It was downright cold this morning—the temperature dropped to 50 degrees overnight—and yet it will be 85 degrees this afternoon.  These diurnal temperature swings are hard on the system.  When we get into bed at night, we push away the covers and need a fan blowing to keep us cool.  By morning, however, we find ourselves clutching the sheets to our chins while the cats snuggle closer to us for warmth.

At the same time, the humidity remains quite high (possibly worse than in the middle of the summer) and when combined with the cool nights, there is a lot of dew in the morning.  These conditions are conducive to powdery mildew and, if fact, the zucchini plant is now almost entirely covered with it.  After reading up online and watching Late Bloomer‘s “Zucchini Madness – Episode 17”, I decided to try the dairy cure.

Apparently, there are natural antibiotics in milk which have no effect on us (or baby cows) but which are toxic to powdery mildew.  We did not have any milk on hand (we rarely drink it) but there was a bit of leftover cream in the refrigerator.  I had read that the fat content has no effect (non-fat milk could be used) so I diluted the cream with lots of water (too much milk can cause a different form of mold to grow) and sprayed it on the zucchini leaves and stems.  Because of the higher fat content, the mixture produced the distinctively nutty aroma of dairy which was not unpleasant (I’ll see how I feel about it after it has cooked in the sun awhile).

Moving to the other side of the planter, I had thought that we had bacterial wilt of the cucumbers but when taking a closer look at them and tracing the vines with dried, wilted leaves to the ground, I think instead that it is a simply a case of just plain wilt.  The cucumber plants have been in the garden for four months now and their older parts are literally exhausted.  I think I would be too if I had spent a third of a year outdoors.

The leaves have completely dried out—they are crackly and brittle—and the stems have shrunken so much that they look and feel like bundling twine.  I generally avoid pruning cucumbers (because they are susceptible to bacterial infections) but decided that cutting off the dead leaves was worth the risk if it meant that the remaining vines would have a better chance of producing some late-season fruit.

For each plant, I followed the branches from their tips to the ground, snipping off the dead leaves as I progressed.  Some of the vines are still green at their leading ends and are producing blossoms, even though their lower portions are yellow and dead-looking.  On the other end of the spectrum, two of the vines were shriveled and dry along their entire length; these cucumbers are done.  I pulled them out to make more room for those that remain.  When I was done, I had a large pile of debris.

One of the cucumber vines I pulled out still carried a yellowed and partially-formed cucumber.  Despite its color, it looked edible so I washed and ate it.  The cucumber had retained its subtle melon-like flavor but its texture was closer to that of a dried apple.  A bit strange but a nice snack nonetheless.

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