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Dealing with mold and mildew outside

July 1, 2010
By Stephanie Bethke-DeJaeghere

The rainy weather, the heat and humidity, all contribute to moldy problems in the garden. These types of weather conditions not only affect our gardens whether it is the vegetable garden or the perennial garden, it also causes some problems in the lawn as well.

Mushrooms in lawns have been a thorn in the sides of many people for the past month or so. We can control them by simply raking them out but there are times that they keep coming back, again and again.

If you have small children or pets, they can be a cause of worry. They are caused by decaying stumps of trees or by decaying plant material deep in the lawn where you can find thatch. You can do some heavy raking and most of the time the mushrooms will not come back but with all of the wet weather combined with the humidity, this is more difficult this year.

Powdery mildew is also a problem in the gardens this year for the same reasons as having more mushrooms. This is caused by a variety of fungi. It looks like a white powder has been applied to your plants. I often see it on Monarda (Bee balm) and on cucumber plants. It also shows up on roses, zinnias, phlox and begonias. It is best to keep and maintain a space between plants to keep the air circulating between plants.

However, even with this, you may still have this show up in some of your plants. You can purchase Daconil or Cleary's which works well to help prevent rather then cure a powdery mildew outbreak. Lime sulfur can be used but there are a few plants that are sensitive to this product such as Viburnum.

Please read the bottle label for specific plants that you can use Lime sulfur on.

Gray mold has also shown up in plants from vegetables and to flowers, both. This looks similar to powdery mildew but often is more of a gray color then white. It also tends to pick on annual plants more often and is a dark gray color. You will find it on the flowers of annual plants more frequently then the whole plant. If a plant has had the fungus for a long period of time, it will eventually take over the whole plant.

It is caused by a fungus called Botrytis cinerea and is often called just Botrytis. The mold will turn from a white color to gray and then a dark brown to black especially on the flower petals of an infected plant. The best control is to remove any petals or leaves of the plant that has this disease and if possible, provide better air circulation.

Hopefully, with the return of more sunny, breezy weather, some of the mold and mildew problems will slow down for the season. If you have a plant, such as a perennial, that has become a problem year in and year out, you may want to move it this fall to an area with more air circulation or start using a preventative such as Daconil on the plant. I suggest that taking a look at the calendar and then moving back about two weeks from when the disease starts to show up on your plant to start pre-treating it. This is something to plan for next year.

For more information about gardening, you can email me at



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