This is the wicked sad story of the rapid death of a beautiful squash garden, and the culprit.
You know, nobody told me, that so much heartache can come with gardening. <sigh>. Each and every year of gardening, well…..wait, this is only our second year….but we’ve learned a little bit more. I enjoy the learning process. I really do! Just as in life, I can handle learning through little mistakes along the way. But I prefer NOT to learn, through sheer devastation. You know?
But this year, we learned a really hard lesson. We learned about one of a gardener’s worst, ugliest, most destructive enemy:
The squash vine borer.
I was confused about the sudden rapid decline of my beautiful squash plants, in this post, when my friend Maria clued me in about this common squash plant destroyer, in the comments of a previous post. I researched immediately, and found she had indeed hit the nail on the head, and correctly identified the dasher of all of our squash hopes and dreams. This year anyway.
Well, actually, we were pretty done with the summer squash and zucchini. The kids had had enough, (just because we ate it every night), and I had shred and blanched pa-lenty, for the freezer for eventual soups, breads, etc.
But still……just look at what happened to our squash bed!…
I mean, this is in our front yard, remember!
There’s nothing like gardener failure, for the whole world to see. It’s embarrassing!
Seriously though. We were just so happy with how well we grew squash plants, and how lovely they all looked.
Let me refresh your memory.
Look at that beautiful bed.
Now, scroll back up, and take another look at what happened.
Are you feeling bad for us, yet?
So for those who are also learning, as we are, allow us to show you what you start to see happening, when squash vine borers are at work:
Do you see how the trunks of the vines are starting to look a little hollow, translucent, and wilty?
Clearly, you can see things are going very wrong, and it is starting at the trunks of the vines.
Now, I’d like to show you, exactly who is to blame.
Excuse my french, People. But these things are damn nasty.
If you are squeamish, you may not want to see this. Just squint real good, to see nothing but blur, and skip through the next 3 photos. But if you are trying to grow squash, I wouldn’t recommend not getting to know these nasty little things. (Unless you live in the west. My friend cyber-buddy Kim, the Inadvertent Farmer (in the west), said they do not have squash vine borers there! I took that as an invitation to grow my squash for me next year, and ship it to us. Wasn’t that wicked nice of her?)
Anyway, if you are the type that has to look anyway, despite any well-heeded warnings, even if you have bad dreams later, …… go for it!
UUuuGHHH! Couldn’t you just toss your cookies?
Once we figured out, via Maria and internet research, that these guys looked like the problem we were having, I had Michael start slitting some vines (because “I” was sure not doing it!), and looking for these nasty white caterpillars….and boy did he find some!!
He kept finding more, and more.
He enjoyed taking them out, one by one, and throwing them out into the street, onto the 200 degree black pavement, to cook in the sun.
Although I had a smug smile myself, looking at them all out there, with no way to save their little nasty-selves.
“Take that!”, I said to them all.
Funny, once he got out all he could possibly find, the squash plants kind of started coming back!
“Well I’ll be a blue-nosed gopher”, I said to myself.
I have read extensively about these squash vine borers, how they work, and the various very challenging ways to be protected from them. But rather than get into all of that here, I am just going to offer you a couple of links I found helpful, to save for yourself, if you are interested:
But as I said….we were done with those kinds of squash this year. I was just bitter about it anyway. So we just ripped them all out, and are going to plant some sunflowers to enjoy for the remainder of the year.
But the heartbreak does not end there. No…..it has to get even worse.
And if you have been reading about how excited i have been about our first pumpkin patch, you can only imagine how deep my pain runs here.
Tell me…..how much does THIS bite?
I’m going to be honest with you here. I’ve cried about this.
I’ve also cursed.
The. same. culprits. got. my. pumpkin. patch!
Because of course…..pumpkins, are squash. Oh how I wish they weren’t. I never thought that pumpkins, being squash, would matter to me. But it does now. A LOT.
We were doing well! We had ELEVEN pumpkins growing!
And THIS, was our prize pumpkin…
She’s a beauty. Isn’t she?
But we’ve had a few other pumpkin patch lessons this year. First of all, we planted toooo early. They were ripe and ready too soon.
And also….the squirrels got to a couple.
It truly hurts my heart, to look at this. I think to myself, “I hate squirrels.”
I know the good Lord created them. But WHY?
I’m going to ask Him someday. It’s on my LONG LIST.
The fly is a nice touch, don’t you think? I was going to edit it out. But the fly is part of the ugly truth.
Part of this squirrel/pumpkin tragic story is our fault. I’ll get to that in a minute.
But we did go ahead and harvest all of our pumpkins, because we had to.
Best to enjoy them (way!) early, then let them rot in our pumpkin patch.
I guess I’ll be paying for my pumpkins by the pound, for one more year. But next year, I’ll know better!
So then, as if my beaten heart had not had enough, I look out my sun room window one morning, to see this on my railing…..
Hmmm. I see it is a jalapeno pepper. I know this is not good, because jalapeno peppers do not walk.
That I know of.
I go out for a closer inspection.
Look at the bite marks. I know it was a squirrel. I’m quick like that.
Notice he didn’t eat much.
But I am hoping….maybe praying…..that he bit in just enough, to get a good bit of juice from the pepper in his mouth, and he is suffering somewhere in a corner, with his evil little paws over his mouth, crying in burning pain.
Then I go out to my garden to see what other damage may have been done, and look what I see….
Oh! Look! A poorly buried jalapeno pepper.
Now I know this was probably the same squirrel, because jalapeno peppers don’t walk. Or jump off their vine before their time, and bury themselves. More likely, the squirrel was thinking, “One for later, and one for right now!”. Buried one, and took the other to the deck railing to enjoy. Although things didn’t seem to go quite as planned, now, did they.
I left that buried pepper right there, hoping maybe, that squirrel will remember the buried pepper, and forget all about it’s previous suffering.
Now, I wanted to tell you about a repellent that really has been very helpful with our gardening.
This Deer Off spray, which we spray all over our wooden beds, and around the base of our plants. Even though we haven’t seen deer on our road, it really worked in deterring rabbits, squirrels, and the like, from touching the fruits of our gardens. I think the only reason why the squirrels had gotten to our pumpkins and jalapeno peppers, was because we didn’t spray again, soon enough. We had had some heavy rains, and a lot of it probably was washed away, so we should have re-applied right away. But we didn’t.
Here is a closer look at the label. The stuff smells horrid at first, until it all settles. The label says it tastes really bad too, but I haven’t tried it. But I know it works! So I do recommend it.
This is just my experience and toot of this product I like. Not a paid advertisement of any kind.
Ok…almost done here, but on to happier thoughts before we wrap it up.
All has not been lost, despite our couple tragedies.
There is still lots of beauty in our gardens around!
The tomatoes have been SOOO GOOD!! I just LOVE going out to get a fresh tomato, for a salad, our my favorite….a tomato sandwich at lunch.
Still a good number of jalapeno peppers growing. I just need to come up with a plan for them real quick, before I pick them. Jalapeno poppers? Dried pepper? Pickled? I’ll figure it out.
Just a few cucumbers. Not the variety we thought we were getting. But they are beautiful none the less. We’ll eat them, and grow a kind that is best for some pickling next year.
Here’s a little more beauty, that is often found among the garden beds….
My best-est little gardener. She really loves to work alongside me.
So yes, there is still lots of good things growing, and I am happy for that, and happy to end on a cheerier note for you. But please don’t forget the beginning, because I could really use the sympathy. <sniff, sniff>.
More gardening coming up soon, I am sure. I love talking about this stuff with you all, and learning from you too!! Thanks for making our journey all the more pleasant! It’s nice to have friends to share our successes, and failures too, with
Tell us, do you garden? Have maybe some porch potted plants? How many years have you been at it? And what have you found, to be your most challenging garden/growing pest?