There is not much that is more depressing than realizing you’re losing part of your garden crop before it really got a chance to take off. All the wasted time and resources, the frustration that you feel that if you were just a little bit more conscientious, if you’d just not missed that *one day* of garden check, then it all would have been caught in time. For years, that was us with summer squash. Every. single. year we would be attacked by squash vine borers, losing our zucchini and yellow squash sometimes before we even got one to harvest. Year before last we tried to wrap the bases with a barrier to prevent them digging in…total fail. This year we thought we’d be able to avoid them by tilling deep and mulching heavily…and it didn’t work to deter those pests either. I found several split stems on most of my plants a few weeks ago and narrowed my eyes.
You will not get the best of me, stupid bug.
So I tried again to save my squash plants. Only thing is, this time…it worked!
I took a box cutter and slit the stem of the plant from the split area up a couple of inches and was able to find the mealy little larvae and pull them out of all but 2 of the plants. I just kind of killed the larvae with the box cutter and then scraped it out with a small stick. I pinched the stems back together and mounded some moist soil over the top of the cut area and surrounded it with mulch. I took a paintbrush and dusted just the tiniest bit of permethrin powder around the bases of the plants…just a couple of inches, and just the once to get me through the rest of the squash vine borer season.
Amazingly, out of 12 plants I only lost 2. I am now harvesting 2-5 squash a day. I think if I’d been one or two days later the damage would have been greater. So it IS possible to save them! And hopefully I’ve reduced the numbers that will come to bother me next year. I hate it that I had to use any pesticide at all, but I still feel like I’m getting much less than I would get from store bought veggies. Vigilance is key! Don’t give up!
More information about squash vine borers and other cucurbit pests, including pictures for easy identification can be found here.