PS: More on the dreaded squash vine borer

I just posted about the squash vine borer and a gardening friend, Gene, mentioned that his squash is smaller than in the video in a comment in the earlier post on squash vine borers. I forgot to mention that while the squash is small before they blossom, I keep them covered with row cover which keeps both the SVB and the squash bugs out but once the plants are bigger and blossoms, we have to take the row cover off for the bees to be able to pollinate them-that’s when we should use the foil.

More on squash bugs..

Squash bugs are around my squash and pumpkins right now. I go out AT LEAST ONE TIME A WEEK and go hunting for adults, nymphs and eggs. I know the ADULTS LIKE TO HIDE DOWN AT THE BASE OF THE PLANT or underneath the leaves. I take the hose and spray the whole plant and at particularly at the base which is covered in straw. The adults come running up the stems of the leaves to escape the water. Then I pick them off with my hand. I hate handling bugs barehanded so I use gardening gloves. I either squish them on the ground or put them in a bucket of soapy water where the adults drown.  No mercy.

I then look at EACH LEAF of the plant to see if there are any EGGS ON THE UNDERNEATH SIDE OF THE LEAVES, usually in the “v” where the veins form. If I find them, I either tear off the whole leaf (if I have a lot of leaves) or I tear out just the section that has the eggs and put them is a bucket of soapy water where they will smother. THE EGGS WILL BE DARK LIKE ROOTBEER WHEN THEY ARE READY TO HATCH, so get them EARLY.

I also look for the GRAY NYMPHS WHICH ARE USUALLY UNDERNEATH THE LEAVES OR ON THE STEMS. If I find a few I squish them. If I find a lot, I take the whole leaf off because they are fast and I can get them all. Then I put them in the soapy water.

Squash bugs go from EGGS TO NYMPHS IN 7-10 DAYS, so we should look for eggs about every 7 days to catch them from turning into nymphs. I do this on the weekend when I have more time. The squash bug PRODUCES ONE NEW GENERATION EACH YEAR but of course if each squash bug lays 15 eggs on each leaf they chose to deposit their eggs on, then all those newly hatched nymphs will lay more-but not this year. The nymphs will grow into adults this year but will not lay eggs. They will overwinter and lay their eggs next year.

So my thinking is if you get the adults now and the eggs now, then next year you should have way less squash bugs (I’m assuming we might miss a few) and of course if we get them all, in theory we should have none next year.

I keep my plants covered early in the season with row cover until they flower but now that they are flowering, I must uncover them so the bees can pollinate them. The key is to be REALLY DILIGENT ABOUT FINDING THEM BEFORE THE EGGS HATCH. After they hatch you can easily be overcome by the nymphs. Most people don’t keep up on the inspections and then the problem magnifies tenfold-so keep up on them. The hunt is on!

Some people spray Sevin on the plants. I prefer to go organically, so if I get a major problem, I would use Neem which is somewhat helpful but picking them off is the best way to control them.

All pictures courtesy of University of Minnesota. For more info on squash bugs, go to their site:

Planting Summer Squash

Costata Romanesco

Summer squash is a warm season crop. A friend asked me yesterday when should she plant her summer squash seeds in the soil. Should she do it now that the magic date of May 15th has past. Well, we might be over freezing nights BUT the soil temperature is still pretty cool for these crops. Summer squash likes to be planted when the soil is a little warmer so I would wait at least a week. Here is some information about growing summer squash.

-The soil temperature should be between 65°F-75°F when planting the seeds. My soil temperature today was 62°F where I’m want to plant them so I’m going to wait till it is warmer because 70°F is actually optimum. If you plant too early, the seeds could rot or not germinate.

-Summer squash are heavy feeders so put lots of compost in your hole when planting and be sure to fertilize them at least 1 time a month during the growing season with fish emulsion and seaweed fertilizer.

I plant in a ‘hill’ which actually isn’t a hill at all but a circle where I put three seeds spaced out in each ‘hill’. That way if one of them gets a disease I can just cut it out and still have a couple left.

Two plants will feed 4-6 people so don’t go too wild unless you are feeding your neighborhood! I consider a ‘hill’ basically as one plant. Otherwise you will be looking for zucchini ‘victims’-people who will take some off your hands!

– Everyone tends to plant squash too close. Give them lots of room between plants. I like to give them about 4 feet between plants which seem like alot but they always seem to fill in the space. Overcrowding encourages powdery mildew later in the season.

-Plant some onions around your squash plant. This may help deter the dreaded squash bug from wanting to visit your plant. I planted some last year and I got a few but I think I got less of them.

-Summer squash starts producing fruit from about 52-65 days.

-Harvest when the zucchini type is about 8 inches long and the skin is easily pierce-able with your fingernail. Pick patty pan types when they are 2-3 inches in  diameter.