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Garden Tips for the Great Garden State — Squash Vine Borers

Adult Squash Vine Borer
Flickr - Photo by Charles & Clint

Zucchini and squash are two of my favorite summer vegetables to grow.  They are truly amazing plants in that, from just 3 seeds you can fill a whole 4ft x 10ft bed and produce so much fruit that a family of 20 can have a hard time keeping up. That is unless you are invaded by the evil Squash Vine Borer.

These alien looking moths typically lay their eggs at the base of leaf stalks, the caterpillars develop and feed inside the stalk, eventually killing the leaf. Soon they migrate to the main stem, and with enough feeding damage to the stem, the entire plant dies in no time.

Just like with real aliens, when these vine borers invade you need to don your tin foil hats.  Well kind of, not on your head, but around the base of your young squash and zucchini plants.  Make a little tin foil sleeve that surrounds the main stems of your young plant making sure it goes down into the soil.  This will prevent any young caterpillars that may have been present in your soil from finding their way inside where they will be near impossible to kill.

You can also use floating row covers to prevent the adult vine borers from laying new eggs as well.  Drape these spun polyester covers over your entire row of zucchini and squash. They will let sunlight and rain through but will block any bugs from getting in.  Keep in mind this means the good bugs too – such as bees.  For this reason you will have to keep an eye out for when the plants start to flower and do a little hand pollinating until July 4th.  Generally this when the adult moths are done laying eggs; you can now remove the row covers and let the bees take over the pollinating.

If you’ve had these pests in years past, make sure you rotate where you plant your zucchini and squash. Also, spray or wipe the vine weekly with some Bacillus Thuringiensis.  Yeah I know, most people just call it BT or BTK. It’s a naturally occurring soil bacteria that kills caterpillars once they have munched on your plants. This will of course be a little more work but like most of gardening – an ounce of prevention will be pounds and pounds of zucchini.  Well worth it in my opinion!

Questions, Comments or Tips of your own? – Leave them below in the comment section or email me at chris.eannucci@townsquaremedia.com

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