The following is a guest post from Fern Miller a homeschooling Mom, wife, small business owner, internet marketer, and staff to two cats, who finally lives in a state with concealed carry. She blogs regularly at Fern’s Fronds which is her blog covering a wide swath of topics from preparedness, gardening, firearms, all from a distinctly wiccan point of view. Enjoyably candid, she has a great practical approach to why and how somebody should be a prepper. Also available on twitter @Fernwise.
Lately lots of folks have been blogging about their plans for their upcoming gardens, and sighing about he bug-based problems they encountered last year. I know that my neighbors and I had LOTS of problems with our squash from bugs, both from them simply sucking the life out of the leaves and from them turning the vines to mush.
Now, unlike my neighbors, I DID get a really good crop before the bugs toasted the squash plants. But my squash season ended earlier than it had to. I don’t want a repeat of that.
This year I plan on dealing with the insect problems better than I did last year. Which is why I’ve been researching the problems and solutions NOW.
VINES TURNED TO MUSH
The biggest problem, which killed the plants totally, was that the vine turned mushy not far from the roots. So mushy that the vine literally detached from the roots!
I knew that this was a result of squash vine borers in the stem mucking about first, and now know that the mucking about allowed the vine to get infected and turn to goo.
This year’s approach:
First, I’m going to plant the vines farther apart – I had them too close last year so I had a hard time finding and treating ANY problems, as well as a hard time harvesting!
The vine borers like the first foot or so of the vine, I will check it often for signs of rot. If there IS rot I’m going to cut into the vine and squish the borers, then work on re-rooting the vine farther along it’s length. Like about a foot farther down it’s length. To do this I’ll anoint the vine with rooting hormone and mound earth over that part of the vine, topped with some compost or plastic to help keep it moist. Once new roots form I’ll cut off the vine on the ‘old root’ side of the new roots, to try to keep the rot away.
University of Illinois – where I was an agriculture major – says that the ONLY pesticide that squash borers are not immune to is carbaryl (I have NO clue what that is), and to try applying it once a week. I’m not trying that myself.
SUCKING BUGS ATTACKING LEAVES
We had a really nasty infestation of these, but while they reduced harvest they didn’t kill the entire plant.
We had two different insects at work here in the Mid Atlantic: regular old squash bugs as well as stink bugs. They act the same, they are treated the same, they even look pretty much the same – both ‘shield bugs’ type. They have different colored eggs, but they are the same size, both lay ’em under leaves, and both lay them in the same pattern.
This year’s approach:
First, since I’ve already determined to have the plants farther apart, I’ll be able to check the leaves for egg masses better. Once found, I’ll squish those egg masses! I may put boards down for the bugs to gather under and squish them there, too. Yes, both types of insects CAN smell bad when squished.
I might also try diatomaceous earth on these buggers and see if that helps. Pyrethrins are my back-up plan, if needed.
This wilt can kill a plant in 6 weeks, sometimes even before it fruits at all. It’s not a problem I’ve had … yet. But I’m preparing.
A bacteria – but it’s carried/spread by cucumber beetles. Smalllish, striped beetles. If you don’t have the beetles you won’t have the problem.
This year’s approach
Keeping alert for the beetles will be the first thing. If I see them I’ll probably do the diatomaceous earth, or if needed go for rotenone.
These are the main threats to your garden’s squash supply. With out them, two hills of zucchini will feed a small army. With them, you may not get any zucs, let alone any more nutritious hard squashes.