I know you aren't supposed to water squash plants on top, so I have been VERY careful as to water only the base. However, I still have gotten a lot of white spots on the leaves. Is there anything I can do to reverse this and is the fruit from these still healthy to eat?
|How disappointing, considering you're doing everything right to avoid powdery mildew! Even though there are several types of powdery mildew fungi, they all produce similar symptoms on plant parts. Powdery mildews are characterized by spots or patches of white to grayish, talcum-powder-like growth. Tiny, pinhead-sized, spherical fruiting structures that are first white, later yellow-brown and finally black, may be present singly or in a group. These are the cleistothecia or overwintering bodies of the fungus. The disease is most commonly observed on the upper sides of the leaves. It also affects the bottom sides of leaves, young stems, buds, flowers and young fruit. Infected leaves may become distorted, turn yellow with small patches of green, and fall prematurely. Infected buds may fail to open. The severity of the disease depends on many factors: variety of the host plant, age and condition of the plant, and weather conditions during the growing season. Powdery mildews are severe in warm, dry climates. This is because the fungus does not need the presence of water on the leaf surface for infection to occur. However, the relative humidity of the air does need to be high for spore germination. Therefore, the disease is common in crowded plantings where air circulation is poor and in damp, shaded areas. Incidence of infection increases as relative humidity rises to 90 percent, but it does not occur when leaf surfaces are wet (e.g., in a rain shower). Young, succulent growth usually is more susceptible than older plant tissues.
Once the disease becomes a problem: Avoid late-summer applications of nitrogen fertilizer to limit the production of succulent tissue, which is more susceptible to infection. Avoid overhead watering to help reduce the relative humidity. Remove and destroy all infected plant parts (leaves, etc.). Selectively prune overcrowded plant material to help increase air circulation. This helps reduce relative humidity and infection. If cultural controls fail to prevent disease buildup or if the disease pressure is too great, an application of a fungicide may be necessary.
Several least-toxic fungicides are available, including horticultural oils, neem oil, jojoba oil, sulfur, and the biological fungicide Serenade. With the exception of the oils, these materials are primarily preventive. Oils work best as eradicants but also have some protectant activity.
To eradicate mild to moderate powdery mildew infections, use a horticultural oil such as Saf-T-Side Spray Oil, Sunspray Ultra-Fine Spray Oil, or one of the plant-based oils such as neem oil or jojoba oil (e.g., E-rase). Oils should never be applied when temperatures are above 90?F or to drought-stressed plants. Some plants may be more sensitive than others, however, and the interval required between sulfur and oil sprays may be even longer; always consult the fungicide label for any special precautions.
As long as the fruits look healthy, they are safe to eat. Best wishes with your plants!