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A definition for “Saga” is ” A long story of heroic achievement”. I believe the past 5 yrs of my experimenting with winter and summer squash in my urban potager has been a story of  heroic effort-(LOL)! Growing food is a lot of  hard physical work, and I just have a small potager on a city lot. I can’t even imagine growing food for large quantities of people……. But this saga has come to an end…or in a more positive light…hands-on acquired  wisdom about what not to grow in my urban potager!…..I am done with hollow stemmed squash! I will only grow  Cucurbita moschata ( butternut) type squash which are solid stemmed.

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This picture of my potager was taken 4 weeks ago. I was busy writing about another plant, and this is the only one that I have of any evidence I had my squash growing vertically. I thought it was appropriate since it is out of focus.It reminds me of an impressionistic painting.  You can see the “Red Kuri Squash” in the back ground. The leaves were big and beautiful, and I did not feel I had to take the time to do a photo shoot of this area. I thought I had time, but I did not. The nasty squash vine borer was busy destroying my  climbing squash.

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This is not the best picture of this destructive vine borer( I was too mad to take the time to focus!).  I only had a few that were this large.I have grown a variety of squashes over the years, and it seems that every season I battle either the squash bug/ the squash vine borer.

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I had great hope this season. I did not find any squash bugs or eggs on my “Red Kuri Squash.” The picture above is of the only squash bug eggs I have seen this year. The only adult squash bugs I found were in a bed I raised squash last year. They were  clinging to a tall sun flower plant. I killed them instantly.  I thought at the time, they have not figured out I moved the squash-I WIN!

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My ” Red Kuri Squash” was trailing all over my trellis ( I grow them vertically) and started to trail up my bamboo fence, and they were looking beautiful. I had at least 15 squash growing, and I was thrilled.One day I noticed the squash moth flying nearby and tried to kill it, but I never can catch those stupid moths. They are too quick. I can destroy squash bugs, cucumber beetles,  but never that stupid moth!

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The other day I noticed the vine wilting which is common with the vine borer. I could not find a point of entry at the base of the squash plant. I had foil wrapped around the base. I checked the base of my plant every day never thinking that they might try another place to lay their eggs. Everything I have read claimed they laid their eggs at the base. My experience has been that is where I usually find them…but NOT THIS YEAR! I found them up in the stems.

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Where I found them was in the stems attached to my trellis, and I proceeded to dig them out as I found them throughout the vine. I found at least 30! They were very small, and it was inevitable that they would destroy the vine in a few days. They remind me of large maggots with a black dot on their head..

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I cut them out and placed them in a black garbage bag to kill the ones that I may of not collected. The bag heating up will destroy any larva left. The damage is done. I only had one vine borer on my summer squash. I usually can bury the vine after I cut the vine bore out, but my vines were on a vertical trellis.

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This is the last year I will try to grow hollow squash in my garden. I thought I would have some maxima squash this year. I did get 2 large Red Kuri Squash, but they are not developed enough. I laid them in the sun and have declared the squash vine borer the winner this year-I lose.

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Last year, I grew an organic honey  nut squash. It did very well in the garden and was not bothered by anything. All the other winter squash I grew succumbed to the vine borer that year.

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I was able to grow Honey Nut  on a trellis since they were a bit smaller. I have a few other Cucurbita Moschata types I have seed for, and I will only grow them next year. I was trying to save seed this year from my lemon squash, and the Red Kuri was a  Cucurbita maxima. The C. maxima  will not cross with C. pepo. Growing food in the city on small lots makes seed saving a bit more difficult.

Written by Robbie

M.S. Education, , Organic Gardener, soil + nature lover, former modern dancer

3 comments

  1. I feel your pain. Growing winter squash and pumpkins is not easy and it is so frustrating to have this beautiful plant one day and the next day it is kaput. This year I am trying something new that seems to be working pretty well for at least 2 (Squash Moth and Vine Borer) of the 3 bugs you mentioned above. I have been using Diatomaceous Earth. It is a fairly good organic method of bug control in veggie gardens. Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth is the powdery remains of fossilized marine phytoplankton. It dehydrates and kills bugs by scratching their outer exoskeleton. I sprinkle DE on the base of the plant and the leaves. You will need to apply periodically. You can purchase it at farm coops and most farmer retail stores like Farm & Fleet.

    Now the Squash Beetle is another problem. According to Mother Earth News, the only way to kill squash beetles is to smash them between two pieces of wood. They also say that you can cover the plant with row cover cloth until it starts setting fruit. But it seems that the bugs do their greatest damage after the fruit has formed and the plant is flowering. Last night I discovered several squash beetles on the underside of several pumpkin leaves. I picked them off by hand and fed them to our backyard chickens, who found them delicious. I also fed the chickens the pieces of leaves that had the eggs on them. I then sprinkled diatomaceous earth to the underside of the plant and at the base. I hope I can win the battle this year because there are 4 beautiful pumpkins on this plant that I hope to carve up for halloween with my kids.

    1. I found that if I rotate my crops each year the squash bug is less of a problem. I have hand picked them and destroyed their eggs the past few years. When I water they run up from the base and I usually get them at that point. I only found 3 adult squash bugs this year and 9 eggs.I found only 1 cucumber beetle this year( that is a victory!). Hand picking, crop rotation , and companion planting seem to help a lot with the destruction of those two pests.

      The squash vine borer was awful this year! I don’t believe my companion planting helped at all! I did bag up the vines so they could not drop down into the soil and come back. I will try the Diatomaceous Earth in the future. Sounds like a good choice.

      I read somewhere that farmers with wide open fields are not bothered by the vine borer, but home gardeners are hit pretty hard every year. Maybe they can lose some since they have such a large crop—the author did not have an answer for why that happens…

      What fun to grow pumpkins for your kids that they can carve!

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