I think the most single disappointing thing I experienced as a new gardener was to walk out to survey my squash and zucchini plants to find them laying on the ground wilted and dead! What happened? They were fine just the day before? To a gardener this is like having the wind knocked out of you. Am I right?
The Squash Vine Borer that’s what happened. This evil villain of gardens everywhere is a moth that lays it’s eggs at the base of squash and zucchini plants. The egg hatches and the tiny worm bores into the stem and eats until it is NOT tiny anymore. As if that wasn’t enough this vile larvae releases a chemical that is toxic to the plant. This year I said, bring it on, I am ready for battle! My secret weapon; B.T. Bacillus Thuringiensis or sold as Thuricide BT caterpillar control at your local garden center.
Last year I was a surgeon, don’t worry I just operate on veggies. If you spot a patch of yellow sawdust looking stuff on the stem of your squash plants you know the vine borer is at work. Using a razor blade I slit the stem down by the ground and removed the culprit with tweezers. While this worked for me last fall it is very time consuming and I was looking for an easier way. Entered my hero BT. BT is organic because it is completely harmless to us ,but is death to caterpillars. It is a bacteria that infects the larvae from the inside out as they eat the plant tissue it covers. Using a syringe purchased at the feed store I shot up all my squash plants every 7-10 days. Right away I ran into a few problems with this. My syringe became clogged. No problem, I removed the needle and continued my treatment regiment by inserting the plastic end into the holes that had the tale tail saw dust looking gunk pouring out. Victory! Sweet Victory! I did the victory dance right there in my garden. I can picture my neighbors saying, Oh Gladys, come see that crazy garden lady is at it again. Just kidding, I have fabulous neighbors but the waving of the syringe might have been a bit much even for them.
I had a master gardener tell me that the squash vine borer only attacks hollow stemmed plants so butternut squash should be immune. I REALLY hate to be the exception to the rule but of course I find,that I often am. Umm, the only front yard gardener in my neck of the woods? Yes, I think that qualifies as a stick out. Unfortunately the squash vine borer had infected my butternut also. Good news is the BT worked on it too! I had plenty of zucchini and butternut squash for the days to come. Sadly my yellow squash did not do to well this year but I think that is due to the squash(stink) bug. I have not yet found a way to defeat this pest. I consider it my garden nemesis. It defeated me last year and I don’t like to be defeated. It stinks, literally. If anyone has any ideas on how to crush this enemy PLEASE shout it out in the comments. So to sum up: Urban Gardener 20/ Squash Vine Borer 0. I like those odds!