Rob Smith on why mouth­wash or milk zaps powdery mildew

Why not try a minty fresh ap­proach to tack­ling disease?

Garden News (UK) - - Contents -

To say this year has been a chal­lenge in the veg­etable gar­den is an un­der­state­ment. From a cold start to a bak­ing sum­mer, we’ve had some real chal­lenges to face through­out the coun­try. One crop that has done par­tic­u­larly well for me, though, is cour­gettes.

But now sadly it has come to that time of the year when the weather has changed and the rain has ar­rived, cre­at­ing a warm at­mos­phere with high hu­mid­ity, the per­fect en­vi­ron­ment for powdery mildew fun­gus. To help lessen the hu­mid­ity, al­ways wa­ter the soil around plants, never the fo­liage. Powdery mildew can be a prob­lem for many plants, in­clud­ing squash, cu­cum­ber and more no­tice­ably… cour­gettes!

The white, dusty-like mark­ings on leaves can spread quickly and al­though not nor­mally fa­tal to plants it can weaken them and af­fect yield if not dealt with. One of the eas­i­est meth­ods of treat­ment is to re­move and de­stroy af­fected fo­liage, burn­ing or bin­ning the leaves, as com­post­ing will spread the prob­lem in the fol­low­ing years be­cause spores will sur­vive through the win­ter.

If you do re­move leaves, don’t be tempted to feed the plants with a high ni­tro­gen feed as this cre­ates new fo­liage, which is es­pe­cially sus­cep­ti­ble to powdery mildew. In­stead leave the plants to their own de­vices and con­sider pick­ing your fruit when it’s a lit­tle smaller, giv­ing the plants chance to ripen fu­ture crops.

If you want to try and slow the spread of the fun­gus, there are a few ways you can do this. Firstly, you can try a spray of one part milk, nine parts wa­ter; this is a method shown to me by Terry Wal­ton. We don’t know ex­actly how the milk stops the spread, but it seems to work on lightly af­fected plants, just make sure to re-spray after ev­ery rain shower.

Al­ter­na­tively, you could use mouth­wash! Mouth­wash is an an­tibac­te­rial and an­ti­fun­gal for your mouth so why not try the same ra­tio as with the milk, and watch how it helps slow the spread on your plants. Don’t use a whiten­ing mouth­wash, these can be too harsh and I’d pre­fer my plants to stay green, even if they smell minty fresh!

Snip off mildewed leaves to lessen the spread

Win­ner of The Big Al­lot­ment Chal­lenge and a seed guardian for the Her­itage Seed Li­brary

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