You planted your squash and already you are dreaming of steaming butternut soup, pumpkin pie, and squash casserole. Unfortunately, vine borers, squash bugs, and cucumber beetles are dreaming of your squash too.
However, if we are proactive and vigilant, we can harvest the squash of our dreams.
Outwit the bugs:
Protect small plants until they start to flower with floating row cover.
Plant marigold and nasturtiums among squash to discourage pests.
Inspect your plants’ leaves, stems, and soil. Look for:
Vine borers-white 1″ borers, wasp-like orange and black moths, and their tiny red-orange eggs.
Squash bugs-gray-brown bugs, ¾” long. Red-brown eggs under leaves.
Cucumber beetles-1″ long black-headed, green or yellow wings. They can transmit diseases as they feed.
Squash the pests. On daily morning rounds, you can hand pick and smoosh bugs, beetles, borers when they are still sluggish. Crush the eggs too.
Remove and bag any sick-looking leaves (see below)
Encourage multiple rooting points by mounding soil along the stem at various intervals.
Powdery, downy mildew-white fuzzy spots or downy-purple spots
Bacterial wilt-transmitted by cucumber beetles, aphids. Sudden wilting, sudden death.
Mosaic-stunted growth, rough leaves, whitish fruit. Spread by beetles.
Anthracnose-causes watery spots that turn brown. Lives in the soil.
Chemical Warfare: Organic methods: (not without some risks, use with caution)
Spinosad-a product from fermented sugarcane helps with bugs, beetles, but can harm bees. Use when bees are not foraging, or under a row cover.
Kaolin clay-protects stems from beetles
Copper-based fungicides-powdery mildew prevention or early treatment (I have also read that milk works to prevent and treat mildew, but can’t verify if that’s true)
Neem oil, insecticidal soap-we haven’t tried these at High Rocks GA headquarters, but some sources recommend.
Mulch can prevent diseases in the soil like anthracnose from splashing up on your plants, conserve moisture, and suppress weeds under the vines.
Don’t crowd your plants. Thin when they are small (consult us or your catalogue for variety recommendations).
After vines are 5 feet long, pinch off growing tips to encourage fruit-bearing side shoots.
Put winter squash fruits on a board or flat rock to prevent rotting as they ripen.
Compost tea, liquid organic fertilizer, or a side dressing of manure can be applied when fruits set.
Starting mid-summer, pinch off flowers so the plant puts energy into the fruit that is already set and has enough time to ripen.
Don’t wash winter squash that you intend to store.
Make friends by sharing all that extra squash you grew!
Yours in the love of squash,