Monday, December 17, 2012

Ugh, gross...Squash Vine Borer

Okay, so this past summer/fall, I did my great garden experiment.

Overall, I guess it was successful.  I got some produce and what we got tasted pretty good.

But let's be frank, I'm a perfectionist.

In the spirit of working on trying to view the glass (at least when it comes to myself) as half full, I will concede that all of the lessons I learned about garden were successful.  Winter, between the growing seasons, seems like a good time to reflect.

Let's review a rather unsavory lesson.

That would be the tale of the Squash Vine Borer.

Yeah, anything that's called a Borer is probably disgusting.  And let me tell you, it is.

Remember my pretty zucchini blooms?

So, I planted what we should probably refer to as a "whole lotta crap," heretofore referred to as WLC.  (Side note, I now think that when your neighbors say things like, "Wow!  You have the greenest thumb in the neighborhood!," they're actually trying to politely tell you that your yard looks like a jungle.)  So in spite of all the WLC, I had actually planted zucchini before.  Summer '11, actually.  And that zucchini was fabulous.  I harvested a good number of healthy, sizable zucchinis off my two plants in my ginormous pot.

This year?  Yeah, not so much.

In fact, my zucchini looked embarrassingly awful.  Embarrassing like how my dad used to pick me up from after-school activities in high school wearing his slippers (a threat to get me in the car faster).

Actually, more accurately, the zucchini looked disgusting.  The leaves kept turning brown and wilting.  I pulled them off in an attempt to rid it of whatever was happening.

By the way, I don't think that measly attempt would have made a difference no matter what the problem actually was.

Mr. Gardener thought it was a fungus.  So I sprayed it with some anti-fungal stuff.  But that didn't seem to make a difference.  Plus all the WLC seemed fine.  Okra everywhere!  Additionally, even though I live in Virginia and it can get fairly humid, this summer was dry, so I didn't think it was probably fungus.

Then, this stuff that looked like sawdust appeared on the stem.  Let me tell you now that this was probably the most obvious sign.  But I was in serious denial.  There was nothing seriously wrong with the zucchini.  It would just go away.


I was stupid.

Now the deceiving thing was that my zucchinis were still growing.  I got a couple tiny ones.

But once they got past a certain size (or close to a normal size), the ends would go bad.  They'd get all squishy and gross and just rot away.  Literally.  Liquefied.  So I assumed it was Blossom End Rot.  Again...fungus.  But the anti-fungal didn't do anything.  And the zucchini just got more disgusting.

But really, in its sheer nastiness, the zucchini was trying to tell me something.

Finally, one day in late July/early August, I came out of my denial stupor and accepted that my zucchini was, in fact, A) foul, B) dying, C) making the rest of my garden look bad, and D) dying.

So, I finally did some googling "wilted," "sawdust," "rotting zucchinis" and some photos on on Google confirmed what I had begun to suspect.

Squash Vine Borer.

These are the young of a moth species known for killing squash and like crops.  I found the entry wound on the stem and after looking at pictures of the adult of the species, I realized that I had seen a number of them at various times.

These nasty little biotches destroyed the plant.  In fact, I completely confirmed the diagnosis when I pulled the plant out of the pot and there were several in the soil, squirming around in all their self-righteous glory.

Until they suffocated in the plastic bag in which I dumped all the contaminated soil.

Turnabout's fair play.

I did not take pictures of the gross little things.  They were like short, swollen, white worms.  If you must know what they and their adult counterparts look like, I will allow you to google them.


During the winter, I am going to strategize my fight against them.  I will share the battle plan with you as soon as it is formed.

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