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Archive for the ‘Squash & Zucchini’ Category

We came home from a camping trip two weekends ago and were excited to see how our garden was doing. Everything looked great until we spotted it – the adult version of the squash vine borer. There it was, just sitting on the zucchini leaf minding its own business.

The adult SVB. From whatsthatbug.com

The adult SVB. Photo from http://www.whatsthatbug.com

These have been a terror in our garden for the past three years, destroying our squash plants. Ever since the first year, when our plants were perfectly healthy then dead within days, we’ve been watching for this. I thought we were in the clear this year, but I was wrong.

In a weird way, I’m glad we saw it. I wasn’t as diligent about checking for any signs of the squash vine borer because everything was healthy and doing well — no yellow leaves, no wilting.

I think our beneficial nematodes really helped because they killed most of the cocoons that might have overwintered. But, seeing this adult reminded us that we’re not in the clear, and we still need a plan of attack.

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Zucchini Leaf

Silver and white veins on the zucchini plant.

There is something different about our zucchini leaves. We noticed the veins were white, and later one turned a bit silver. It wasn’t powdery mildew because it was strictly on the veins and not the rest of the leaf.

As usual, I searched for answers and found out a couple possible causes. One, is a nutrient deficiency. Unfortunately, no one said what nutrient was needed to correct this, but I learned during my early research about plant needs that summer squash varieties love nitrogen. We put coffee grounds around each plant and we’ll see if this works to help fix the issue.

Second, it’s totally normal. A lot of forums (with pictures) said this is just how the leaves look on some varieties. We’re a bit relieved that it’s not an issue at this point and will keep a close eye on the plants.

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Transplanted volunteers waiting for their "forever home."

Transplanted volunteers waiting for their “forever home.”

Earlier this spring I wrote about a random plant making an appearance. After weeding the rest of the bed, I dug out these two seedlings and put them in small containers left over from vegetable transplants we usually buy at the garden center.

I suspect one is squash because it sprouted where we had a zucchini or yellow squash plant last year. The other was closer to the trellis, so my best guess is that it’s a cucumber.

We’re going to let them grow a little more and get sturdier before putting them in a larger pot. It’d be great if these volunteers actually turn into viable plants. If nothing else, it will save us a few bucks this season.

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Well, we’ve successfully beat the squash vine borer and our yellow squash actually has fruit on it!!!! The jalapenos are indestructible (despite everything else around it floundering) and a few more eggplants are growing.

That’s about the only good thing happening in our garden right now. Tomato plants are barely producing (harvests are few and far between), our cucumbers were thriving until I found a spotted cucumber beetle (too late to save the plants), the green beans have a form of bacterial blight and one row completely died, and the deer are back (and chewed all the leaves off our Brussels sprouts).

Meanwhile, we visited my parents last weekend and they let us take a huge bowl full of grape tomatoes, and like last year, everything is doing well for them. =/

Because it’s been such a problem year, we’re just letting it go and planning ahead for next year. Our plan is to replace the majority of the soil in all the beds to get rid of any pests or diseases lurking in the ground. We’re also going to add a hefty amount of compost and leaves and other nutrients to the soil. Finally, we’re going to rip out the weed barrier we put in the first year and till the ground underneath so the plants can grow deep in the soil.

We might add another section of our square frames to make it even deeper. I thought we were on the right track this year, but apparently not. Matt’s about ready to give up. But I see this as a challenge and we will have a successful garden (that’s my new mantra). It just may take us a few years to get there.

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Maybe the third time really is the charm. While I feel it’s too early to say we’ve won our long battle with the squash vine borer, all signs are pointing to success. I despise this little creature and it’s been the bane of my gardening experience for the past three years.

First, a bit of background. Three years ago we were happily watching our zucchini, yellow squash and cucumber plants bloom and blossom. I even picked one yellow squash on the plant and was looking forward to more to come. Then one day, we went out to check on the plants and saw those three were brown, wilted and dead. It really seemed to happen overnight.

Being new to gardening, we couldn’t figure it out. We watered them enough, kept weeds out and they had plenty of sunlight. So what gives? After some research on gardening websites, we learned that it wasn’t really our fault. It was the squash vine borer that ravaged our plants.

It was already too late in the season to find any new plants, so we chalked it up to a loss and decided to try again next year. Last year we were prepared for battle, knew what to look for and were ready to defend our zucchini plants. But it still happened. I noticed a little bit of wilting and then saw the entry hole in one of the stems.

Armed with toothpicks and a paring knife, I slit open the affected stems, found the borer and stabbed it with the toothpick. Then we covered the hole with dirt and hoped the plants recovered. The good news is they didn’t die. The bad news is they didn’t produce any more fruit. And if a squash did start growing, it seemed to shrivel up as quickly as it grew.

Our yellow squash plant is doing much better this year than it has in the past two summers. We’re still a bit wary of the squash vine borer killing these again.

Which brings us to this summer. I am determined to grow zucchini and cucumber and beat this damn borer. Here was our plan this year and so far it seems to be working.

  1. New location. We moved the squash plants as far away as we could from the bed it was in last year while still getting it full sun.
  2. Planting late. Usually we plant everything in mid- to late-May. This year we waiting until late June to avoid the breeding/egg laying season of the wasp-like adult borer.
  3. Obsessive checking.  I thoroughly researched (again) what the egg sacks looked like and studied pictures of frass (made from the borer’s entry hole). Every day, I examined the stems for signs of it and crushed anything I thought was an egg sack. This also meant slicing open the stem of a cucumber plant that died to check for the squash vine borer (I found nothing).
  4. Plant a back-up. We also planted another zucchini plant in a pot and placed it far away from the ones in the bed, so if either succumbed to the squash vine borer, there would be another one growing.
  5. Luck. While we tried to do everything right, sometimes things get missed. I did notice a couple breaks in the stems (which I later learned are called healthy splits), and we did lose one cucumber plant, but right now the squash plants are full of blossoms and looking healthy.

This website has some good information and pictures of the squash vine borers. The discussion in the comment section is also helpful.

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