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--- Anne K Moore August 15, 2009 ---

Fixing Problems in the Garden

Squash-flower_0742Summer squash is not only good in the kitchen.Insects and disease find it very tasty in the garden.Squash vine borers, powdery and downy mildew, and virus diseases can plague all gardeners hoping for that windfall crop.

Downy mildew, brought on by prolific rains or humid days and nights, can wipe out the large leaves needed to maintain the squash plant.Space your plants correctly, so that you have plenty of air circulation around the plants.Spraying the plants regularly with compost tea is also supposed to cut down on this wet weather disease.

Powdery mildew is a dry weather disease.It will damage leaves on older plants.Keep the plants well irrigated by using drip lines along the ground.Apply sprays before either of these mildew diseases appear.

Squash vine borers and cutworms can cut the vine and kill it just as it begins to blossom.Wrap the stems of squash with aluminum foil when you put transplants in the ground or after the seedlings are up and growing.Extend the foil up the stem 3-4 inches and for an inch or two below ground.This will foil (no pun intended) the pests and stop them from entering the stem.

If a borer is already present, your vine will start to wilt.You can try to save it by finding the borer entry, either a hole or split in the stem near the roots.Insert a wire to stab/kill the culprit, and then pile soil on top of the wounded area to encourage roots along the stem.

Viruses, spread by aphids, can ruin a crop quickly.Once a virus takes hold, there is no cure.The plant needs to be sacrificed to the garbage.Donít compost these plants.Home composts do not get hot enough to kill the virus.

This tip from Fine Gardening Magazine, is a simple way to keep aphids off the plants:ďYou can also use adhesive tape to remove aphids and other small insects from plant leaves. Simply wrap a long piece of tape around your fingers (sticky side out), and blot off the bugs.

Bees are essential for pollinating the squash flowers.Keep insecticides out of and off flowers.Donít use any form of pesticide when bees are flying.Bees usually quit their nectar and pollen collecting in late afternoon or early evening.If you must use a lethal insecticide, make sure it has no residual killing ability.

One way to outwit these problems is to just pull up the old, sick, insect infested plants, remove them to the garbage, and plant a new crop.Summer squash is ready quickly, in 40 to 50 days from seed, depending on variety.Look up your first expected frost date.Most state university Cooperative Extension Service websites have this information.Subtract 2 months to see if you have time to raise another small crop of squash this fall.

If you donít have time for a fall crop this year, make a note on your calendar next year to plant a second crop.Try some of the new hybrids that might also give some mildew and disease resistance.Visit Fine Gardeningís website for cures for these and many more summer plagues.

For more information on pest identification and control, consult your State Cooperative Extension Service.


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