It was my first season gardening. The large, deep green plants held dozens of yellow babies. Just a few more days and we’d be feasting to my mom’s favorite southern dish — fried squash.
Then one day, I walked out in my garden and an entire plant’s leaves were drooping. I had no idea what was going on! Perhaps it needed water? (But we had plenty of rain.) Perhaps it was just too hot? (Then why were the others perfectly fine?)
The next day I went to the garden again and this time the plant was dead. Just like that.
Soon afterward the others succumbed to the same fate.
What went wrong?
After doing some research I realized my squash plants had been afflicted by the squash vine borer. I had never heard of it. Soon I understood that a moth lays eggs at the base of squash, zucchini, or pumpkin plant. Those eggs hatch into an ugly little grubs that burrow themselves inside the vines, where they begin eating the plant from the inside out.
An affliction of the squash vine borer is a death sentence for the plant.
What could I do?
For the next three seasons I tried just about everything I could find online, which frankly, isn’t much. I hunted for the eggs on the plants. I wrapped the stems with aluminum foil. I injected bT (bacterial thuringiensis) in the vines. I performed major surgery on the plant and pulled out the borer.
The latter is the only method I’ve found to give me any success. But, I learned, the success isn’t without a cost.
I explain more about this “surgery” in the video below:
While this icky process does save my plants, I have found that they aren’t as productive. Because their main stems have been damaged they don’t produce as prolifically as they would have. Sometimes, with a severe affliction, the plant doesn’t recover at all.
But I’ve found if I can catch the borer’s infestation early, the damage will be less severe.
The bottom line for my garden is this: the borer is just an enemy I have to deal with as best I can. And a big key to my success in squash and zucchini is multiple plantings. With a long season like ours (frost-free from April 15 – November 15), I usually plant 2-3 different plantings (one in April, one in June, and one in early August). Not only does this give us squash and zucchini for most of the summer and fall, but when I eventually lose the plant when I’m unable to keep up, I’ve got another crop on its way.
Have you had success controlling the squash vine borer?