By: Garden4Dinner

My powdery mildew is gone with an organic household solution! I have many gardening successes and failures. I share them both, but it is nice to be able to share a success.

In December I purchased a Sweet Laurel Bay Tree, the type of tree the standard Bay Leaf herb comes from. I purchased it online from a company I wasn’t sure was legitimate. I figured it was a small tree and I would only lose $10.00 if I received nothing in return. I know it is better to purchase from a well-known nursery. I should have carefully inspected the plant to make sure it was healthy. Ease and impatience won me over for this purchase. I have had good luck with ordering plants in the past, so I was hopeful this would work out also.

sweet laurel bay tree
Sweet Laurel Bay Tree after 2 milk solution treatments. The powdery mildew was very mild and was too difficult to get a good photo of at the time.

Unfortunately, my bay tree arrived with powdery mildew. It is nasty white powdery spots of fungus on the leaves and stems. It was at the very beginning stage, mild enough I couldn’t get a good picture to share (I use the camera on my phone, I need to upgrade). I complained to the company and tried to send it back. Unfortunately, they weren’t the most customer friendly company and quickly ignored all of my emails. I know, random website purchases are a bad idea.

The first thing I did when I received the plant is separate it from my other plants. Powdery mildew can spread via insects. Fortunately, I don’t have many insects around my house this cold winter in the Pacific Northwest. After researching many ideas for treatment, I decided to try a milk treatment. The reason milk works is unknown, but some professional farmers have had success. I like the idea of using a standard household, organic, and frugal product. I found various different suggestions on the milk and water ratio to use. I couldn’t find anywhere where it provided the suggested milk fat or if it even matters.

sweet laurel bay tree
Sweet Laurel Bay Tree right before the 2nd milk solution treatment. I can almost see the powdery mildew in this picture. I prepared a paper towel with the milk solution

Fortunately, my tree is very small and so treating it didn’t take much work. It was easy to make sure I covered the entire tree.  I took a paper towel and dipped it in 50% water and 50% milk (1% milk fat). I rubbed down the plant as well as I could with the mixture. I applied the solution 3 times total, once a week. After 2 weeks of the application I didn’t see powdery mildew anymore, but I applied it one extra week to be sure.

It has now been over a month and I have seen no sign of powdery mildew return on my Bay Tree.

sweet laurel bay tree
The Sweet Laurel Bay Tree this week, which is over a month after the last powdery mildew treatment. Ignore the poor looking soil, I will leave for another post.

I believe I had good luck because…

  1. I was able to keep my plant indoors and separated from my other plants and away from insects.
  2. It is a small plant and I was able make sure the entire plant got thorough treatment.
  3. I caught the powdery mildew in the early stages.
sweet laurel bay tree
My husband took this picture of the new bud that is growing. I need to learn to use his camera for next time I need a good close up picture.

I have had powdery mildew on peas, zucchini, and cucumbers previously. At that time, so may of the plants were infected, it would have been challenging to apply the milk with a paper towel. Maybe I will try to spray it on the next time I have a large area to treat. Additionally, I read that after a few applications of one treatment, a different treatment should be used in order for it to continue to work. Either that or rotate types of treatments to prevent the fungus from becoming resistant. It will be interesting to see how the treatment goes for me next time on a larger area. Previously, I just let the plants go and harvested the fruit that I could.

Certain types of plants and varieties are more susceptible to powdery mildew. If I have a hard time with powdery mildew on one variety of plant, I will likely switch to a powdery mildew resistant variety.

I hope you catch your powdery mildew early or better yet, don’t get it at all! If you have had it, have you tried treating it? Was your treatment successful? Please share your experience in the comments!


  • Pennies – A small amount of 1% milk from the refrigerator


  • 15 minutes (5 minutes every application)

[Image Credit: Flickr image with edits, all other images are ©2017 Garden4Dinner]