Edible Landscaping

Charlie says… Use Milk in the Garden

Powdery mildew can be controlled with sprays of milk on squash and pumpkin leaves.

We all know milk is a great food to eat in many forms, but did you know it's great for plants too? While you've probably heard false rumors of giant pumpkin growers feeding milk to make their pumpkins grow larger, using milk in the garden is not just folklore. There's some science behind it.

For example, it's known that milk has anti-fungal properties and is used around the world to control powdery mildew on squash and melons. Farmers in Brazil and New Zealand, in particular, have used a mixture of 9 parts water and 1 part milk sprayed on plants to prevent this disease from getting started. It seems there are certain amino acids and salts in milk that control this fungal disease. Farmers in these countries get up to 90% control of powdery mildew with milk sprays. While raw milk seems best, farmers in New Zealand have used skim milk with good success.

Not only can milk prevent diseases, it's a disinfectant. Researchers at Ohio State University have found that dipping pruners in milk to disinfect them works just as well as dipping in the usual bleach solution. Recently conducted trials resulted in zero transmission of tobacco mosaic virus from infected to non-infected petunia plants when pruning was done with tools disinfected by either bleach (1:10 dilution) or non-fat dry milk mixed with water. Plus, there's less corrosion on the pruners and skin irritation for the gardener when using milk. They used a non-fat dried milk solution, but perhaps regular milk will do too!.

So tip a glass of milk back for your body and your garden. It's more than a natural.

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