Powdery Mildew on Pumpkins, Cucumbers and Squash

We returned home from a lovely long weekend at a friend’s cottage to discover this…

Powdery mildew attack!

Powdery mildew attack!

… our lovely pumpkin “octopus” – the sprawl of pumpkin leaves which has been creeping across the lawn, had been almost entirely consumed by powdery mildew, in a span of only 3 days! This nasty, fast-spreading fungus is characterized by fuzzy white patches on the leaves of your pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber and squash plants. (Although it can affect other plants too!) Your plants are at particular risk during periods of high humidity and damp weather. The spores growing on the leaves eventually block out the leaves’ ability to photosynthesize, wreaking havoc on the plants’ productivity. In other words, it’s bad news!

How to get rid of this stuff?! For starters, I immediately removed all of the infected leaves (my heart breaking a little with each snip of the scissors.) I put all of the cut leaves in the green bin, NOT in the compost, since I don’t want it to spread any further than it already has.

Pile of mildewed leaves next to ravaged pumpkin plants. Sniff, sniff...

Pile of mildewed leaves next to ravaged pumpkin plants. Sniff, sniff…

Next I did a thorough internet search and it seems that there are two possible organic “kitchen remedies”. The first is a mixture of baking soda, soap and water. I tried this last year when our squash were infected with a less severe but equally annoying bout of mildew. It didn’t seem to work well.

This time I am going to try a milk solution on the leaves of the pumpkins and zucchini, as well as the cucumbers because there are definitely a few leaves with early signs of mildew. (Prevention is the best medicine.) Growveg.com suggests that a mixture of 3 parts milk to 7 parts water is a good ratio to try. Wish me luck! I’ll let you know how it goes…

Early signs of powdery mildew on cucumber leaves.

Early signs of powdery mildew on cucumber leaves.

The Pop Bottle Greenhouse

Here’s something for those of you planting cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, zucchini or any other crop with wide spacing… introducing the pop bottle greenhouse! Cut the bottom off some 2L plastic pop bottles and put them over your planted seeds or transplanted seedling and you’ve got mini greenhouses which will do wonders for kick-starting seedlings. AND they keeps the squirrels off your delicate little plants! Just make sure to remove them when watering your garden to ensure your seeds/plants are getting enough water. Keep the pop bottle greenhouses in place until your seedlings are growing out of them.

You are probably thinking to yourself: “Gee, that’s a neat idea, but I don’t drink enough pop to do this.” Well, neither do we. Just head out for a stroll around your neighbourhood on blue-box night with a large backpack and I guarantee you’ll collect enough pop bottles to satisfy all of your sprouting needs!

Pop bottle greenhouses over cucumbers, mid-May.

Pop bottle greenhouses over cucumbers, mid-May.

Here you see the greenhouses in action over some cucumber seeds and transplants. Mmmmm cucumbers! This year we’ve planted three varieties:

Oh and while we’re on the subject of cucumbers, here are a couple of tips: 1. Cucumbers don’t like to be planted right next to tomatoes. They do well with beans, carrots, beets and radishes; 2. Cucumbers can be grown vertically! Plant them along the back edge of a sunny garden plot and train them up a trellis… you can learn more about that here.