I know we have all heard the stories about those gardeners that have so much zucchini that they are sneaking it onto their neighbors porches at night. Tragically, I have never been one of those gardeners. Why not? Well, those pesky vine borers are my nemesis. If you are reading this I am sure you feel my pain.
How do you know if what is wrong with your squash are vine borers? Well, if you have a beautiful squash plant and then the next day you go out to find it is wilted and dying, you probably have vine borers. To be certain, look at the base of the plant for holes and green to orange-yellow sawdust-like “frass” (droppings). If you find this, without a doubt, you have squash vine borers.
Let’s get to know these pesky things. Below is an image of the adult Vine borer.
When you see these guys flying around your garden I am sure you will be tempted, like me, to get out the butterfly net and try and catch them. Let’s just say that is probably not the best use of your time and energy. They are very fast, LOL. The vine borers lay their eggs at the base of the squash. The eggs hatch and the larva bore into the stalk of the vine. Then the feeding begins.
So now we know we have vine borers, what do we do? If you catch it early you can use a sharp knife, cut open the stalk, remove the larva, cover the stalk with dirt, and hope the plant can recoup. My experience with this has not been great. My plant survived a bit longer but never flourished. Honestly, I don’t think this is worth the trouble. I say get rid of the plant. Pull it up, burn it, or send it off your property in the garbage. Do not put it in the compost pile, it will hatch and compound your problems.
These are suggestions for preventative measures:
- Spray Bacillus thuringiensis v. kustaki (Bt) at the base of the plant
- Wrap foil around the stalk
- Use row covers
For me the best solution is to grow varieties from the Cucurbita moschata family that are not susceptible to Vine borers. These include:
- Butternut squash
- Dickinson pumpkin
- Giromon –
- Golden Cushaw
- Long Island cheese pumpkin
- Musquée de Provence or Moscata di Provenza
- Naples long squash
- Seminole pumpkin
- Tromboncino or Rimpacante squash
Of these, I’ve tried and had success with, butternut, cushaw, seminole pumpkin, and the Zucchino Rimpacante. For the taste of summer squash the Zucchino Rimpacante is my absolute favorite. It is prolific and holds up when cooked, not turning to mush. The drawback is, it is a vine and can get about 40′ long. But if you can spare the space go for it! The Cushaw is also good, super sweet, and it gets huge. This year I grew Butternut Rogosa Violina “Gioia“. They have been great. My largest was 7 lbs but a member of my organic garden club grew one to be 13 lbs. I also enjoy the seminole pumkin. A great winter squash, that can take the summer heat and humidity, and are relatively pest and disease free.
Have any of you tried any other varieties that you have worked for you? Please let me know, I am always on the lookout for new varieties to try.