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Archive for the ‘Squash & Zucchini’ Category

It’s becoming a summer ritual, but nothing fun like going out for ice cream or sitting outside enjoying the sunshine. Nevertheless, it begins every year around this time. We are preparing for battle against the squash vine borer.

Found several eggs on this plant -- very hard to spot

Found several eggs on this plant — very hard to spot (yes they’re in the picture)

I’ve written extensively about this problem before and always hope for the best. This summer we found vine borer eggs on our yellow squash and zucchini plants. They are hard to spot — very tiny light brown eggs laid on the plants not in clusters but individually.

My new nightly ritual for the next few weeks will be inspecting every inch of the plants, picking off and crushing any eggs I find.

Also, we’re taking a proactive approach and injecting each stem with Bt, a natural bacteria that can kill the borer if it hatches and tunnels into the vines. If the past few years are any indication, we’ll lose at least some of the zucchini and squash. If it happens again, we’re done with zucchini for at least a year or two so it can move on to someone else’s garden.

 

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We tried. We really did. Being vigilant about searching for and destroying eggs, watching for any signs of damage — we did it all. But it still didn’t work. The damn squash vine borer got our zucchini and yellow squash.

This shows squash vine borer damage on our zucchini plant. The frass is a sign of an infestation.

This shows squash vine borer damage on our zucchini plant. The frass is a sign of an infestation.

I noticed the tell-tale signs of frass a couple weeks ago. It looks a lot like sawdust and it meant our summer squash plants would die soon. That’s when I sprung into action and tried the Bt to stop the grubby invaders.

I’ve mentioned this before but for those who don’t know, Bt is a natural bacteria that messes with the borer’s digestion when they eat it. So as soon as we noticed the frass, I was armed with my garden syringe and a jug of Bt (it has to be mixed with water), stabbing away at the stems and injecting the solution.

This was the first time I tried using the Bt solution, and you know what? It worked like a charm. The zucchini plant has rebounded (for the most part), and there are even a couple growing again!

Even if we don’t get any more, I’ll at least count this as a success.

Related: How to control SVB

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When we were getting zucchini pretty often this summer, I wanted to find a way to make it in a new way. Grilled, sautéed in a pan, breaded and baked — all were delicious.

Then I came across a recipe we had to try: zucchini noodles (zoodles). It was really easy and tasty. I’m not going to lie and say it tastes just like pasta because it doesn’t.

Before giving the recipe, I should mention a few things. This would have been way easier if I had this tool called a julienne peeler or a mandoline, but I didn’t. We used our regular vegetable peeler. It worked, but then I had to pile them all together and cut into smaller strips.

Also, don’t go all the way to the seeds. You really just want to fleshy part, but don’t waste perfectly good zucchini. I diced the core part and baked it in the oven with some grape/cherry tomatoes to add to the cooked zoodles, but you can use whatever sauce you want. We also added cooked garlic and onions.

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We’ve officially lost all but two of our summer squash plants. The zucchini plants are still doing OK, but we’re probably going to lose one of them. The leaves are turning yellow, some are wilting and it seems like there is some powdery mildew on others.

The zucchini has powdery mildew but is recovering after we sprayed it with milk solution.

The zucchini has powdery mildew but is recovering after we sprayed it with milk solution.

Powdery mildew is pretty common and widespread, and it is usually humidity and cool nights that create ideal conditions for it to grow.

To help control it, we’ve been using a mix of baking soda and water. It’s about a teaspoon of baking soda to a quart of water.

I also read that milk and water (1 part milk to nine parts water) can help.

We have tried dousing the leaves with both solutions and it seems to be working.

The milk solution appears to be the better of the two, and we mixed about three parts, so our spray was about three ounces of milk to 32 ounces of water.

There are still some baby zucchini and flowers on the plants, so we might get a few more later.

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This is still the best year we’ve ever had for zucchini but not everything is perfect.

Quite a few of the baby zucchini have formed only to shrivel and die before they grew into a decent squash. While unfortunate, it’s totally normal and just means they didn’t get properly pollinated.

There aren’t always enough bees to pollinate the flowers, so we had to take matters into our own hands. It’s actually a pretty simple process.

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Our tomatoes are finally starting to turn red. We’ve harvested a handful of zucchini and cucumbers, plus an eggplant and a few Anaheim peppers. Not to mention all the fresh herbs we need.

Delicious homegrown cucumbers.

Delicious homegrown cucumbers.

So far, it’s been a decent season and could end up being one of our better gardening years. But of course not everything is perfect. Despite our efforts to crush the cucumber beetle and wipe away any trace of the squash vine borer, we’ve lost a few battles.

I suspect what made the leaves on two of our cucumber plants shrivel and die was bacterial wilt transmitted by the cucumber beetle. Either that or serious damage from a mega-infestation of squash bugs, which I promptly doused in insecticidal soap.

We did lose one of our yellow squash volunteers to the squash vine borer, as well as half of another yellow squash plant that somehow divided itself in two after it was in the garden.

While all this is upsetting, I’m trying to look on the bright side of things. Where we had to tear out the cucumber plants is a great place to plant a fall crop of peas, and the dead squash plant frees up a pot for some more fall lettuce.

 

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Ready for the grill.

Ready for the grill.

In three years, we’ve gotten maybe three squash from our plants. Mostly because the squash vine borer destroyed it before it produced fruit, other times it was lack of pollination.

So when our first zucchini was ready to pick this year, we were thrilled. We went away for the weekend, and it went from almost ready to a monster in two days.

We just sliced it up and threw it on the grill for a quick, delicious side.

Here’s the recipe:

  • Slice the zucchini into rounds, about a half-inch or so thick. Brush each side with (or toss in) olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I also sliced half an onion to go with it.
  • Put it on a grill pan (ours has slots in it) and cook for about three or four minutes per side, more if you like it softer. Once it was done, I grated some fresh parmesan cheese on top.

It was delicious and we will keep this recipe on hand for the future.

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