One of our readers asks, “It looks like white powder was sprinkled all over my pumpkin leaves. What could this be?” A common problem among vine vegetables like squash, melons and pumpkins, powdery mildew is the culprit.
What Is Powdery Mildew
Powdery mildew is a fungus that will spread quickly in your garden. Often found late in the growing season, you won’t notice it until fruit has set and is starting to mature. You’ll first see small white specks on the underside and tops of leaves. Within a week or so, the leaves will wilt, turn yellow or brown and die.
How to Treat Powdery Mildew
While there are many chemical treatments on the market to kill the fungus, a homemade solution has proven to be just as effective and will cost you pennies to make. Mix equal parts of milk and water in a spray bottle. Shake it up and spray it on affected leaves every three to five days. You can also spray the healthy leaves to prevent the fungus from spreading. Spray after the sun has set to prevent sun scald. Pick off and discard any affected leaves.
How to Prevent Powdery Mildew
Spacing out your plants is the best way to prevent powdery mildew. The fungus thrives in crowded damp conditions so plant your pumpkins at least 8 feet apart in full sun. Water the roots and not the leaves so they stay dry. The good news is that the fungus doesn’t thrive in the soil, but on the plant itself. If your plants do become infected, the pumpkin will survive.