Downy mildew: NOT just for cool, wet seasons

Downy mildewDowny mildew is a bugger. “A disease of cool, damp seasons,” opines Dr Hessayon, my usual consultant on these matters.

Utter bollocks, sadly (though Hessayon’s rarely wrong). We’re having one of the hottest, driest summers ever – and I’ve still got mildew.

Last year we had one of the wettest summers ever, and I had the best onions I’ve ever grown. Row upon row of flawless whoppers… which stored perfectly. In fact, we’re still eating them.

My theory is that mildew is caused not by damp and cold in summer, but in early Spring. We had dream Spring weather last year, and I reaped the rewards.

Not so 2010, which is turning out to be pretty dire for vegetable growers – at least, round my way. I’ve never had such a lousy crop of almost everything.

How are you doing?

14 Responses to “Downy mildew: NOT just for cool, wet seasons”

  1. ITFarmer Says:


    My garden is doing quite well in the hills of Pennslyvania. Its been hot as heck here, and I’ve been spending three hours a night keeping the soil moist with sprinklers.

    Lettuce is all lost though, darn rabbits have eaten it all.

    Love your blog;

  2. Soilman Says:

    ITfarmer: Thanks for kind words. The key is the watering, isn’t it? I just don’t have the time, sadly, to keep up with it. Plus on my site only the over-60s are allowed to water with the hose, so it’s a serious, SERIOUS pain in the arse to lug cans backwards and forwards for two hours…

  3. Mal's Allotment Says:

    Given that I can’t grow onions because they always get white rot, I’m struggling… but what Hessayon calls “drooping leaves” is also known as Onion Leaf Rot (Sclerotinia squamosa) Small elliptical or circular white leaf flecks develop, often with water-soaked margins and congregate towards the leaf tips. The lesions later dry out and the leaf tips shrivel, collapse and hang down while in moist conditions a grey mould growth producing masses of conidia may grow over the damaged tissues. Collins Guide: Pests Diseases & Disorders of Garden Plants

    Don’t you just love growing veg?

  4. Nome Says:

    I agree – early crops are doing pretty poorly. My potatoes are still the size of pebbles, my onions are giving in to white rot, my broad beans, peas and strawberries are few and far between. But I’ve had a bumper crop of spinach and lettuce, and summer veg like courgettes and tomatoes are doing better than ever! We take the good with the bad I suppose…

  5. Damo Says:

    Sorry to hear that, mine aren’t great, I’m hoping they’ll pull through to something half decent.

  6. Tanya Walton Says:

    I have mildew on my courgette plants but it hasn’t affected anything else…however like you my crops aren’t as abundant this year.. 🙁

  7. Rham Says:

    Not as good as I would like. This year it seems that everything is late and strange, although must admit that since every year it has been different, there is no way to tell what is normal and what isn’t, which may make things more interesting in the end anyway.

  8. Simon Says:

    Most of my onions are looking a bit sad this year, but still cooked up nicely with the chard (which is excellent this year) in the quiche my wife made last night. The have little tiny bugs living between the outer onion layers, but apart from that are okay. Worst have been the peas and beans. And the brassicas eaten by the evil rabbits.
    On the bright side, the sweetpeas are now at their peak.

  9. Soilman Says:

    Them cursed rabbits, eh? I thank heaven that’s one problem I don’t have.

  10. Svetla Says:

    I am also in central PA. We have record drought this year, as IT mentioned. Like you, S., I have a community plot and I drag watering cans (even the 60+ don’t get a break). My legs hurt, my butt hurts, my back hurts… you get the picture. My onions are tiny and mildew-y. Toms and peppers are my favorite crops, and they are liking the dry heat. I just can’t water the onions. The garlic is terrific – no rot or soft spots.

  11. mikes dad Says:

    i am sure you are right about the spring theory , if the roots dont do well the plants dont do well and the cold spring here in the royal county sure didnt produce good roots, later sowings have been good though and i am already picking runner beans .

  12. CM Says:

    Them are some sad looking onions, SM. Since I live in a climate where every summer is dry, I have to apply water frequently. And onions are one crop that never likes to dry out completely. I try to keep them watered a bit each day (in the mornings). They are shallow rooted, needy, pissy little plants in their culture. It’s enough to make you cry. hehe.

    The rest of my garden is well behind with the cold and hostile May we had. If the autumn weather does hold kind, I may actually get some tomatoes and winter squash. I wish lettuce had more nutritional value, it seems to do well regardless.

  13. onetruelove Says:

    My onions are alright this year, big fat red ones, planted November. Rest if the crops are pretty crappy. Weeding at the critical swelling time is the key, apparently. Critical swelling. Not something you write very often. . .

  14. Rampant_Weasel Says:

    i always grow t%m first early or shakespear planted in the autumn
    always get a good crop that store ok.less can be said about the garlic which got rust yet again.thought that was only in damp weather too….