Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Down With SVB

Earlier this week, I saw my first squash blossom. So excited, I took a picture and all.
This is a winter squash called candy roaster, reputedly a "smaller version" called North Georgia, though I had no idea what I was getting into trying to grow winter squash in a 4x6 raised bed.
As you can see, it is rapidly running, which is working out just fine.
There are bolting lettuce, cilantro, parsley, and arugula in the bed to attract beneficial insects, and some okra that I am hoping will just tower over the squash on the perimeter and withstand the snaking vines.
So far so good, the vines look exceedingly healthy. But I have been busy and, as I soon learned, not checking the leaves as carefully as I should have. For eggs.
A few days later, I saw my first squash vine borer. Or it's frass rather, oozing out of a stem. I knew there was a reason I have avoided growing squash. I sucked it up and prepared to extract the larvae by slitting the stem with a knife. When I have something like this to do, I rarely stop to document--I just want to get it over with.
I don't exactly have the sure hands of a surgeon, so the stem was fairly mangled. But I got it, and buried the affected section of stem with compost and soil. I'm keeping it damp, and a few days later it still looks fine, as does the second of the three plants on which I also spotted the SVB. Now I just have to hope that this bed isn't full of eggs and larvae. Hopefully getting to it before the plant wilted means better chances for the plant, which can re-root along the stem.

Next time I grow squash--in a different bed--I'll use row cover until the SVB is done doing it's thing (laying eggs), around July, which is coincidentally when you need to have the flowers exposed for pollination.
Read about organic controls for SVB and squash bugs at the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service website. A blog I just discovered, Virginia Naturals, has a good photo of the damage the larvae do to stems as well as the adult SVB. VegEdge also has good photos. I also found this newspaper column helpful.

My other cucurbits seem unscathed so far, but I know I desperately need to thin (and transplant) this summer squash. From the reviews in the link below, it sounds like they may need trellising too.
another heirloom, "lemon" squash:

"lemon" cucumber--hoping these will be less prone to bitterness compared to the variety I tried to grow before.

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