Saturday, April 04, 2015

Avoiding the Dreaded Squash Vine Borers

Those of you who have been following my posts for a while may remember that last summer's was quite a disappointment to me. Many things went wrong (which I won't relive now--it was bad enough the first time through), but one of them was squash vine borers.

I hate squash vine borers.

These nasty little buggers will drill into a thriving, healthy squash plant and kill it from the inside out. And chances are, you won't notice them until it's too late. You'll be looking at your gorgeous zucchini plant or pumpkin plant or squash plant of choice, just imagining what you're going to do with all that squash--"I'll make pumpkin bread! I'll try that zucchini chip recipe I heard about online! I'll have so much squash that I'll get sick of it!"--and before you eat a single squash, the plant will start wilting and dying right before your eyes, and there won't be a single thing you can do about it.

What's worse is it's kind of humiliating too. Squash is supposed to be the easiest plant in the world to grow. Honestly, it's what got me addicted to gardening. My first edible gardening success was a zucchini plant. I think I just stuck a zucchini plant from Home Depot into some unamended soil, and it grew like gangbusters. I got zucchinis the size of baseball bats off that thing. And now, after years of experience, I couldn't get a single darn zucchini off my plants before killing them? How humiliating!

I hate squash vine borers.

So after last year, I did some research and found a great article on how to avoid the little buggers from now on. Since it's about the right time of year to planting squash, I thought I'd share that article with you too:

Ask Ruth: Squash Vine Borers

I don't know who this Ruth is, but man, let me tell ya, she seems to know what she's talking about. By my count, she's got 16 different tips in that article about how to avoid the dreaded squash vine borers. I'm gonna listen to her. In fact, I started this morning. I went out to my little zucchini plant and looked for eggs on it. (I didn't see any, but I did my best to brush off the stems anyway, just in case.)

Protect 'em when they're young!

Once I had done that, I took some netting and covered the plant. (I had the netting around, but if you don't, you can find it at any fabric store. It's like the stuff they use to make wedding veils.) I used netting because it's lightweight, won't weigh down the plant, and will let in plenty of sunlight. Then I weighed down the sides with some rocks so no bugs could fly in around the sides. 

Doesn't it look elegant? 

As the plant gets bigger, I'll need to add progressively bigger netting to accommodate it. Then once it starts getting flowers, I'll need to remove the netting for pollination. Then it will be time to switch tactics. 

Once the plant is blooming, I won't be able to cover it to keep the borers out. Instead, I'll need to wrap the base of the stems (where the borers like to dig into the plant) with something like tin foil (if I'm feeling flashy) or pantyhose (if I want a more low-key type of look) to keep the borers off the base of the stem. Ruth tells me that I'll need to extend the wrapping beneath the base of the soil, and I believe her. 

So how about you? Are you willing to go through such extreme measures to save your zucchini from the dreaded squash vine borer? 


Snoo Cannon said...

Hi Claudette, I'm Susie and just moved from WA on New year's day. I'm not sure what to plant in soil and the sound these parts and have already started a few things onions, chives, potatoes and some herbs. My zucchini aren't doing very well but I'll keep trying. I live in Gilbert as well. I volunteer at an Urban Farm growing our veggies, fruits, lettuces and greens in vertical hydroponic soil free tower gardens and here at home I'm growing what I can't grow in my tower in the soil. I have built some raised beds too. Do you ever have any workshops?
Thanks so much!!
Just saw this and answered my question!

claudette said...

Hi Susie. Welcome to Gilbert! It's a very different growing environment from Washington--that's for sure. I don't do workshops, because I don't really feel qualified, honestly. But I do a lot of research and post what I learn what I when learn it. If you look to the links on the right of my blog, you'll see lots of useful links--things that have helped me learn a lot in the few years that I've been gardening here. And feel free to post questions. If I think I know an answer, or at least have a good guess, I'll be happy to answer it. Good luck and happy gardening!