Squash – the Triumph of Hope over Experience

It feels like I’ve written this blog post before. Why can’t I outwit squash borers? I grow my squash from seed under grow lights. Tending them religiously, hardening them off before planting in my raised beds. I even rotate the beds. This year I had a couple of new beds at the community garden. They aren’t the best beds. Right under an old silver maple, they needed deep digging and now constant watering. But, I thought, there was no squash in this bed last year so I might have a fighting chance.

I did suffer something of a setback when I dropped the tray that held all the squash seeds I’d planted. I was working in the garage in preparation for bringing the tray inside to put it on a heating pad for plants to encourage germination.

I put the seeds back in the peat pots trying to match what I’d written on the craft sticks. Was this a Blue Hubbard or a zuchinni seed? In some ways it didn’t matter. I’d know soon enough once the plants were outside and began blooming and setting fruit.

Two zuchinni plants at the community garden were doing well. I got at least four small zuchinni, but today I began to see some yellowing on the leaves, a sure sign of borers at work. The other squash in that bed aren’t thriving. I do see a very small spaghetti squash coming along. Those vines should be covering that bed by now. Maybe that’s why that bed went unclaimed this year. But I didn’t give up. I planted more squash seeds. There’s still time for a squash harvest as we have late frosts.

The squash plants at home were doing extremely well. In fact, I have two blue hubbards and one naguri. Both the blue hubbards were doing well. I used some tomato cages I’d made from concrete reinforcing wire for the vines to climb on before I realized the blue hubbards can get huge. In my mind I was figuring out solutions to that problem. Then one of the blue hubbards didn’t seem to be growing. This morning this is what I saw.

The other blue hubbard is much larger and that vine okay. This is so disappointing. Commercial farmers are able to grow squash. What do they do to keep squash borers at bay? Everything on line is something I’ve tried except noxious chemicals – although I might consider… Once the leaves start to yellow, it’s too late to do anything. I wonder what immature blue hubbard squash tastes like?

But the real question is why do I keep trying? When every year the outcome is the same.

I suppose it’s partly because it’s a challenge and I want to figure out how to solve this problem. That may be some of my Viking heritage at play. Those men and women got on their ships and sailed out of the fiords and didn’t know what they’d find. It was a challenge. Of course, it was too cold to grow squash in northern Norway and they were looking for plunder and slaves, not a lovely blue hubbard squash to turn into the best “pumpkin” pie ever to grace a Thanksgiving table.

When the seed catalogs arrive next winter, will I be able to resist ordering squash seeds? Somehow I doubt it.

 

The Day the Squash Plants Died

I’m giving up on summer squash. In a previous blog I wrote about the lush zucchinis I had growing in my bed at the Community Garden. I even had a photo of a couple of zucchinis – a traditional dark green skinned zuke and a new variety (to me) with pale green skin. I’d always lost my squash plants to borers so I was really excited.

First it was some yellowing leaves. Then whole stalks began to die off. Clearly it was a borer issue.This had been a huge canopy of lush green leaves just days ago.

2016-07-14 raised beds 013

It was too late to save this plant – the dark green zuchinni – and left the pale green one. I’ll check it tomorrow and it may get pulled as well. I’ll plant some fall crop in that end of that bed.

squashvineborerhole-BEN

When you see this on the squash vine, it’s too late.That stuff on the left side of the slit is borer frass (poop). Apparently you can slit the stem to kill the grub inside but I have never had much luck with that. Summer squash and pumpkins are particularly susceptible to borers and any winter squash I ever planted bit the dust as well.

In the meantime the cantaloupe and watermelons in the same bed are doing very well. I have two cantaloupes the size of small bowling balls and watermelons the size of big tennis balls and there are lots of flowers and bees. Note: Not being into sports of any kind, I couldn’t think of balls the right sizes. Borers don’t seem to bother cantaloupes and watermelons as much as they do summer squash.

I guess the universe wants me to support the local farmers who seem to know how to outwit squash borers. I’m giving up on growing summer squash!