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Expert gardener reveals ultra-cheap hack for tackling powdery mildew on plants: 'It has worked wonders in my garden'

A cheap, accessible hack for tackling dreaded powdery mildew.

Hack for tackling powdery mildew on plants

Photo Credit: @joesgarden.official / Instagram

The solution to a common garden problem may already be in your fridge. To keep powdery mildew at bay, expert gardener Joe (@joesgarden.official) took to Instagram to share a homemade fungicide made from milk.

The scoop

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that attacks the leaves, stems, and flowers of plants and is identified by a dusty white appearance as if the plant is covered in a layer of flour. Roses, squash, cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, beans, and peas are all commonly affected by various species of fungi that cause powdery mildew, according to The Old Farmer's Almanac

These fungi thrive in dry, warm climates, especially on plants that are surrounded by high humidity, such as those packed tightly together or with weeds around them. The fungus spreads over the leaves, hampering the plant's ability to take in important nutrients. This stunts the plant's growth, diminishes its fruit, and can even kill the plant. If left unattended, the infection can easily spread to nearby plants as well.

Joe's natural solution is a homemade fungicide spray made from milk and fresh water at a 20-80 ratio. Simply add the solution to a spray bottle and thoroughly spray the tops and bottoms of leaves on a sunny day. Repeat once a week for the best results. 

This solution should be applied as a preventative or in the early stages of an infection. It is best to remove any leaves that are heavily affected. Joe explained, "The idea of using milk as a fungicide has been around since the 1950s … It is not yet 100% sure how or why it works, some say it's the proteins in the milk, others say it's the phosphate, but all I know is for the last three years it has worked wonders in my garden." 

Research has explored the effectiveness of this milk-based fungicide for decades and found the best results with milks that are higher in fat content.

How it helps

Made with ingredients you likely have at home, Joe's milk-based fungicide is a cheap, accessible hack for tackling dreaded powdery mildew. In addition to saving money, the mixture is quick to make and simple to apply so the problem can be addressed immediately. This homemade solution also lacks the harsh chemicals found in store-bought fungicides that pollute the soil and water.

What everyone's saying

For those concerned the garden will smell like spoiled milk, Joe assures that he has never had an odor issue from the heavily diluted spray. 

While many commenters were ready to try the solution, others searched for a plant-based alternative. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of plant-based milk is currently unknown. 

"I've heard baking soda and soap in water works well too," a commenter suggests for those looking for a vegan alternative. The Almanac lists both milk spray and a baking soda and water mixture to be effective options for homemade methods to prevent powdery mildew.

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