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How to Handle Powdery Mildew


Date Posted: August 7, 2014

Seeds of the Month Club by Mike the Gardener How to Handle Powdery Mildew
photo credit: Mike the Gardener

No matter how much care and attention you put into your vegetable garden, there will come moments when something is affected by a common disease or pest. One of those common diseases is powdery mildew.

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that can affect many varieties of plants. For me, it is my cucumbers and zucchini (and other squash) plants that seem to get hit the hardest. In my opinion, powdery mildew is also the easiest plant disease to recognize.

Starting from the lower leaves of your plant, they will develop a white powder on them. If not handled early, that white powder will spread from one leaf to the next, all the way up the plant. Once the plant is covered, it will begin to die.

Powdery mildew can be transmitted in a number of ways, most notably through insects. Specifically through Eriosomatinae, which are wooly aphids. Wooly aphids are plant sucking insects and can easily carry powdery mildew to your plants. If you notice wooly aphids on your plants, powdery mildew won’t be too far behind. Of course, if you have aphids, your garden has other issues that need to be addressed.

How to Handle Powdery Mildew

Once you have even the slightest traces of powdery mildew, if you are experiencing fluctuations in temperatures, especially with high humidity, that creates an ideal environment for your powdery mildew to spread.

Now that you have powdery mildew, what do you do to combat it? In larger scale farms and agricultural settings, chemical treatment is more likely the solution. These chemicals, called fungicides are also available for home use, if you know where to find them. The two most commonly used are triadimefon and propiconazole. Both are developed for the purpose of battling various fungal diseases, of which powdery mildew is one of them.

If you, like me, do everything you can to avoid fungicides and pesticides in your garden, there are other solutions that many gardeners have used in the past that do work. The most common home remedy that has also shown to work in various studies is the use of milk. Yes, milk. The white liquid you put in your morning cereal, or coffee if you are like me.

While the exact reason why it works is still unknown, many researchers believe it has to do with ferroglobulin, a protein in whey, which produces oxygen radicals when exposed to sunlight. When the powdery mildew comes into contact with these radicals, the results are damaging to the powdery mildew itself.

I have personally found the best results when using milk on powdery mildew when I catch it early on in development. I dilute whole milk with some water, about 1 part each by volume, and then spray the affected areas early in the morning about every 2 to 3 days.

This process has shown to help reduce the spread of powdery mildew on my plants, although if the plant is too far gone, I have found that the milk mixture does not help much. So be sure to catch it early.

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Mike the gardener

About the Author

Mike Podlesny is the author of the book Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person as well as the creator of the Seeds of the Month Club where members receive non gmo, heirloom variety seeds every month. You can listen to Mike each week on the Vegetable Gardening Podcast where he interviews gardening industry experts. Don`t forget to link up with Mike on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.


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