Thursday, July 12, 2012

Squash anyone?

Finally, we had a little rain over the weekend with hopes of more in the forecast this week and next. The best thing is that temperatures have dropped into the 80's and it doesn't feel like an oven outside! Trees, lawns and gardens have all suffered. If you have anything left in the garden after this, it's most likely your squash plants. They seem to be able to take whatever Mother Nature dishes out! That said, they can be a temperamental plant along the way with problems setting squash or pest problems that go undetected. 

Some of the most common ones are as follows:

Plants are missing stems and leaves near the ground- you've got cutworms! These gray grubworms are just under the soil. They chew stems, roots, and leaves. If leaves are curing under, aphids may be the culprit. They are tiny insects that gather on the undersides of leaves. You'll feel a sticky substance that will eventually turn into a black sooty mold. Leaves turning pale green, yellow, or brown with silver webs on undersides indicate spider mites. Another problem that makes the leaves turn yellow are whiteflies. They also will gather on the underside of the leaves and fly up when disturbed. 

Planting  Dill as a COMPANION PLANT for squash is a great idea. The flowers are powerfully attractive to beneficial insects such as wasps and hoverflies and it naturally repels aphids, spider mites and squash bugs!

If you start seeing holes chewed in leaves or the leaves look like skeletons, cucumber beetles are probably in the garden. Another pest that leaves holes in leaves and flowers is the pickle worms, the larvae of night moths. Caterpillars too feed on leaves and fruits. 

Vines wilting with yellow specks on leaves that turn brown, then get crisp mean squash bugs are present. A squash bug is a brownish-black shield-shaped bug with a triangle on it's back. It sucks juices from plants and will quickly kill a squash plant. Look under leaves for bugs. 

If you notice holes in stems near the base of plant, squash vine borers are at work. They bore into stems causing plants to wilt. 

Round spots on leaves, reddish brown to black, is probably anthracnose- a fungal disease that spreads in high humidity and rainfall. Leaves wither and fall, then the plant dies back. 

If your plants look like you've dusted them with baby powder, powdery mildew caused by fungal spores is at fault. Spores germinate on dry leaf surfaces when the humidity is high, it's common in late summer. 

Irregular yellow/brown spots with gray powder under the leaves is downy mildew caused by a fungus. 

Vines that wilt suddenly and die, it's most likely bacterial wilt caused by bacteria that live in cucumber beetles. 

Often seen where the soil stays moist. Fusarium wilt is a fungal disease that causes plants to stay small and yellow, runners eventually die.

Fungal diseases like stem blight and black rot will spread so removing affected plants is a good idea. 

Early flowers don’t set fruit... this is a problem I have every year. There are a couple of reasons this happens. The first flowers to appear are male, then the female flowers come on next. Patience, Grasshopper.... it takes time for the female flowers to be pollinated! There may not be enough pollinators, mostly bees, to carry the pollen from male to female flowers. But there are other ways around this problem.

Did you know... that Grape Hyacinths are nectar for early pollinators! Early spring flowers, they keep bees and butterflies coming back so they are present in summer when the cucumber and squash bloom. 
HERE is a list of 15 best pollinators for your garden!

The Farmer's Co-op has dusts, traps, sprays and soaps that will control any of these problems. Many varieties of insect resistant squash are now available too.  There's always an organic choice to any gardening dilemma and the folks at the Co-op can give you ideas how to control a pest problem in the yard or the garden. And finally, TOO MANY SQUASH on the plant. Yes, even this happens and about the only thing you can do is keep it picked, have squash every day and give it away!

This video has some great tips on growing squash in a vertical cage that would eliminate some of the disease problems associated with squash. He also shows how to easily pollinate the fruit.

I read a fascinating article at Garden Web the other day about a Three Sisters GardenIt's an ancient method of gardening using a hill to grow corn, beans, and squash crops simultaneously. Read about it HERE, it really makes a lot of sense! In the kitchen, I have a few recipes for that boatload of squash you may be blessed with!

Cinnamon Squash Bread sounds really good!

Crispy Stuffed Summer Squash is a great way to use up those zucchini!  

Cheddar Squash Casserole, this is the one Mom always made!


  1. Wow, aren't you the source of information. Lots of great tips I wasn't aware of. Thanks for your post today. Have a good 'un!

    1. Since I started writing a blog for our local Farmer's Co-op, I have HAD to learn a few things! My parents and Grandparents were big gardeners so I've heard many of these tips along the way. Google is my friend!

  2. Wonderful information your blog!
    Squash is my favorite! I eat a lot in the Fall...mostly Acorn. Any hints on how to cut them open a little easier?

    1. Well, it says on this site to microwave it a couple minutes before cutting. Also if you cut from stem end down it's easier. I'll have to try both this fall, they ARE hard to cut! Thanks for coming for a visit today! Hope you're having a good week...

  3. Squash bugs usually destroy my crop but this year, it is still producing. I've heard that if you lay a board down on the ground near the plants, the squash bugs love to gather under that then you can get to them all at once. You have to be fast or use insecticide though. I didn't use anything this year. Must be the moon.

    1. My Dad did everything by the moon, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. He would get so exasperated with no rain... I can hear him still! Gardeners are the best at figuring out what really works, and then passing it along!

  4. One of the contractors that was working on our house, picked 400 pounds... he brought me 10 pounds. It was great!

  5. A great post! Squash bugs are icky! I literally "squash" them when I am out watering the garden. They really did a number on my garden last year, but I was on the lookout for them this year.

    1. All that hard work down the drain if the bugs eat it all before we do!

  6. This was a great gardening post. I need to add a few of the pollinators to my garden. I have one lonely plant and I just know one of the numerous evils will hit it before I get any.

    1. Thanks Glenda, quite a compliment coming from you... I learn things from you all the time! I just bought some red crape myrtles on sale but I'm not planting them for awhile.


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