Friday, October 3, 2008

Oh No--Powdery Mildew!!!

Some of you, like us, may be alarmed at the sight of our beautiful peony plants suddenly looking like someone went berserk in the garden with a jumbo size container of baby powder. The culprit here is Powdery Mildew, a white, dusty talcum-like substance on the leaves. Powdery Mildew is a fungus that sends tubes from spores on the leaves into the plant which then take nutrients out of the plant, often causing the leaves to yellow, die and fall off. It is a condition that is less prevalent in semi-arid regions and makes its appearance more likely in mid to late summer when warm, humid days are followed by cool evenings.

Peonies should be provided with good air circulation with proper spacing, planting in full sun, and avoidance of overhead watering especially late in the day. Remove and destroy infected leaves and flowers--do not compost! Sanitation in the garden should be practiced, such as always raking up and disposing of fallen leaves and garden debris every autumn, and being careful to wash your hands after handling infected plants before touching those that have not been affected. However, despite all these preventative measures being taken, some peony varieties are simply less resistant. Here at Pittsgrove Farms, we have peonies that are planted with all the above recommendations taken into consideration. They are strong, healthy plants that have bloomed marvelously for years, but that darn Powdery Mildew rears its ugly head without fail.

We approach the problem by cutting the plants back and disposing of all stems and leaves.
John and I rarely use chemicals, but certain fungicides, chemical or organic, can be used to manage Powdery Mildew when first detected. We recommend checking with your local Extension Service for their recommendations and then closely following directions on the label.

Take a deep breath since the end of the world isn't here. Your peonies should be back in the spring greeting you with their breathtaking beauty. You just have a little extra work to keep you busy in the garden. So what else is new?!?

1 comment:

Liz@thisfullhouse said...

Okay - all is NOT lost - taking a deep breath and hoping to take better care of our peonies for next year. Thanks for the great tips, guys!