Monday, February 20, 2012

The Dreaded Squash Vine Borer

Have you ever been given a baseball bat sized zucchini?  It is supposed to be one of the easier and more prolific crops to grow.  We thought we should at least get something.  Our first year (2 years ago) we planted some zucchini and got a whopping 0 edible fruit from our plants.  The plants looked good at first but they soon got sickly looking and did not produce.  This was very discouraging, especially for Shannon as she is a "Master Gardener" who can't grow zucchini.  We determined after research and examination that the reason for the problem was due to what is called the "Squash Vine Borer".
Zucchini Trunk with Squash Vine Borer Exit Damage

By the second year we rotated our crops (subject for another posting) and tried again.  This time while watering we saw a suspicious looking bug hovering around the zucchini plants.  While I was watching it I saw it zero in on the main trunk of the plant.  The adult was actually a pretty black and orange moth which flies during the day.  This moth is very sinister and smart at the same time.  It typically goes to the main trunk of the plant where it's larvae can get the most nutrition, and cause the most damage.  If not caught in time it typically destroys the entire plant.  The egg is laid at the base of the trunk and after a few days the larvae will hatch and burrow to the inside of the zucchini plant, safe from pretenders and human eyes.  It can then safely munch away from the inside until time to exit and burrow in the ground for hibernation.  We were able to keep most of our plants safe last year.  We mulched heavy around the base to try and deter the moths and kept an eye out for them because now we new what to look for. Sorry the picture we took isn't the greatest, you can look it up on the internet to get a better look.
Adult Moth of Squash Vine Borer

Our zucchini crop still suffered last year though because we had another problem, powdery mildew.  This saps the energy and strength from the plants as well.  We tried a diluted vinegar spray on the leaves and it seemed to retard the mildew's progression but not destroy it.  At least we were able to harvest some fruit last year, but by no means were we overwhelmed with abundance despite having eight plants.

Zucchini with Powdery Mildew

 Shannon read that overhead sprinkling, getting the foliage wet, deters the mildew.  Something to try this year.

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