Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Perfect Storm: Powdery Mildew

Against previous traditions, I BOUGHT zucchini plants this year. I was getting a late start on things and thought I'd get a head start. I wanted to have the first zucchini on the block and I wanted lot of it. Nothing like bribing neighbors with fresh produce!

In buying my plants however I can't say for sure if the seeds were well taken care of or the plants started properly... I also bought a 4 pack and planted all 4... And no, I didn't plant them 12-24" a part as they are in my raised beds... Some of you will know what this leads to and others will say "so what".

The so what is that this year I seem to have powdery mildew growing on my plants. It has even spread to my acorn squash that's growing in the garden nearby... Squash that can not properly breath with adequate air circulation, and even late day waterings can all add up to nastiness, as it did this year for me.

So what is powdery mildew?

Powdery mildew is a white/grayish white fungus that can grow on many varieties of plants and grasses. It rarely causes the death of plants, but can cause an off taste. Optimum conditions for powdery mildew are moderate temperatures with high humidity. Shade and poor air circulation along with overcrowding increase the chances for powdery mildew.

In other words, I have the perfect storm for powdery mildew - I got too far ahead of myself and in the attempt to have the FIRST zucchini, and lots of it, I caused powdery mildew in my garden.

In years past, before my kids, I may have used a spray on fungicide to kill the beast, but now I try more organic substances first. So today I mixed up a batch of 1T baking soda, 1t liquid dish soap and 1 gallon of water. I then sprayed the plants, and removed the leaves that were the most infected. I have also heard that a milk/water mixture can kill powdery mildew, so I may try that next...

On a positive note, there are no squash beetles effecting the plants this year - that's what typically gets my zucchini!!!

photo: Monroe County MSU extension

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