We suffered our first garden casualty this week. Our Red Kuri Squash plant was a little warrior, but he was no match for the evil squash vine borers. Like most moth species, I am sure the adults exist to pollinate plants, but these suckers are detrimental to squash plants, and I can’t help but think they are anything but E-V-I-L. This is the first year we planted squash so now we know how to combat these pests for next year.
I am especially sensitive to the passing of the squash plant because our garden has taken quite a hit this year with all the crazy weather we have had in Chicago. These plants have survived an unseasonably cold spring, an intense hail storm with golf ball sized hail, monsoon style winds, torrential downpours, and extreme heat. We have experienced every bad weather element that can kill a garden in a span of three months and my plants have persevered through all of it.
About 3 weeks ago, we noticed the leaves of our squash plant starting to wilt. We didn’t think anything of it at the time because it happened to coincide with an intense heat wave sweeping through Chicago. We had a string of 100+ degree days with super high humidity and, at one point, the low never dropped below 80 degrees. We attributed the wilting squash leaves to the extreme heat because most of the other plants weren’t looking so hot either; however, as the heat broke and the rain came through, all of the plants bounced back, except the squash. After about a week, we noticed the leaves of the plant starting to turn yellow and knew something was up.
Wilting leaves – sign #1
If you have wilting and yellowing leaves that do not appear to get better when you water, chances are you have a vine borer. The adult moth lays its eggs neat the base of the plant. When the eggs hatch, the larvae burrow into the stem and begin to feed. As they get fatter, they block water from reaching the leaves, hence the wilting. The good news is you can extract these pests from your plant by slicing the plant lengthwise, looking inside the vine, and picking them out. They will look like this:
Squash vine borer larvae
If the vine looks like the photo above, you can probably extract the larvae and bury the vine to protect it while it heals. However, if you have about 15 of those things inside your plant, they will completely demolish it, and those suckers work fast! Within a week or two of noticing the first signs of wilting they had done this to the root of the plant.
Probably not salvageable
Here is a closer shot of the damage the vine borers can do. As you can see, they turn a hearty vine into dust!
Ugh! Definitely not salvageable.
If you catch this early, there is a chance you can save your plant; however, we pulled nearly 20 of these devilish little guys out of the vines and ended up having to uproot the entire thing.
Luckily, the rest of our plants seem to be doing well. Take a look at our broccoli. Am I the only one that didn’t know how freaking bushy these things get?! That seems like a lot of leaf for a small amount of broccoli head. I thought maybe we could sauté the leaves like you would with beet greens, but after Googling this idea it seems the leaves are bitter, tough, and not very tasty. Such a shame!
It’s a pity the leaves aren’t very tasty.
We also have a mystery pepper, which is kind of exciting! The tag at the greenhouse claimed this was a Habanero chili, but you can tell by its shape that it is definitely not a Habanero. One of them has turned yellow so that rules out a few possible pepper varieties. We are waiting to see if it turns orange or red in the next couple of days, but if anyone out there knows what type of chili this is leave me a comment.
Any pepper experts out there know what this is?
We also have some wild fennel growing unexpectedly behind the garage. I love me some fennel so I am really stoked about this. We grew fennel near the garage last year, but the pH level or something in our soil must have been off because we ended up with tons of fennel stalks, but shriveled and inedible roots. Gardening over the past two years has been quite a learning experience for us!
Wild fennel. We should probably weed some of those vines.
While I have your attention, I would like to take a second to brag about the trellis Jesse built for our tomatoes. Unless you pay a pretty penny for them, trellises are not very attractive to the eye. The wood cost ~$20 and definitely looks much nicer than the wire ones we started the plants on. We used cedar wood, the same wood we used to build our raised garden beds.
DIY cedar wood trellis
This photo was taken a few weeks ago, but the tomato plants haven’t been producing fruit like they have in past years. Typically, we have to many tomatoes we don’t know what to do with them all. This year… not so much. But then again, I am not exactly patient when it comes to waiting for plants to grow.
Do you have any garden woes you would like to share? How about garden successes? Let’s see those photos!