I’m not planning to convert my Ph.D. to an M.D. anytime soon, nor to start mainlining heroin. But I did purchase a hypodermic needle this weekend. I’m using it to doctor … my summer squash plants.
Yes, that’s right. I’ve been shooting up my squash. My old enemy, the squash vine borer, has taken up residence in my garden again. I recognized her because she comes around every year. I’d hoped in vain to avoid her this summer because I planted my squash seeds so late – June 22 – that the borers should no longer be flying. Or so say all the Internet sources I consulted (one of which claimed they’d be done by the Fourth of July).
I know, I know: never trust the Internet.
And so, I’m doing battle with the squash vine borer. The single adult I saw isn’t the issue, actually; it’s the offspring that are trying to kill my plants. They are grubs. I find them so repugnant that I’ll just say they are the stuff of bad sci fi (and no, they aren’t pictured anywhere in this post, so grub-o-phobes like me are safe to read on). They grow to well over an inch while tunneling through the vines, girdling them, and killing the plant from within. Their calling card is a small pile of yellow crud called “frass” that appears at the base of the plant. Think of them much like the red crosses daubed on the doors of plague sufferers: once the frass appears, you know the plant is doomed.
But this year, I decided to fight back. Yesterday afternoon, I bought a bottle of bacteria (bacillus thuringiensis, aka BT), which will infect and (I hope) kill the grubs before they’re able to do much damage. Using my new hypodermic needle, I squirted a solution of this into as many vines as possible. (Summer squash has hollow stems.) Then I poured the rest around the base of the plants. I’m planning to spray with it weekly. Or daily. I’m determined to win, this time.
However, I worried that the BT wouldn’t be too slow to kill the larvae already at work. So, again per the advice of the Intertubes, I took a sharp knife and slit the stems just above the frass. There, I discovered two evildoers and dispatched them immediately. (I was, after all, wielding a sharp knife.)
During all this carnage, I also spotted cucumber beetles feeding on the blossoms of the summer squash. They were also attacking my butternut vines (which are so vigorous that they, in turn, are menacing New York and Tokyo, much like last year). A massive thunderstorm was moving in on us, but just before it broke, I planted a couple of yellow sticky traps. Today, despite the storm, they looked like this.
Unfortunately the spotted cucumber beetles are more resistant than the striped variety. (Are they smarter? Or just stronger? At any rate, they are refudiating my traps.) After dinner tonight, I chased some of them with the Dust Buster. Hey, I may look ridiculous vacuuming my squash, but I’m determined to stick with organic methods
And this WILL be the year I prove I can grow zucchinis – or at least yellow summer squash. This little beauty is about 4” long.
If I can nurse my plants until this teensy baby squash matures, it’ll be a personal record for me.
And yes, I do realize that zucchini is the one veggie that everyone can grow by the bushel.
This evening, I talked on the phone with my mom and learned that shooting up cucurbits actually has a family history. Way back before I was born, my dad and their neighbor Fran took a hypodermic to some watermelon. They pumped it up with vodka instead of BT. And yes, I know some folks do this for parties, but these melons … were still on the vine. They died on the vine. Oops.
Measured against that history, one-and-a-half yellow summer squash may well be a family record. By my personal standards, it’s already a bountiful harvest. Most years, my yield of summer squash has been a big old ZERO. But oh, I dream of such excess that I’ll have to turn squash into baked goods.