Ramblings of a Grower: 8

Hi everyone! Happy Fall. The best time of year. The time of cozy sweaters, hot cocoa, pumpkins, and magical colors outside. And the best part, the break from the oppressive heat of summer.

I personally love fall. I love to decorate, its basically in my dna to decorate come holiday time, just ask my grandma. And the start of fall means the start of decoration time. I buy more decorations each time I go to the store, its quite bad.

Fall is interesting in the greenhouse. Of course in here I have large heaters, so the cold doesn’t bother me or the plants too much. But you see, certain issues arise in greenhouses based on the seasons. Insects peak in the summer. During those months the high temps and ready availability of fruit and fresh greens mean that they can flourish. Which we dealt with in here. We saw leafhoppers, and armyworms, and other caterpillars, some mealybugs, and a brief splash of aphids. But those can be dealt with. Its frustrating when the infestations happen. But they can be dealt with. Biological controls are great, and organic pesticides are even better. Not to mention, the time honored classic when it comes to pest control ~das boot~.

But you see, the air is cooler now. The sun doesn’t shine as much. So the insects tuck away to hide for the winter. Which you think would be a good thing. Except it foreshadows the coming of a much more difficult greenhouse pest. Fungus. The cooler air and shadier days mean certain types of fungus can start to thrive. One in particular really excels in these cooler temps. Its the bane of many a grower. Powdery mildew.

White little tufts of fungus start to appear on the surfaces of leaves. Small spots at first. One on this plant. One over here. Some pruning can keep it at bay. If your plants are outside, steady rain can rinse the spores off of your plants. But inevitably, you miss some. And it starts to spread. Where once you had one patch, now you have ten. And before you know it whole chunks are coated in a thick white fur. The plant will fight while it can, but eventually it is too much, and it will start to die.

They make fungicides you can use, several of which are even organic. But they do not provide that much reassurance. Because you see, most fungicides are Preventative by nature. They keep the fungus from establishing itself. Which is great if you know you are prone to developing powdery mildew and you spray it as soon as you can and you spray it regularly. Except you don’t always think you are going to get powdery mildew. You ave never had it before. And different strains affect different plants. So you shouldn’t get it here. Except remember kids, things can mutate. And spores can last for ages before they start to deteriorate. So one way or another you know have powdery mildew. So what do you do? You’ve got this fancy fungicide why not just use that? Well like I said, they are preventative. Once you have powdery mildew it is far too late for preventative measures. To quote John Mulaney “We’re WELL passed that!” (bonus points if you know what bit that’s from).

At this point, your options are, remove any and all infected material and throw it away. Don’t even compost it, remember what I said about spores lasting forever? They’ll sit in your compost too. And then you pray you got all of it. Maybe spray some fungicide to take down anything hiding and waiting for an opportunity. Another option. Crank. The. Heat. Powdery mildew likes it around a cool 70 or so degrees. Which is right where the greenhouse temps are falling, especially on cloudy days. Crank it up to at least 90 and let it cook for at least 12 hours.

The scientist who figures out how to get rid of powdery mildew easily and without ruining the crop is gunna get a nobel. At least in my books. You see, that’s another fun thing about powdery mildew. It can ruin your sell-able crop. If you’re growing pumpkins, the fruit themselves should be safe from it, assuming the rest of the plant survives long enough to fully grow it. But lettuce? Your whole crop gets tanked with bad enough outbreaks. Talk about frustrating. And don’t even get me started on basil downy mildew. That’s a whole other demon that honestly I don’t even want to think about.

Basically, I’m staring at fungus wondering what god I can make a sacrifice to to get rid of it. It’s fun. Plants are wonderful, the challenges that accompany them? Not so much. That’s all for now, hopefully the next post will be a tad less doom and gloom.