How to Prevent and Treat Powdery Mildew
Learn how to prevent and treat powdery mildew before it causes problems with the fruits and vegetables growing in your garden.
What is powdery mildew? Powdery mildew is a disease caused by several types of fungi. It first appears as a whitish-gray powdery coating on the surfaces of plants, eventually turning the leaves yellow or brown. Left untreated, powdery mildew quickly spreads by spores on wind or physical contact, and damages or destroys crops.
Learn what powdery mildew looks like so you can begin to combat it when it first appears.
New flower buds are covered in white powder.
Undersides and tips of leaves become deformed.
Leaves and stems turn brown; poor fruit production.
White spots on leaves and pods; stunts vines.
Mildew covers leaves, buds, and stems.
White spots on tops and undersides of leaves/vines. (Tip: Know what you are growing. Many varieties of squash have variegated leaves that may look like powdery mildew.)
White patches on the leaves, fruit, and stems.
7 Tips for How to Prevent and Treat Powdery Mildew
1. Plant powdery mildew-resistant varieties.
If powdery mildew has been an issue in the past, plant disease-resistant varieties of crops known to be susceptible to powdery mildew such as cantaloupe, zinnias, roses, squash, and peas.
2. Prune or stake plants to improve air circulation.
An abundance of foliage or vines left sprawling on the ground are inviting to pests and diseases. Proper air circulation helps prevent fungal diseases. Prune and trellis plants to allow as much air and sunlight as possible to reach the plants.
3. Water correctly.
- Water in the morning. Evening watering creates a cool, damp climate that promotes powdery mildew and other fungal diseases.
- Using drip irrigation (rather than overhead) puts the water on the soil (where it is needed) rather than on the leaves.
- Do not over-water. Let top inch or two of soil dry out between waterings. Damp soil promotes fungal diseases.
- For more information, read this article about correct watering.
4. Keep plant debris cleaned up to prevent powdery mildew.
Leaves and trimmings from plants can harbor fungal spores. Rake up and remove debris from around plants.
5. Use a baking soda solution, milk solution, or sulfur spray to prevent and treat powdery mildew.
Choose one (or more) of the following methods. Continue treatment while warm, humid conditions remain to prevent further infections.
- Treat with baking soda solution to remaining leaves every 7 days. Use 1 teaspoon baking soda per quart of water in a spray bottle. Apply as a preventative or to stop early outbreaks.
- Treat powdery mildew with a milk solution every 7-10 days. The protein in milk may create an antiseptic effect when exposed to sunlight. Use a 40% milk to 60% water solution. Spray on leaves of affected and nearby plants, lightly coating all surfaces while the sun is shining for best effect.
- Spraying sulfur is an effective preventative treatment for powdery mildew. Follow package directions and spray plants every 7-14 days to treat or prevent an outbreak.
6. Remove affected leaves or plants, and destroy them.
An effective method for preventing further powdery mildew is to remove and destroy affected leaves as you see them. Sanitize hands, gloves, and tools that come in contact with the diseased leaves.
7. If a plant becomes overwhelmed, consider removing the entire plant.
If all methods fail and you haven’t been able to prevent or treat powdery mildew successfully, consider removing the entire plant.
An unhealthy plant is more susceptible to pests and other diseases.
A diseased plant can easily spread powdery mildew to other plants in the garden.
Remove the entire plant and do not compost it. Plant another fruit or vegetable in that spot that isn’t as susceptible to powdery mildew.