Among the plant diseases known to gardeners, powdery mildews are one of the most widespread and common culprits that affect a wide range of plants. These destructive fungal disease infect plants during the winter and spring months, and is easily recognized through its light grey or white powdery appearance—white spots that eventually cover the leaves of its host plant.
How do you prevent powdery mildews from inflicting damage to your plants? How would you treat a plant infected with this disease? Learning these basic know-hows will provide you with the necessary care and maintenance tips to control powdery mildew on your plants.
Powdery mildew is a fungal disease thriving in warm, dry climates, mostly prevailing in spring and fall. These leaf parasites grow mainly on the surface of a plant's living tissues, sometimes on stems, flowers, fruits or vegetables too.
There are powdery mildew species that are high host-specific such as the crape myrtle mildew which attacks a single kind of host plant. On the other hand, some species are known to attack a variety of plants.
While most plants are susceptible, certain species are most likely harmed more than any other plants. For example, roses, dahlias, tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and cucumbers tend to be infected more than other plants, especially when grown in conditions favorable to powdery mildews. When left unchecked, infected plants may experience minor damage such as withered or distorted leaves and slower growth development.
Prevention is always better than cure. Before powdery mildew has infected your plants or to prevent re-infection, follow these tips to maintain an environment that does not encourage mildew growth:
Maintain enough space between plants to ensure good air circulation and help reduce humidity.
Set your plant in an area with adequate sunlight that's suitable for their needs.
Avoid overwatering and excessive humidity.
Improve airflow within the plant or around its bushes by pruning. Make sure to perform the proper pruning techniques, using your garden shears to facilitate airflow and minimizing damage done by pruning.
Remove dead, diseased, or damaged foliage through pruning.
Disinfect your pruning tools before and after pruning, and even in between sessions, especially when used on an infected plant.
There are many home remedies that gardeners can use to treat existing infection. However, multiple application is needed to completely treat the affected area. Additionally, it may take three to four weeks to see visible results. Some common remedies include the following:
Using milk for preventing and managing powdery mildews has been proven effective for many years, especially on pumpkins, melons, and cucumbers. Simply create a mixture of milk and water, and spray on the affected areas generously. It's highly recommended to make a milk spray mixture of 40% milk and 60% water, but you can play with the measurements as you desire.
Another effective and organic home remedy for mildews would be garlic extract. To make the mixture, blend two bulbs of garlic, a quart of water, and a few drops of liquid soap, strain, then refrigerate. Before spraying the plant, you may also dilute the mixture with 1:10 parts water to prevent germination of asexual spores.
Mix four tablespoons of vinegar to a gallon of water, spraying the mixture every three days until the mildew has been cured. The acetic acid present in vinegar will change the fungus pH, killing the disease effectively.
Baking soda solution helps prevent and control powdery mildew on plants. However, it's best to test the solution on several plants first to ensure you won't face any issues with this treatment. Mix a tablespoon of baking soda, a teaspoon of horticultural oil and a teaspoon of liquid soap in a gallon of water. Spray abundantly on any affected areas every one to two weeks.
Sulfur has been widely used to combat mildew so using sulfur-containing powdery mildew fungicide will prevent and treat any existing infections.
Use a quality pair of pruners like the PrecisionPRO garden shears to prune or remove the affected areas such as leaves, buds, stems, fruit or vegetables from the plant. This method reduces the treatment area and allows good air circulation and enough sunlight to reach the inner parts of the plant, especially for rose bushes. Remember to disinfect your pruning shears before and after using them on infected plants to prevent possible transmission of disease from one plant to another.
Whichever method you choose, it's best to settle with the highest-quality possible for your plants, especially when it comes to the pruning shears you use. Preventing and controlling powdery mildew may be challenging, but following these tips will help you reduce possible outbreaks and any further damage this disease can create.
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