In the Garden: Squashing Squash Bugs and Whining over Wilt

Zukes-and-Marigolds

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.

SquashBugEggs1 SquashBugEggs2

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:

DeadZucchini

AHHHHHHHH!

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!

This post shared with the Homestead Barn Hop, Homestead Bloggers Network, and The Home Acre Hop.

16 thoughts on “In the Garden: Squashing Squash Bugs and Whining over Wilt

  1. Your garden post is quite similar to my garden experience this year, but I did the succession planting to try to increase the level of production. I was able to freeze about four gallons of squash and zucchini, but then the plants (13 zucchini and 12 yellow crookneck) succumbed to the power of the beastly squash bugs. I planted a second planting of each and lost every plant. Right now, I’ve got one more planting of zucchini that I’m hoping will do a bit better. We puree these vegetables and add them to spaghetti, meatloaf, and soups in an effort to boost the vitamin content. Since our goal in gardening was to provide a year’s worth of fruits/vegetables (for our family of seven, four of which are hardworking men with HUGE appetites) we were really hoping for about 75 quarts of puree. I guess there’s always next year. Other than the loss of the squash and zucchini, I’m really happy with everything else in the garden. Like you said, it just leaves more room for another planting!

    Have you ever tried growing Egyptian Onions? A friend of mine gave me a few bulbs this past spring so I could try them. It grows (and tastes) like a regular onion, but instead of harvesting seeds, you harvest a handful of bulbs. You can either let the bulbs gradually fall to the earth and replant themselves, or take and pull them apart (like you do for garlic) and replant. I didn’t care for the idea of letting the onions roam about, so I replanted the new bulbs in a row. It’s nice to have a perennial plant in the vegetable garden!!

  2. I am sorry for your squash bug issues! We had squash bug issues last year and lost all but our round zucchini plants. Hopefully your healthy plants will hold on …than save their seeds because those will be some tough plants! We also had a cucumber beetle infestation last year that I caught too late. There was not a cucumber to be had all summer long. Very sad! This year I waited till my seedlings we quite large before putting them in the ground and and they seem to be holding their own against the little buggers. Here’s hoping your fall crops are left alone!

  3. Recently found your blog and have really enjoyed reading it! So sorry for your zucchini loss. 😦 My issue this year was the bunnies. My starts never really even got started! Next year I’ll check my fencing before planting. 🙂

  4. I’ve been on the squash bug rampage for a couple of weeks now. I can never seem to get them all. Ugh! This is the first year I’ve had them and they are driving me crazy. I actually blogged about them this morning. Yuck!

  5. I also lost my squash plants but I made the chickens very happy. I planted my broccoli and cauliflower in it’s place and hope all goes well. Thanks for your insight.

  6. We are battling some pests this year as well. We have root maggots that have taken out all of our turnips, leaf miners are working on my beets, and cabbage worms are doing their damage as well. I have never had this many problems with pests, but we are at a new location this year and brought in some bad soil, so I guess I just need to figure out my new location and find a way to battle it. Always an adventure!

  7. I have used small boards as traps and check them early in the morning; just turn over the board and do the squash bug squash! I also used volatile oil sprays of peppermint, eucalyptus, citronella or other volatiles mixed with some soap as a surfactant. My process was to first chase the bugs out of hiding with high pressure water mist from the garden hose, pick and kill as many as possible, then apply the oil spray over the plants top to bottom, being careful to leave the trap boards untreated so residual bugs will take refuge there and I can find them next day. I think the oil sprays kill eggs and young, but I have no proof, just noticed the next generation took much longer to reappear. I have heard that neem oil is effective. Also had one friend who swore by a spray made from dead squash bugs soap, a kind of biodynamic approach. This year my squash is next to a building where nothing can hide and so far the only pests have been grasshoppers; guess I need some chickens. Good luck.

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