Diseases in Garden

Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)August 8, 2011

Our garden is plagued with diseases this year and we don't know what's going on. Is anyone else having problems?

Since this is our 3rd year gardening and have only had powdery mildew, we don't know what's going on. I have sought help in many ways- including this forum but I still don't know what to do.

We have disease on tomatoes, squash, peas, beans, cucumbers, and eggplants.

1) Tomatoes:

I thought it was bacterial wilt, then read about spotted wilt. I can't determine which it is or if there is a difference. Some sites list one or the other.

The new discovery was the spotted wilt on the fruit. Can you still eat these tomatoes? Now, the fruit spotted wilt is only showing on 1 plant, but the leaf disease is on all plants. I have dusted with copper and will do another spray tonight (less than 1 week) bc I don't know what to do.


I know we have powdery mildew but I also think this is bacterial wilt. It's on all our cucurbits and I have seen a few stripped cucumber beetles. Also dusted with copper. However, we have lots of squash and we don't want the plants to die before we can harvest them (4 varieties all have it). We were told we have to wait until after the first frost (Oct?) but also told just until they are fingernail hard.

3) Peas:

Our peas got injured- lattice fell over and bent the stems of the peas early in the season. A month ago the leaves started getting white spots and dying off. I thought (bc it's our first time planting peas) that since it's so hot here, the heat is killing the peas. But, today I noticed a white mildewy coating on the stems. The peas have also produced recently which I thought was odd too- several weeks without anything, then bam, 2 handfuls.

4) Strawberries:

The leaves closest to the ground have yellowing and browning similar to bacterial or spotted wilt. Does this disease just take over the garden?

5)Next year- are we doomed? Is our soil contaminated? How can you rid the soil of these diseases for fall planting, and next season planting?

Please help. I have been to Harlequin Gardens, Sturtz, and the extension office (which told me to go to a florist shop to ask these questions????)

Hopefully I can post the pics.



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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

For some reason I didn't have the option to upload photos so I'm attaching a link to picasa. Please take a look and let me know if you have any advice.
Much appreciated.


Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Problems-Diseases

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 12:51PM
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Didn't you have quite a bit of rain, recently? That seems to be what happens when the humidity gets high and things splash around.

There are a couple tricks - mulch tightly around the plants, so there isn't much splatter when you water and when it rains. This seems to help quite a bit with tomatoes and peppers. Those blotchy tomatoes are safe to eat, but they may not taste all that great.

Then you want to water deeply and infrequently, again to cut down on humidity around the plants.

Pea season is usually June/early July, then it gets too hot. That might be the problem now.

When I get diseased leaves, I use a pair of scissors and cut the things off and discard them in the trash - on the theory that it can't hurt, might help, and should help control the spread. You won't stop it, but it does seem to slow down.

Squash beetles are a menace. As soon as I see any, and I check frequently, I spray the things with something organic like rotenone or pyrethrum. Thats a war. And spray in the evening so the pesticide doesn't mess with the plant causing sunburn (ask me how I know).

My garden will start succumbing to plant diseases in early september when the dew point rises, the humidity near the ground gets pretty high. I keep reminding myself I should be thankful I don't live somewhere its humid all the time.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 1:43PM
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Leslie, I am just going to start writing and hope something of value shows up on the page.

First off, my understanding is that Denver/Boulder has had higher than normal temperatures and wetter than normal conditions for a month or so. Consistent 90F highs must have put quite a strain on your garden plants.

This seems awfully late in the summer to be expecting much except old age and death from your peas. By the looks of them, I'd put the plants in the garbage can rather than the compost pile.

My thought would have been early blight for the tomatoes altho' I don't really know. The copper should be effective at controlling it. My understanding is that spotted wilt is a virus disease. That may not be treatable, anyway.

I know nothing about tomatillos - if they are about the same as tomatoes, they get bumps on the stems. Under the right conditions, those bumps would develop as roots.

. . . just some thoughts.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 1:46PM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

Dave- I've been cutting the leaves off. For the tomatoes, I'm cutting stems above ripening fruit- meaning the disease is growing up the plant, but there is still enough good top growth (Julliet Romas and Sungolds are 6'tall)

But, most of my squash plants are about 60% diseased and dying so I'm worried they won't make the season despite the fact we have 6-8 fruits on all but 1 plant (my stubborn kabocha)

We mulched at the end of june with hay. And, we water every 3 days for 55 mins (recently increased from 45 bc of the hot weather)

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 2:00PM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

Steve, thanks.

So, no succession planting in areas where we have problems, which is almost the whole garden? I had ignored the peas bc I thought they shouldn't produce, but they did just this last week.

We had wanted to plant more peas, beets, lettuce, spinach, etc for a fall crop.

Oh, since we haven't done a fall planting yet, or succession planting, when do you begin in the front range?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 2:09PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Leslie,

For quite a while now on GW, when you post a new message you don't have the option of adding a link until after you "preview" it the first time, and the "optional link" info will be at the bottom of the message on that screen and you can add your link then. So for adding one link, type your message, preview it, then go to the bottom as if you were going to "edit" something and add the link, preview again to be sure it works, and then click post. On Picasa, tho, you can get the link to post directly into the message on the right side of the Picasa "individual picture" screen. Click on Link to this Photo, then under Embed Image, click on the size you want, copy the link that comes up, and paste it into the text wherever you want it. You can link the whole album by going to Link to this Photo on the main album page.

I've given up trying to figure out individual "diseases" on veggies most of the time, so don't have much info on the specific things you're asking about. But, some basic info that might help answer some of your questions--for others even if I don't have time to get back here!

Are they in pots or in the ground?
How much direct sun are they getting?
What kind of soil are they in?
How often AND how much are you watering?

Too hot for peas, so--carefully so as to not "dislodge" TOO much of the mildew, cut them off/pull them out and take them directly to the dumpster! You could possibly get "a few" more peas, but not worth it considering the mildew. Plant way early next year, and enjoy!

With the cucurbits, are the whole plants keeling over, or are the leaves just looking worse and worse? With both my squash and cukes, I keep any leaves with mildew cut off (and straight to the trash again). Later in the season that gets harder to do when they're all getting some, but I still cut off the biggest, oldest, leaves that are the worst---just to keep the "mildew production" down as much as possible in my garden! What I can see in the pics looks to me like it's just individual leaves and not the whole plant, so if that's right, just cut off any that look bad and keep on keepin' on! IF they're in the ground, keep them well watered. In my experience the more stressed a plant is, the more likely it is to develop a problem, especially mildew. Since I've discovered that, I try to keep everything, especially my veggies, well watered. I have far less trouble with mildew now that I'm home to water all the time than I did when I was gone half the time and the watering was erratic, at best!

I only have a couple small strawberry plants, but the lower leaves just naturally yellow and brown, and I keep them cut off to lessen the possibility of disease building up in the dying leaves. If you have a lot, that might not be possible. To help figure out what the problem is, I recommend cutting off any bad looking leaves and wait to see if the new foliage is developing normally--or if there's still a problem.

Tomatoes! I've come to the grand conclusion that NOBODY actually knows for sure what the problem is when something "goes wrong" with tomatoes! Ask a dozen people, and get a dozen answers! Look at a dozen pictures that look very much the same, and it's called a dozen different things! My solution! As with almost all my stuff, I keep bad/diseased leaves cut off, and I keep them--tomatoes especially--well watered! Almost all plants--tomatoes, squash, cukes, strawberries--are VERY good at growing good new leaves! Whatever the problem is, I don't want to leave leaves that could possibly be spreading a disease in my garden! Somebody around here recently got advice from a "professional" to leave the diseased leaves on whatever it was (think maybe tomatoes) because cutting them off could "open the plant to further infection." I disagree with that, and continue to cut off leaves! Just the way I do it! This year all my tomatoes are doing fine, in spite of the fact that I've had ones that I described as "Failure to Thrive" in the same area in past years! I have little planting space, and there is no crop rotation here! I've never had blossom end rot that some people have a problem with, and I attribute that to keeping them well watered. After listening to all the "discussions" of calcium deficiencies and such when I worked at Paulino's, and seeing NO improvement in the problem in spite of all the addition of chemicals and wringing of hands, I decided that watering was easier and cheaper--and it's been way working for me. I don't know if you can eat the tomatoes or not, BUT, when I have had a problem with tomatoes in the past, I cut off anything that looked bad and as long as what was left looked "ok" and smelled and tasted "ok," I ATE it! That's what we did when I was a kid, and it hasn't killed me yet! ;-)

It should be obvious by now that I go with the Quickest, Easiest, Cheapest way to solve problems, and this may sound insane, but for insects, as soon as I see something--which, luckily, isn't very often--I go out with a can of household insect spray and blast them and the area where I find them! So far it's worked really well for me! Leaf miners on the beets are my biggest problem, and since no spray will get rid of them, I'm very careful to remove any leaves with miner damage quickly--and in the trash! At least I'm somewhat limiting the next year's infestation as much as possible.

If any of your "whole plants" are collapsing or obviously dying, I'd get them out of there! If not, cut off the bad leaves, keep them well watered (I'm assuming they're in the ground), and wait to see what happens with the developing leaves.

I very much doubt that you're doomed! My soil is rife with mildew spores, yet I manage fairly well to control it by keeping the plants as "stress free" as possible. Ohm! The Watering Solution has worked for my roses too--which had mildew, rust, black spot when I moved in here; I've never used a fungicide on them, and no more problem for 3 or 4 years now. Everybody's soil has mildew, and all kinds of fungus spores in it, so there's no way to "eliminate" it--it was here long before Human Beings, and will be here long after Human Beings!

Almost forgot this! In the pics, the "bumps" on your tomatillos look pretty much like aphids to me! Don't know why, but the magnification function isn't working on your pics, and I can't see well enough to be sure. Put a piece of white paper under the stem and see if you can shake some of them off and look at them closely--or--squish them against the stem with your finger and see if you come up Bug Juice on your finger!!! If it is aphids, late in the day spray them well with a Palmolive dishwashing soap spray, wait a half hour or so, and blast off as many as you can with the hose. Might need to repeat occasionally for the rest of the summer. If aphids, be sure to clean up any debris in the garden for over winter--they can overwinter in stuff!

Relax and enjoy the rest of this year, and next year will be better! You'll have all winter to plan and dream!


P.S. If you want to see a success story to give you hope, check out B2's squash thread--which includes last year and this year pictures!

Here is a link that might be useful: My squash babies look happy!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 2:35PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

While I was typing all that, David and Digit beat me to the punch! Glad to see Great Minds Think Alike! I second everything they said!

If you ARE gonna do a second crop, NOW is the time! But since you're trying to figure out what all is going on, you may want to keep working on that and forgo another crop this year. But if you're gonna do it, do it soon!

Happy gardening,

    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 2:42PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

Oh, since we haven't done a fall planting yet, or succession planting, when do you begin in the front range?


Concur on the peas, pulled mine ~ 2 weeks ago. Toms look like a wilt from small pix and not touching anything; should take to another Co Extension who will be more helpful (then tell that office what you got from BoCo). Nurseries IMHO don't know enough. If there is a Master Gardener booth at Farmers Market or some such, some MGs out there should be able to tell.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2011 at 2:45PM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

Thanks Skybird!

We have 2 25'x4' raised beds. We brought in soil and I amended this year with compost and manure. We water every 3rd day for 55 mins- does this seem like enough? We worked it out once and think it's about 1 gallon/foot/hour. The soil is dry 2-3 inches down by the time it gets it's next watering. And it's mulched with hay.

I can keep cutting the leaves off. I am just worried about my spaghetti squash and whether it will survive the trimming. It's about 60% diseased- the worst of them all. I'll spray with copper again in hopes of slowing it down.

Since my postings, I have calmed down a bit. I have succumbed to losing plants, despite the fact that we put a lot of energy into the garden this year, however I still want to figure this out so it doesn't happen again next year.

Oh- with the squash babies link, I'm assuming the water bottles are in the ground to warm up the dirt? I might try that next year.

I much appreciate everyone's advice. I feel like jumping into gardening is like trying to stay on trail in a whiteout.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 12:33PM
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Posted by Lesuko . . . I feel like jumping into gardening is like trying to stay on trail in a whiteout.

Oh no, it is like that every year!

Steve's digits

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 1:44PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Yeah but---as freaky as it may be, you ski back out of a white out too! ;-)

Like Digit says, that NOW WHAT sorta thing happens somewhere along the way every year! Just keep your feet on the BOTTOM, slow down a little, and, this too shall pass!

For veggies, if your soil is all the way dry for the top few inches by the time you're watering each time, I'd say you're not watering too often--most veggies have pretty shallow roots--but I suspect that if you're watering for almost an hour each time, a lot of the water is just running thru into the soil far below the roots, and I think you can probably save some on the water bill by cutting the time about in half. It sounds like you have pretty decent soil, so I'd try watering 20-25 minutes, then wait about a half an hour for it to soak in all the way, then dig down in "a ways" near some of the plants to see if it looks like the soil is wet at least to a few inches below where you estimate the roots end. If so, that's enough until the next time. With mulch, I'm kinda surprised it's drying out that much, that quickly, but then it has been HOT, and the humidity has been back down into the single digits recently! (Question! When you added the soil in the raised bed part--how deep is it--did you "intermix" the store bought soil with the native soil under it at all? Totally stratified soil layers can cause watering problems sometimes.)

I've already cut a good two thirds of the leaves off of my squash (and cukes), and so far it has never seemed to damage them at all. I figure if they're (leaves) gonna die a slow and painful death from mildew, I may as well euthanize them--and why have the plant waste "energy" trying to support dying leaves. I cut off anything that's dead, mildewed, or looking bad/ dying for "whatever" reason.

Can't do this with the squash, but I also cut off all the lower (contact with soil and splash back) leaves on my cukes and tomatoes--just a precaution, and I cut a lot of the leaves off of my tomatoes higher up too! I almost always have 2-4 plants together in any one "cage," (I just leave however many seeds germinated in the pot and plant them as one plant), and the way I cage them, they'd get so "crammed together" it would be an open invitation to disease--and earwigs, which love to hide in smashed together leaves!) And I have no idea if it's true or not, but I once heard that if you cut off some of the tomato leaves, the plant puts more energy into the fruit--and it definitely makes seeing and picking the cherry tomatoes easier!

So I don't know what others think of cutting off half the leaves, but it seems to work for me! As long as the new growth on your plants is looking good, I really don't think you have any of that wilt stuff you were talking about up on top.

Re B2's squash! The jugs were a possible "back up" watering system. I doubt that she's used them, but, B2, if you see this, I'd be curious to know if you did, and how are your squash doing by now?

Think positive thoughts and talk nice to your plants when you're around them! It'll be good for both of you!


    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 4:34PM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

Thanks Skybird.

I spent much of yesterday cutting the diseased leaves off my squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Picked all ripe fruit and sprayed with the copper mix. Today- new leaves with sign of wilt- AHHHH.

The squash are suffering badly- I've got some scrawny beginning of stems with no leaves. It's a sad sight when I look at all my squash that may not make it until the first frost.

On another note, my kabocha, which was aborting all new fruit, set one today. It's either that the temps have been in the 80s these past few days, or that the end of it's 15" vine got trampled a few weeks ago and it's now putting it's energy into producing fruit on older growth- don' know if squash do this.

Digit- I saw a post of yours on delicata. We are planting some for the first time and have about 8 now. I'm seeing them in the farmers market and was wondering if hey can be eaten at any time, or if they have to mature like other winter squash. (I know I should have asked at the market).


    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 6:59PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Just happened to think of something! With the wilting, my squash--and cukes to a lesser extent--wilt very noticeably when they're in the hot, direct sun, even if they were just watered well the day before. Then they perk back up pretty quickly when they get in the shade again. It still tends to freak me out when I get out there and see them all wilted down, even tho I know they'll look fine again in a couple hours. Could that possibly be at least a part of your problem? Are yours looking better when it cools again late in the day? If the soil 3-8" down in is pretty wet and they're not looking better over nite, maybe you really do have some sort of a disease/problem besides the mildew. But as long as they're still growing well enough to be setting some fruit, I still don't think I'd worry about them that much! Just me! There's not that much of the season left, and as long as they keep producing..............

I do think the heat might have been causing a problem with the fruit setting! For the last few weeks I haven't had much setting either--even on my cukes which are absolutely covered with flowers! Hopefully it'll cool just enough for things to really get cooking---so to speak!

I'll be curious to hear how your plants are doing in a week or two now that you've cut off the worst of the leaves.


P.S. One other thing! When you're spraying, are you doing it early in the morning, or late in the day, definitely not when they're in the sun?

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 7:50PM
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Leslie, I believe that if you really want to, a winter squash can be eaten at anytime.

I had a great many delicata the one year they grew well and matured in my garden.

The years when they failed -- maybe, I should have just harvested them to use like summer squash. But, I didn't.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 8:08PM
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mstywoods(z5, Westminster, CO)

So I went out to check on my squash vines and cut off almost all the leaves off of my sphagetti squash - didn't see a one that wasn't infected with the powdery mildew. Hopefully the fruit that is on the vine now will continue to ripen (they are fairly close anyway). Cut off a few leaves off of my zuchinni, but mostly it looked ok. The rest of our squash family veges looks ok right now, but guess I'd better keep an eye out!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 8:09PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

I spray leaves having powdery mildew with Neem.


    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 1:15AM
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A side note - every year, the first plant in my garden that gets powdery mildew is bind weed.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 9:56AM
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Posted by david52

A side note - every year, the first plant in my garden that gets powdery mildew is bind weed.


Every year, the first plant in my garden that is attacked by potato beetles is deadly nightshade!


    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 11:07AM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

I forgot to clarify that the "wilt" i keep mentioning is bacterial wilt from the damn cucumber beetles. The Powdery mildew is still manageable. I expect it to get worse in september but I have heard good things about green cure in slowing it down- which I'll try. Though I suppose the copper should do the same.

Oh, the beds are 18" deep and we did not mix with our native soil. We have too much rock. We have cleared 1000s of lbs of rock out of the back yard already.

The leaves, the ones that aren't affected with bacterial wilt but do have some mildew, aren't wilting in the morning and evenings. That's why if we only had the PM then I think the squash would make maturity.

Next year, maybe I won't spend days weeding the area...

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 12:07PM
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jnfr(z5b CO)

Mildew always comes in on the bindweed first for me too, but usually later than this. I hope you get your squash!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 6:29PM
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b2alicia(zone 5 Westminster)

Re B2's squash! The jugs were a possible "back up" watering system. I doubt that she's used them, but, B2, if you see this, I'd be curious to know if you did, and how are your squash doing by now?

Nope, I never did use them, skybird...in fact, I can't really even get to them!

The squashes are just amazing.

I added 5 more to this display today!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 7:08PM
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I created a post over in the pest & disease forum for some help identifying a problem, but wanted to see if anyone here had any thoughts as well. Seems my Brandywine plant is starting to croak.


As someone mentioned, it's always something that ends up getting them!

Here is a link that might be useful: Sick Brandywine

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 12:26PM
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It is hard enough to diagnose diseases when a person is looking at the plant let alone by pictures. I hesitate to say as there are more than one possibility. I will say I don't feel it is an insect borne disease. But that still leaves several possibilities. There are many factors that a lay person needs to know to diagnose with any accuracy. Weather conditions over the last few weeks will eliminate some and promote others. I had severe disease problems the last 3 years. Knock on wood so far this year has been a good one. Another helpful tool is knowing what diseases are common in your area. What I usually do on disease issues I'm not sure about especially if it is something affecting several plants is I send one to K-State and have it diagnosed. Here our extension agents aren't strong in vegetable diseases. You may have a local agent who is and they will likely know what diseases others are seeing this year. I would try locally first and then send to the state university that offers diagnoses if needed. Here it is free. I'm not sure about CO but would assume it is. Jay

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 11:52PM
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I've had a very hard time growing peas in the past. They are EXTREMELY susceptible to soil born disease---and actually only require ONE INCH of water per week. Water less and your problems will probably decrease significantly.

check out my link, it leads to my video garden blog--i have two episodes on peas that are about 2 minutes each.

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Arizona: Episode 1

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 1:05PM
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