Growing zucchini in Oregon took little more effort than tossing a few seeds over your shoulders and coming back in a month or two to harvest (and harvest, and harvest). Sure, a slug or two might eat your young plants, but if the zucchini plant outgrew the slugs, you were pretty much guaranteed more zucchini than you could possibly eat.
It’s not quite that easy here in Northeast Missouri. In fact, everything garden-wise is proving to be much less intuitive, and much more difficult than I imagined. Pests can truly impede a home gardener’s ability to grow certain food crops. Growing summer and winter squash is made challenging by the presence of squash bugs, squash vine borers, and cucumber beetles (which spread bacterial wilt disease) – and these are just the ones I have had personal experience with! (This website has a great list of common squash pests and the damage they inflict.)
I planted five summer squash plants this season – one yellow crookneck, two yellow straightneck, and two zucchini. The zucchini and yellow crookneck in particular have been incredibly healthy and prolific for the past month. Trying to keep pests at bay, I dutifully checked the base of the stem every few days for signs of squash vine borers, and turned over leaves each day to kill any squash bug eggs I might find.
The copper colored eggs of the squash bug
In the process, I found a few adults and some nymphs, which I promptly squished. Things seemed to be under control.
Then, one day, I came home in the late afternoon to find my zucchini plant looking like this:
Since I was unable to find any trace of boring activity, my best guess is that my plant was infected with bacterial wilt disease, which is commonly spread by the cucumber beetle. When the plant did not perk up after a day or two, I removed it from the garden. As you can see, the plant immediately adjacent has not (yet?) been affected.
I had a chance to talk with a Farmer’s Market grower this weekend, and he says that his best success comes from planting in succession. I’m making a mental note to leave space for this next year. On a positive note, I now have a bit more garden real estate in which to plant fall crops!
How are things growing in your garden? Share a link, tell a story, or just say hello in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!