Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Powdery Mildew Blues


What has been wreaking havoc in my garden??? Why this cute little itty bitty caterpillar, of course. Caterpillars are small little fellows that after building a cocoon emerge as either a beautiful butterfly or moth.


Somehow the knowledge that they will be able to take flight has given these little guys quite an inflated ego! They seem to believe that they can go around eating my basil. The nerve!!! Joking aside, I have not really minded their presence in my garden. I don't want to hurt them so I haven't been spraying anything, just picking them off when I find them. My daughters help and we study them and watch them slink around. What I have minded is the Powdery Mildew that has spread throughout my squash and watermelon plants. It is a fungal disease that results in a powdery gray or white coating on the leaves and stems of infected plants. I have learned that it is definitely not something to ignore and, although it did not seem to affect my squash production, it spreads quickly and doesn't look pretty.


I spent a day recently cutting out all of the infected leaves. Next I made a homemade prevention spray consisting of:

Water
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp dishwashing liquid

This spray will not do anything to save infected leaves, those should just be cut away. There is a commercially organic option called Neem Oil that treats existing powdery mildew, but I chose to cut mine out and start fresh. Prevention is important. I have been using my spray once a week and so far it seems to be working. Spraying leaves down with water daily can help prevent the mildew as well, but make sure to do it early enough in the day so leaves have time to dry out...or you may be inviting other fungal diseases into your garden.

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