Squashed dreams

Posted Aug 16th, 2010

Squashed dreams

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Last year, my green thumb was decidedly brown.

I couldn't keep a weed alive, let alone any of the perennials we planted in our front yard. So my husband and I were as proud as can be this year when we planted a small vegetable garden in our backyard and it thrived — up until last week.

Our zucchini plant, the most spectacularly hearty thing in our garden, started to grow limp and within days it had turned brown, shrivelled up and died.

The finger pointing was almost instantaneous. Wife to husband: "I knew you were watering too much." Husband to wife: "I knew you should have been watering more."

For days, the gardening guilt plagued me. But then we noticed a peculiar mark along the stem of our sad little squash plant. It looked as though something had gnawed at it. Had all those cute little bunnies roaming our neighbourhood broken through our tiny garden fence and had their way with our defenseless plant?

The answer came from an Associated Press article. Our once-healthy plant was likely the victim of the "squash vine borer." This tiny insect lodges itself in the plant's stem in spring or early summer, "when a pretty moth with an orange and black body crept out of the soil and looked around for a mate. She evidently found one, and soon after that sought out your squash plants," according to the story.

The bug lays her eggs in the squash plant — she'll settle for gourd, cucumber or melon plants, too — and once her larvae hatch, they eat their way through the plant's stem.

Argh. There are ways to deal with the Walshia micecolorella moths. Because the pest lays her eggs early in the season, protecting the young plant with a mesh cover for a few weeks should do the trick.

Other gardeners turn to insecticide, such as rotenone, pyrethrin.

Dropping a heavy object, such as brick, at intervals along the squash's "trailing stems, inducing new roots to grow at those points" can also help, according to the AP story.

So, next year we'll know what to do. Sorry, Honey. You watered just enough.


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