Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Squash 2013

I enjoy squash, particularly a good, winter squash.  In fact, maybe I'll cook some tonight for supper!  But, in the past years I've had mixed results in the squash beds, and quite a challenge controlling SQUASH BUGS and CUCUMBER BEETLES.

Lakota Squash
This year I planted 8 varieties of squash:  2 summer squash (1 yellow and 1 green zucchini), 2 each of these winter squash:  Winter Sweet REBA Acorn (bush variety), Burgess Buttercup, Sweet Meat, Long Pie Pumpkin, Nutterbutter Butternut, and Lakota.  Of all these, I harvested only 2 Nutterbutter, 2 Lakota, and 3 Long Pie pumpkin, along with a small few of the zucchinis.

The demise of my squash is a mystery to me.  I saw very few of either the squash bugs or cucumber beetles.  I tried very hard to prevent the appearance of these bugs and I was successful.  I proactively sprayed the plants and soil around them with neem, pepper/garlic spray, sprays made with boiled rhubarb leaves and none of these should have caused the death of the squash plants.  The newest organic pesticide I tried was SurroundWP.  I believe this helped a good deal.  Its effective ingredient is kaolin clay, a white powdery substance which is mixed with water and sprayed onto the plant leaves.  Apparently the bugs don't like it and avoid the sprayed leaves.  The Surround also helps protect the plants from UV rays.  It looks kind of funny, seeing the white spotty leaves, but I think this was quite effective, and I don't believe it was the reason so many of the plants died.  I've also read that mint and lemon balm can repel those bugs.  Rather than plant these invasive perennials near the squash, I've planted them in other areas of the garden (where I don't care if they invade) and some mint in a large pot; I cut off the leaves and sprinkle them around the squash.  Unfortunately, I've done so many things to prevent the bugs, I can't say what does and doesn't work.  I wanted so badly to attack these bugs I went ahead and threw everything I could at them.

So the early death of the squash wasn't due to bugs.  All plants were doing quite well until the end of July, when they all started keeling over, one by one.  One day they'd be fine, the next they'd look a bit wilted, the next they were pretty much dead.  The plants all had immature squash growing on them.  I tried pruning off the deadest parts to salvage the remainder of the plant, but that didn't help.  I just don't know why this happened.  Could it have had something to do with the wood mulch?  (I don't think so.)  I did not see an abundance of sowbugs in these beds as I did the others, and don't believe these were a problem to the squash.  The two summer squash plants never really took off as usual; they did survive a little longer than the winter squash, but they succumbed as well.

All I can say is that some of my neighbors experienced the same symptoms with their squash, so I'm not alone.  Maybe it was the weather.  I was so hopeful to try the new, unique varieties such as Sweet Meat, but I'll have to try again next year.  I was grateful for the two big Lakota squash.  So far, I have cooked one and it was absolutely delicious!

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