will need are gloves, a garden fork, a small or medium-sized spade or shovel, a garden hose or watering can and pruning shears.

Check the Hadiqaa Gardening Businesses Directory for a complete list of local suppliers in Qatar.

  1. Join a Gardening Community

Being part of a gardening community is a great way to share your gardening journey and connect with like-minded individuals and fellow gardening enthusiasts.  It’s a great way to share knowledge, swap seeds, swap or share seedlings or even share your harvest if you have grown too many vegetables.

You can join the Gardening Club – Qatar group on Facebook, or if you are already a member of the community, why not invite your friends to join.

The most important thing is to have some fun, enjoy the outdoors and enjoy your gardening journey!

Happy Gardening

Adenium care in the Gulf

Image: https://unsplash.com/photos/bG-AU6h9gmg?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink

There have been numerous posts about Adenium or Desert Rose in the Gardening Club-Qatar Facebook group. Many members have shared their valuable experience about its care in the Gulf conditions, about ways to make it bloom more, methods to save seeds or cuttings and grow more plants from them or where to find the Adenium with the most beautiful flowers.

In this blog post, we are trying to put everything together and also add some advice from our experts’ experience.

Image: Photo by Unmesh V G on Unsplash

Adenium’s common name is Desert Rose, and as indicated by it, it is a sun and heat loving plant and it grows happily in containers or gardens in the Gulf, to add color even at the toughest locations for other plants. Just like Bougainvillea, it requires little water, a lot of light and very little care other than that.

Here are some tips, to help you care best for your Adenium:

Sun: Place it under full sun all year round.

Soil: Adeniums like well-drained soil, so you should add more perlite in your potting mix. If you plant in the soil, you can use more sand than usual.

Water: Adeniums don’t like a lot of water, so you should let the soil completely dry before you water again (in the winter it can take up to even a week, depending on the pot size and the soil used). You will notice that as the weather gets more hot, the soil will be drying out faster, until around the 15-30 of May, when you will have to be watering daily, until end of September.

Fertilizer: you can add your regular compost at the end of the summer (first half of October) and then you can keep adding compost every 3-4 weeks, until mid May. If you don’t mind using chemical fertilizers, you can replace compost with a fertilizer high in P (like 15-30-15) 3 times a year.

Pruning: Adeniums are very forgiving plants when it comes to pruning, and actually they grow back even prettier, when pruned strictly.  So when you see your plants getting too long and floppy and giving less flowers, it’s time to take out your scissors!

Flowering: if your Adenium has slowed down on flowering, offer more sun, cut down on watering and don’t be afraid to prune it back a lot.

Propagation by seeds: Seeds start forming inside pods at around April and they keep maturing until June. You can try tying the pods with a soft thread and keep watching, especially close to the time of maturing (beginning of June). You will recognize when the time gets closer, as the pods will start drying. At that time, you can also cover them with a bag. Even if tying is not successful, you might still be able to save some hairy seeds. Remove the hairy part and spread the seeds on a light mix of soil, perlite and sand.  They can be kept outdoors, under a 60-70% shading net and as the weather gets hotter, start watering daily.

During the summer you might see many leaves falling. This isn’t always a reason for concern, as after September your plants will start blooming again.

Bougainvillea care in the Gulf

Is there a better way to start your day in the desert, than opening your window to a bougainvillea?

Photo credit: https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/close-up-beautiful-red-bougainvillea-flowers_3919040.htm

When someone lives in a hot and dry climate, the options for easygoing plants with beautiful flowers are not many. Thank God there is Bougainvillea, a plant that the less care it receives, the more it thrives!

Bougainvillea is native to Easter South America, it is very drought tolerant, salt tolerant and loves heat and sun, and all of that make it suitable for the desert climate.

If you just bought a pretty bougainvillea, full of flowers and when you brought it home it lost all of its flowers, don’t get disappointed. Bougainvilleas (like all plants) bloom in cycles and once they settle, they will give you new flowers.

Some basic tips on how to care for your Bougainvillea in a pot:

  • Sun: Winter or summer, place it under full sun
  • Soil: When repotting, use a light potting mix (add more perlite than what you add for other plants). If you plant in the soil, you can use more sand than usual.
  • Water: Bougainvilleas don’t like a lot of water, so you should let the soil completely dry before you water again (in the winter it can take up to even a week, depending on the pot size and the soil used). You will notice that as the weather gets more hot, the soil will be drying out faster, until around the 15-30 of May, when you will have to be watering daily, until end of September.
  • Fertilizer: you can add your regular compost at the end of the summer (first half of October) and then you can keep adding compost every 3-4 weeks, until mid May. If you don’t mind using chemical fertilizers, you can replace compost with a fertilizer high in P (like 15-30-15) 3 times a year.
  • Pruning: Bougainvilleas flower from new growth, so when you prune you will get new growth and more flowers! You can prune as hard as you like (up to 2/3 of its stems) anytime during winter, at the end of a flowering cycle. Hard pruning during summer is not recommended, but you can keep removing dead and dry branches from end of May until mid September, when you can prune again more strictly.
  • Flowering: if your Bougainvillea doesn’t give enough flowers, try offering more sun, cut down on watering, prune it, and if all else fails, occasionally add a P high fertilizer, like 15-30-15.

An one last tip: Bougainvillea can be propagated by cuttings.

Check out this video on Instagram, for a step by step guide on propagation by cuttings.

And for the real bougainvillea lovers, I definitely recommend joining this community on Facebook.

Happy gardening!

A gardener’s guide in the Gulf: growing basil

Who loves basil?

Basil is on top of many plants lists; the list of the easiest herbs to grow, the insect repellent plants list, the bees attracting plants list and, of course, it has so many uses in our kitchen! So what is there not to love about it?

Still, many people might get disappointed when their basil dies, as in the Gulf there are so many varieties and not all of them survive the summer.

In the video below, you will read all about the available varieties of basil in the Gulf, where to place it, what soil to use, care tips and how to face the most common pests.

A Gardener’s guide in the Gulf; Growing basil

If you would like to know more about growing your own food in the Gulf, follow @hadiqaa.middle.east on Facebook or Instagram, to get notified about our upcoming workshops.

Music: https://www.bensound.com/

Hibiscus care in the Gulf

Growth & flowering

Hibiscus grow very fast and can become as high as 2.5 m in ideal garden locations.

They can give flowers all year round, but ideally from October till May in the Gulf.

When you plant them in a garden in the Gulf, choose a location that does not receive full sun in the summer. Only 2-3 hours in the morning or in the afternoon will be more than enough. More direct sun than that in the summer will burn the leaves.

Don’t push your hibiscus to grow flowers all year round…give it some rest during summer.

Care

  1. Mix compost or manure in your soil before planting (in a garden or in a pot).  
  2. Hibiscus can tolerate a light potting mix, for example:

50-60% potting soil – 30-40% cocopeat – 10-20% sand and some perlite.

If you have clay in your garden soil, you can add some (10-20%) and water less frequently.  Light: they like very bright areas, but can’t tolerate direct sunlight in the summer. There are 2 options for that:

3. Plant them in pots and place the pots in a location with 4-5 hours of sunlight during winter, then move the pots in the summer to little sun.

If you bring your Hibiscus indoors during summer, don’t place them under the A/C current.

4. Plant them under full sun (in pots or garden) and use shading nets from May until October.Watering: let the top 4-7 cm of the soil dry before you water again (4-5 cm in the summer, 6-7 cm in the winter). This might be every 3-4 days in the winter, every day in the summer.  

5. Fertilize regularly (every 4-6 weeks in a container, every 6-8 weeks in the garden) from September until June. Use a fertilizer higher in P and K. You can use vermicompost 2-3 times per year and if you make your own compost, add banana peels in it.

5 tips for caring for your Aloe Vera plant


Aloe vera plants are native to the tropical climates of Africa and are widely acknowledged for their skincare benefits – in particular for their ability to care for sunburns due to the soothing properties of the thick aloe vera gel found in their fleshly plump leaves. The plant itself usually varies in size, but the average height stands at around 50-60 cm, making it suitable to care for as an indoor house plant.
  
Aloe vera plants are perfect for individuals on the lookout for a low maintenance indoor succulent. They’re able to thrive in snug dry conditions and artificial sunlight, making the natural indoor environment of most homes perfect for the upkeep of one. In this post today, we’ll go over 5 simple ways on how to care for your aloe vera plant to ensure it sees you through many years to come!

1) Opt for indirect sunlight
Like most succulents, overexposure to direct sunlight can dry the leaves out, turning it a pale straw-like colour. An aloe vera plant can survive equally well indoors, or at a shaded outdoor space in the Gulf. Not receiving enough light can cause its leaves to start to bend or droop, so if the plant is kept indoors, leave it by the windowsill and rotate periodically to ensure even growth in all directions. If you keep it in an outdoor area without a shadow, it will survive the direct summer sun, but it will suffer and you will see its leaves turning orange.

2) A little (water) goes a long way
We heard a little cheer for this one – but you’ve heard correctly, aloe vera doesn’t require frequent watering at all. It’s best to water the plant thoroughly around once every 3 weeks during warmer seasons, and less so frequently during colder seasons. To check if your aloe vera is due for a water, press down gently on the soil to get an indication of the level of moisture. The soil should be completely dry before re-watering, so always double-check before attempting to re-hydrate the plant. Overwatering can lead to its roots rotting, or its leaves rotting (the latter in the form of little black spots). On the other hand, an under-watered plant will also lead to brown leaves – so make sure to always keep an eye on it!

3) Use a terracotta pot with drainage holes
Aloe vera is best potted in a terracotta pot with drainage holes. The terracotta absorbs excess moisture, and the holes drain the soil of any water to keep it dry, preventing the roots from rotting which can inevitably lead to plant death.

4) Fertilising isn’t necessary
Aloe vera doesn’t require any fertilising, so you can skip this step altogether. However, if you do decide to fertilise your plant, adding a little fertiliser once a year (in the springtime) should be enough!

5) Propagation:

Only remove any aloe vera pups once they’ve developed into at a size where its roots are fully developed (enough to sustain its own growth so that it can grow independently). Repot the aloe vera plant pups using some potting and sand mix, and you’ll have two or more plants before you know it!

Snake plant care tips

Snake plant (Sansevieria sp. or Mother’s tongue) can tolerate the sandstorms when placed outdoor or the low light of a dark room indoor. This makes it more and more popular in the hot, desert climates.

Snake plant (Sansevieria sp. or Mother’s tongue) is getting more and more popular in the hot climates for a good reason: its ability to adjust equally well indoor and outdoor brings it among the top choices of plant lovers. If you live in a hot climate like in the Gulf, here are a few tips for its care:

  • OFFER LITTLE WATER: This is an essential part of Sansevieria’s care, as it can tolerate drought, but it won’t last in a constantly humid soil.
  • Give any type of light, but protect it from the strong summer sun: Snake plant has no preference when it comes to light conditions. Place it in a dark room or next to a window, in a garden or a balcony.
  • Place it indoor or outdoor: The biggest benefit of Sansevieria is that it doesn’t mind the sandstorms. It will survive equally well in an office or a windy balcony.

If you are a person who doesn’t have much time for plant care, then snake plant is for you. The more you forget about it, the longer it will live.

Watering in hot climates

Finding proper watering advice online can be really confusing, especially when someone lives in the desert, and has to deal with extremely hot weather conditions. 

To start with, think of plants as living things, like humans. Like humans, plants need more water in the summer, and even more if they stay outdoors and are exposed to sun.

To learn more about proper watering of different types of plants in the Middle East, book an online consultation or join one of our workshops.