Squashed squash hopes

I formally surrender to those $#%@& bugs

Part of gardening is learning through mistakes. For the third year, I have been taught a simple lesson when it comes to squash and zucchini: Don’t bother because the bugs are going to beat you.

This year, I tried planting the squash well past the time it would be recommended to do so hoping to beat the birth cycle of my borer bug. I also had the open space after pulling my garlic. For one of the squash plants this worked wonders since the high heat killed it instead. As pictured above the other began to set fruit and looked healthy and then three days ago the baby bugs hatched and ate their way out of the stem effectively killing the plant and allowing me to watch the fruit wither and die.

I like to think at least something got to enjoy the squash

I know I could use pesticide to solve this problem, but then I would damage the soil and I really don’t like using pesticide anyway. Part of the reason I have a garden is because by growing things myself I can better control what chemicals go into my body. Perhaps this is a foolhardy attempt since there are so many chemicals in everything we eat and breathe that a couple more will not make a difference. Actually, the more I think about it the more I am sounding like Col. Jack Ripper and his fear of polluting his precious bodily fluids.

About Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

This blog attempts to collect some of the things I try to create with food and booze. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. My hope is to entertain and maybe help people think a little harder about what they decide to eat and drink.
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75 Responses to Squashed squash hopes

  1. ChgoJohn says:

    That’s really too bad. Maybe someone will read of your problem and have a healthy, non-pesticide, way to fight the bugs. Or, you could move to Rhode Island. I hear that some areas have more squash than they know what to do with. 🙂

  2. Alison says:

    Sorry! I can imagine how crushing this was.

  3. JamieAnne says:

    Oh how I sympathize! The bugs have been crazy this year. I had a grub eat it’s way up through one of my squash plants. Maybe next year it will be better….I’m hopeful.

  4. nrhatch says:

    Aww . . . that’s sad. 😦

  5. Such a sad photo. I have no solutions to share as my thumb is not green! : ) I also wanted to let you know that I have enjoyed reading through your blog and archives. It is really an interesting journey. You are a “Noteworthy Archive Award Winner”. You have some treasures hidden in your archives and this award will let others know that it is well worth their time to take a walk through your archives. Here is the information about this award http://wp.me/p1n5oG-kM and where you can get your badge to show others you have great archives worth reading. http://justramblinpier.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/noteworthy-archive-blog-badge1.jpg
    Congrats and enjoy!
    Just Ramblin’

  6. joshuafagans says:

    My sincerest condolesenses! Garden failures are tough because of how long you have to wait to try again! I salute your intentions of no pesticides though. Not in our garden either. Keep the faith!

  7. Aww.. but you know what you have to do right? Try it out again.. and I’m sure the next batch of squash will be delicious and wonderful. I think we all hit hurdles or small obstacles and I’m sure you will get over this one.. I know because you are the modern southern gentleman and Katherine is your wife.. enough said!

  8. Holly says:

    Oh I feel for you. I really do. Heartbreaking and emotional. You may have inspired me to write about my own garden, or should I say balcony, attempt that ended badly this time last year.

  9. Charles says:

    Damn, I tried growing courgettes and cucumbers for the first time on my balcony this year. All was going well until both plant pots succumbed to some weird powdery mould infection 😦

  10. Oh dear – I do like that you are like a dog at a bone though and preserve.
    🙂 Mandy

  11. Have you tried sulphur powder? Well, I know it´s too late this year, but (I think) it can be used in organic gardening and is very good at keeping those little ****s away!

  12. Sissi says:

    I see having one’s own garden has ups and downs… Maybe you should talk to some Japanese gardeners who have blogs/are on forums? I have already seen miraculous non-toxic ways of keeping the bugs and predators.

  13. ambrosiana says:

    I have to give you my most sincere compliments for not using pesticides! You are right about minimizing the amount of chemical in your body!! I am so sorry about your zucchini and squash. My mother in law had that same problem when planting green beans last year and she was very frustrated. Excellent post!

  14. Just think of all the other great things you have grown there

  15. fatisrecipes says:

    Aww, you couldn’t like put these in pots and keep them in a very far away from all the bugs??

  16. Eva Taylor says:

    Damn bugs! We have a huge slug problem in our neighborhood – I only grown tomatoes in pots on the roof of the garage!

  17. My mother-in-law would be sad when a crop succumbed, but she still went out and planted again and again. Interesting, how sometimes they are so robust and hearty resisting everything and then other times those little creatures decide to move in. So sorry your crop will be limited.

  18. I like your determination! After year one I would’ve stopped.

  19. Oh no – I think that’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen!! Please ignore my blog for the next week then – we kind of have a zucchini abundance up here.

  20. My squash plants did not do well this year either. I did get a few zucchini but not very many. I don’t like putting pesticides on my plants either. Nothing I planted did as well this year as in years past. I think our weather had a lot to do with it, too.

  21. Lea Ann says:

    %&#($# bugs!. I follow a blog, Big Dude’s Eclectic Ramblings. I think he addressed these bugs and what to do. You might want to google him and then find the gardening post. Or move to Colorado, I don’t think we have this problem.

  22. Don’t feel too bad, Greg. I had that problem for the first 3 years I gardened here…vine borers AND those nasty squash bugs. That’s why I wind up overplanting every year – I still feel like I’ve got to get as much as I can before the bugs come back…

    Take a year off from the curcubit family. Build up your soil, and think about some beneficial nematodes. Throw the infected vines in the trash instead of the compost. Grow some bush beans there next year…

    I’d send you some of mine if I could…

  23. Kelly says:

    The chemical battle is a tricky one isn’t it. The way I look at it, anything I can do to reduce the overall toxic load is worthwhile, so I try to choose organic as often as possible. I also want to encourage organic growers – big and small – to keep working towards a cleaner environment. Don’t give up.

  24. Karen says:

    So sorry to hear about the loss of your plants. The borers are hard to control organically. Checking everyday for bugs and eggs then hand picking them off seems to be the only answer. It’s very time consuming and would take away from your creative cooking.

  25. Ok, so I was feeling for you and Katherine…then you pulled good old Col. Jack Ripper out of the bag and I’m sitting in front of the computer laughing hysterically, with the wife giving me weird looks. Dr. Strangelove is an all-time favorite and we must never forget how precious our bodily fluids are.

  26. Ritchey always puts sulfur on our plants – in powder form. It seems to do a good job of keeping away those pesky creatures! You do have to reapply after it rains! Our squash and zucchini have had a bit of problem with the heat, and have slowed down producing fruit, but they are still healthy.

  27. midaevalmaiden says:

    Its funny you mention this, I just read a post last week that tells how to get rid of them without sprays. Heres the link: http://squashlady.wordpress.com/2011/08/12/the-evil-demon-bug-the-squash-vine-borer/ The author is actualy a squash specialist… her blog is dedicated to the yummy yellow round guys.

  28. Kristy says:

    I’d like to offer you my wisdom on the subject…but really the only thing I can tell you is how not to grow a garden. We planted squash one year and it flowered so beautifully. Then the deer ate it all. My dad on the other hand can grow this stuff like weeds.

  29. Judy says:

    Sorry about your squashed squash, that is disheartening after such careful planning and effort. Found this link this morning, may have some organic solutions for your borer problem. http://www.gardensalive.com/article.asp?ai=804 Hope it’s helpful.

  30. Pobre squash plants! Your plants look like mine except mine sad squash plants are from lack of rain and too much sun….ahhhh the short and dangerous life of squash!

  31. Caroline says:

    Argh, that’s so frustrating, I’m sorry. Wish I had some tips, but I have absolutely no gardening knowledge. I need to get on that, but I guess it’s a bit difficult when living in an apartment. My roommate tried growing basil and mint…both of which died. Maybe I’d have some better luck? ha!

  32. ceciliag says:

    Oh dear. Well you and Our John both. Start them really EARLY next year. Start your seeds inside. You will get quite a few off before mid summer. Sow a few more every week to get a succession. Our John gets out his little knife and OPERATES on the stem and removes the bug if he can. Weirdly they often survive this rather brutal method of swamp doctoring. Do Not Give UP!! c

    • GroundCherry says:

      Verical slit up the stem immediately when you notice wilting, followed by a careful scrape and smash of the wicked borers works wonders! If you rebury in the stem, it can heal pretty well. I’ve found that tromoncino squash are sufficiently resistent to avoid the issue altogether.

      Works wonders.

  33. Andrea says:

    Darn bugs!

  34. So sorry to hear about your squash plants..
    it is really sad to watch a plant die and for thr third time that is too much
    but please don’t give up..there has to be a solution

  35. Sorry about your squash! Most years I have more than I know what to do with and am begging people to take it away!This was a bad year for us, but we’ve had some pretty weirdo weather.

    Have you tried diatomaceous earth? It’s just a powder of crushed up little snail like creatures. They use the powder as an abrasive in commercial applications, as well as home products- even toothpaste. I always mix about 1/2 a cup in with my soil that year. It kills insects by getting absorbed into the exoskeleton and robbing it of moisture. You would definitely have to reapply- maybe once a week to the soil- in your situation. But it could help.

    Another product I would recommend is bT. It is a pesticide, but an organic one that has been used for over 100 years, very safe and effective. It is derived from bacteria, bacillus thuringiensis. You apply bT to the leaves and stem of a plant; any caterpillar who eats the treated leaves will die.

    Last but not least, have you tried grey water? Aka, the water you wash your dishes in? Not bleach water- never bleach. But save the water you wash your dishes with and dump that on the plant. It can deter many bugs, including Japanese beetles. When we were in England, many of our friends saved their bath and shower water for this purpose.

  36. spicegirlfla says:

    Aww, that’s horrible….I’m so not a gardener to give you any advice, but I can feel your pain as a bunny has been eating my parsley!!

  37. How sad. RIP poor little squash plants. 😦

  38. Kristen says:

    Oh, that’s sooo sad!

  39. Karen says:

    Oh no!! I hate when that happens. My plants get attacked by snails every year, but I have finally found a non-toxic product that does the trick. I used to wait until they came out at night and sprinkle salt on them. Not a pretty scene.

  40. ugh! that’s too bad.

  41. rsmacaalay says:

    This is why I stopped growing my herbs, those pesky bugs keep on eating them

  42. Look at all that blog love with all those suggestions! Awesome. No advice, but I do know it’s disappointing. I tried to grow garlic in pots this year. Way to wet this winter and I’ve had to pull it all up…nothing, not a one. Ah well, I gave it a crack.

  43. Looks like you did one of the most important things: grow a healthy plant. Kudos!
    You could do more, though:
    1. Plant very early, before egg-producing time for these critters, to beat the main flush.
    2. Look for red/brown eggs on the plant and rub them off.
    3. Look for 1″ white “caterpilars” and destroy.
    4. Look for holes at the base of the vines with “sawdust” below, and do the above-mentioned “surgery” (@ ceciliag) on the vines to remove the pest. BUT, then cover the vine with soil, hilled up, so it will be encouraged to root along the incision.
    5. Inject BTK (kurstaki variety of bT) into the hollow of the vine if you suspect an invader.
    6. Use row cover during the egg-producing time, which is early spring in the Deep South. But you will have to hand-pollinate the squash.
    7. Burn all squash debris. All.

    The main thing, though, is a healthy plant and constant vigilance. Kinda like having kids! 🙂

  44. Oh no! Nothing worse than a foiled gardening project. It’ s even sadder then a recipe gone wrong because you have to invest much more time and effort in to the garden :(.

  45. peasepudding says:

    I totally gave up growing veg for the same reason, I now stick to herbs only.

  46. The Swedish Chef says:

    That’s so frustrating. I’ve been pretty lucky with squash this year, but I”ve had more than my share of other pest issues *cough*squirrels*cough*. I feel your pain. As some others have suggested, I use DE earth around the bases of some of my more susceptible plants. Not sure whether it would work with these particular buggies (which we don’t really have trouble with in our region) but it’s worth looking into. Don’t give up!

  47. SimpleP says:

    Yep, I’ve had this problem for the past 3 or 4 years. Very disappointing. Hope they come out with some squash that’s resistant. Seems to be very common these days.

  48. niasunset says:

    Oh, how sad! But I hope they come out, dear Rufus. Good Luck with them, Thanks and Love, nia

  49. I completely respect your desire to stay away from pesticides. I lost my cauliflower to creepy crawlies, but the eggplant are doing ok so I’m calling it a win.

  50. Your success growing Zucchini looks very much like mine… 😦 Sigh….

  51. euw, what nasty critters. Courgettes are one of the few things I grow that don’t seem to get got by bugs, but this year the harvest has been poor anyway. No courgette chutney this year…hence I have been on jam making detail instead. Lets all hope for a good squash year in 2012.

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  56. Me too…total squash failure. Two years running. this year I am not at my garden, so I don’t know what;s happening but I went for containers since cutworm got me last year. AND in hard rind squash, my mom had got me Caribbean pumpkin seeds which I planted on a lark…lo and behold they took! But again, I don’t know how they are progressing…You have all my sympathy. Seems like everyone else grows squash with no problem, so I am glad someone else shares my suffering! (Not that I want you to fail…schadenfruede or however it’s spelled)

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