Having an allotment has taught me many things; patience, planning, adaptability, resourcefulness and above all else to expect the unexpected. All allotmenteers will know about this. You expect a crop to fail, and against all the odds it succeeds. You dig over a forgotten corner in your plot and discover a vegetable tucked away that you never knew you had. The allotment holds many surprises. With a little bit of luck, the surprises will be happy events. However, sometimes, this isn’t always the case. Your treasured seedlings are devoured by slugs, the pigeons strip your cabbages, or the mice have a feast on your freshly sown seeds. Most things you can plan for and with a bit of resourcefulness and creative thinking you can protect your crops against most predators.
This week my squash plants have been under attack. Not by slugs, or snails, or birds or badgers, not even by bugs or any other pumpkin loving creature. This attack was more stealthy.
Meet my current nemesis….Powdery Mildew.
It’s awful. My lovely pumpkin plants are covered with white patches of this fungal disease. I first noticed it last weekend and thought that it was because I’d watered them a little too well and that the water had splashed up onto the leaves and with a little bit of sunshine they’d sort themselves out. I was horrified a few days later when I saw that the white patches on the leaves had spread, making their way around the rest of the squash and pumpkin plants.
Serious research was called for. I’m trying to grow everything at the allotment organically and so far I’ve not used any kind of pesticide or fungicide on any of the plants, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to control this outbreak without some heavy-duty help.
Most of the information I found on the Internet calls for the use of fungicides, but I really want to try and treat this as organically as possible. Further research suggested using a mixture of bicarbonate of soda, water and a dash of liquid soap, while other reports suggested that a mixture of milk and water works really well. Today I loaded up the milk and set off to tackle the outbreak.
I cut off the most badly affected leaves and discarded them. (Don’t put the leaves into the compost or you could transfer the spores to other plants in the future). Then I set about making the milky mildew killer cocktail; one part milk to two parts water. Once my sprayer was loaded I waded into battle. I sprayed all the leaves, front and back, even the ones not showing any sign of the mildew. I’m hoping with a few repeated applications I’ll be able to at least stop the spread of the spores to the new leaves.
After battle I thought I’d cheer myself up with a little harvesting. I managed to dig up a nice crop of Charlotte potatoes, I picked my first courgettes, an onion, some more peas and a few green beans.
The onions are starting to topple now so in a week or so, if they’re not all over, I’ll bend the stalks to help the maturing process.
The apple trees are laden with fruit but I’m not quite sure when they’re going to be ready for picking, I’ve got a plan to make apple and blackberry jam so I’m hoping I’ll not have to wait too long.
Even though the pumpkins have been under attack, they are still producing fruit. I’ll have to make sure that they stay in tip-top condition and that any further attacks are dealt with swiftly.
I’ve checked over all of my other crops to see if the mildew has attacked any other plants and for now it seems to only be affecting the squash and pumpkins.
On the bright side my inspection brought some exciting news…the purple sprouting broccoli has started to sprout!
I’m pleased the allotment visit today wasn’t all doom and gloom. I was really worried about how much the mildew might have spread. I’ll keep you posted with the results of the milk and water treatment. If anyone else has any tips or tricks or even an alternative treatment I’ll gladly give them a try.
PS. My son spotted this little beauty today at the allotment too, aren’t dragonfly wings just amazing?