Help, Problem with Squash and Zucchini

alingJuly 16, 2008

Hello All! I am brand new to gardening this year and am in need of some help... I have 4 zucchini plants and they started out wonderfully... they grew quickly, had deep green leaves and lots of blooms. About 3 weeks ago the older bigger leaves and stems started turning yellow, then died. 3 of them seem to be filling back in with new green leaves, but I am worried and not sure if this is normal??? In the mean time ONE plant produced ONE fruit, which has not grown any bigger in over a week, maybe even two weeks! (it is only about 3 1/2 inches long 1 inch wide). I know you are not supposed to let them get bigger than 6 inches so I have been watching closely, it has not budged! When I checked today it is now starting to turn yellow. Not yellow just at the end, yellowish green throughout the fruit. Again, this is my only fruit produced out of all 4 plants and there were TONS of blooms! I have already lost my four yellow squash plants from some type of blossom end rot, could this be the same thing that caused my yellow squash to die? Should I prune all of the dead and soon to be dead leaves off of the plants? Is this normal? HELP!

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there are a lot of possibilities, but the two main suspects would be a lack of iron or a leaf disease. the latter usually occurs with frequent leaf watering and warm temperatures. I would first suspect a lack of Iron. if yer soil ph is too high or too low, then you will be locking out alot of micro nutrients, such as iron, manganese, calcium. the yellow leaf is a sympton of a lack of iron and i would suggest you use a CHELATED iron(available at nurseries) to mix into the top one inch soil layer. the new growth will look green and vigorous. also you might look for a chelated micro nutrient supplement to your soil if the ph is not between 6-7

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 9:10PM
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fishymamas(z9, So. CA)

First, some die-off in older leaves is normal. If the top leaves are still green and lush, you may be fine. Now, when you look at the flowers are they male or females? It's not unusual to get all may flowers for a few weks before the female ones come in (look at the blossoms "stem" if it looks like a stem, it's a boy, if it looks like a tiny zuke it's a girl). Last look for bugs, not bad bugs, pollenators, since zukes have boy and girl flowers, pollen needs to be moved from boy to girl flowers, and if you lack bees and such, then you're gonna have to do it. Check out the FAQ on the veggie page for instructions.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 9:41PM
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Thanks for the info so far, but I have a few more questions now.... Before I presented this issue to the forum I went to a local nursery and they said it could be a calcium deficiency in the soil, so they advised me to use a liquid organic fertilizer called Joy Juice, I came home and did exactly what they said, then I looked at the container and it doesn't contain calcium. Now Robofarmer says it could be an Iron deficiency... how do I know the ph of the soil? You may also want to know that this is a raised bed that was started just this past spring, and the top 6 inches or so was Miracle Gro Vegetable mix. My tomatoes, peppers, green beans are doing fabulously, most of my cucumber plants are great and producing (a couple are looking sickly now), and my watermelon and muskmelon plants look really good, but are without any fruit. Also when I went out to check on everything just now, my nice green leaves that I was talking about in my last post now look wilty, but it is extremely hot out today. So I guess my questions are: 1) how to determine ph, and if it is Calcium or Iron will the liquid fertilizer I used help? 2) Should I cut or prune all of the dried up dead leaves off of the zucchini plant? And I don't THINK I see any female blooms, there are places where I think they WERE (looks like the bloom already dropped off), but there are closed male blooms, isn't this backwards? I do see some bees when I am out there, not a lot though, although my cucumbers are producing, so I don't think that is the problem... right? sorry to be so long winded, I am just frustrated, I was so looking forward to a summer filled with squash! Thanks again. A

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 6:33PM
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Okay guys... I just read a few other threads with zucchini issues (and looked at pic's of healthy plants) and have come to the conclusion that NO I do not have any female blooms, and no other healthy looking plant pictures have ANY yellowing or dying of the older leaves and stems, so I am convinced that not only is my plant not producing females, but that I have a major problem going on. A coworker told me I probably have vine borers and that is what caused my yellow squash plants to die and that they have probably moved on to my zucs, but I do not see any holes in the base stems... should I dig down in the soil to look further? but what I am confused about is there was no wilting before the leaves died, isn't that a symptom of borers? my leaves just turned yellow, then turned brown and dead. (Stems turned yellow and kinda mushy before they died)
I have sprayed an organic bug spray throughout the garden (another suggestion from the local nursery who told me to fertilize) because there are quite a few holes in my green bean leaves.
Could this be a watering issue? I started out watering AT LEAST every other day, then was advised to back off...

Any suggestions are helpful, and again... should I cut back all the dead and dying leaves and stems? Thanks again... A

    Bookmark   July 17, 2008 at 7:05PM
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grandad_2003(9A/sunset 28)

A, after reading your above posts I'm tending to agree with your coworker. The SVB's are not going to be below ground. The moth lays an egg on the above ground portion of the stem. It should be first visible as a tanish/brownish area on the stem. As the borer increase in size inside of the stem the area becomes clearly visible. Borers damage the main stem to a point of keeping the plant from supplying the needed nutrients for growth and vegetable production, and eventually to the point of killing the plant.

One methods to remove the borer would be plant stem "surgery", and (if necessary) followed by covering the plant stem with soil. Another method suggested on this forum, which I have not yet tried, is to inject the stem area with BT. Is this the organic spray to which you referred? If so you may want to give this a try, assuming your problem is SVB's.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 11:49AM
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No, the organic spray is called 'Veggie Pharm' (made with garlic, peppermint, rosemary and cottonseed oils).What is BT?
But if my culprit is the SVB, wouldn't I be able to see the hole/point of entry? My 'main stem' (I am assuming this is the one that comes out of the root and holds the rest of the leafy stems and blooms) looks okay, it is the older/outer leaf stems that are turning yellow and dying, and if it was the SVB, I wouldn't be getting all of the new growth that I am getting would I? sorry, I am just very UNknowledgeable and a novice at this stuff.
ALSO, I just came in from the garden and now some of my pepper plants are starting to turn yellowish.... Do SVB attack those as well?
And again... Should I trim all of the yellow and dried up leaves and stems off of the zuc plants? I took pictures, but can't figure out how to attach... won't let me copy and paste. Thanks... A

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 1:18PM
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OK, so now I have confirmation that I have SVB... that little miniature zuc that wouldn't grow... well I cut it off a few days ago, laid it on the counter for some reason (since I knew it wasnt' edible) but this morning I saw the doggone thing crawling on my counter and there was a hole in the Zuc (that wasn't there before)!! I have gone out to inspect the plants more closely and prune off all of the dead leaves/stems and still don't see a point of entry, so now my question is what can I do to try to save my last plant or is it now a lost cause? since I don't see the point of entry I don't know where to cut and try to pick them out, one of the earlier posts mentioned something to inject into the plant, but I have no clue what that is. I did pull up the plants that looked beyond repair and cut them open, no borers to be found so I am very hesitant to try to cut open the one I have left afraid I would have to slice beyond repair to find the little buggers.
Also, what do I need to do to keep this from spreading to my melons and cukes? And is it too late for me to replant squash? I am in zone 6...borderline zone 5. (southern Indiana). What preventative measures do I need to take for my fall crops? What about next spring... how do I stop them before they infest?
Thanks again! A

    Bookmark   July 19, 2008 at 12:04PM
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Just wondering if anyone would know why squash plant blossoms would rot at the stem just as soon as they open up. i see them open nicely in the morning and by the afternoon they are wilting and begining to rot. anyone with any advice?

    Bookmark   July 19, 2008 at 3:23PM
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jepper(z5 indiana)

Ailing, are the leaves speckled brown before they die? I've been growing zucchini for awhile, and am having a similar problem, which I've never seen before. I grew my zuchs under light row covers up until 2 weeks ago, so the problem isn't SVB's. The older leaves become speckled brown, yellow, then die. The newer leaves look healthy, but the margins are also turning yellow. The fruit grows a bit then dies. Any suggestions welcome.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2008 at 8:18PM
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Hello - new to this forum - am interested in your feedback as I have a very similar gardener - planted one each yellow and zuchinni; got one jumbo zuke and one nice sized while I was away, and one nice yellow older leaves on both plants are yellowing, no obvious signs of borers, flowers shrivling up, new green growth, but only fruit was a 4" long 1" around zuke that wasn't getting bigger, and today I threw it out as it was becoming mottled with yellowy-orangish peppers aren't growing very well (4 plants: 1 small pepper), my cuke is the same size as when it was of the tomatoes is doing well, and the cherry tomatoes are just ok. Each plant was amended with compost and miracle-grow vegetable slo-release soil. Penny.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2008 at 11:09PM
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I'm dissapointed no one else responded...Aling, how is your situation? Even though I could not detect any borers earlier, I picked the one last little tiny yellow squash today as it also has not been getting any bigger, and this one clearly has holes in it...the zuchinni is fruit-and flowerless...Is there any real hope - Should I just rip them both out? Penny :(

    Bookmark   July 26, 2008 at 10:53PM
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greenhouser(Middle TN Zone 6)

It's been my experience that once the SVBs get into the stems of squash you may as well rip them up and destroy them so the borer can't reproduce. Where I live in TN the SVB are so bad you either raise them under protective covers or you buy them in the store. Over the years I've tried everything from tinfoil collars to keeping a dusting of Sevin Dust on the vines and nothing has worked. Of 6 zucchini plants I harvested 2 zucchini and of the 6 yellow crooknecks, not one. All were infested with SVBs. Since I started a new garden in a new spot this year I thought I'd give them a try one more time. It didn't work. Back in NY state SVB were unknown where I lived. We grew squash with no effort at all. Even the volunteer squash around the compost piles, trash cans and at the edge of the woods produced prolifically.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 2:19AM
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Did you try a row cover on your Zykes?
I ripped all mine off and I was wondering to try second crop with cover. My concern now is......Does SVB still flying around and/or do they have second generation in a year?
I have "Sure Thing Hybrid" from Burpee that does not require male flower.
I'd like to give a try. How do you everyone think?

    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 9:05AM
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engineeredgarden(7, nw Alabama)

Greenhouser - I live in the northwest corner of Alabama - 18 miles south of Muscle Shoals, and I have not seen any SVB....just TONS of squash bugs. I have 4 zucs and 4 yellow crookneck, and the crookneck plants have produced 28 mature fruit so far, and the zucs have only produced 4. Every time it rains a significant amount- my leaves on the zucs die. I'm thinking the roots are sitting in the water, because of possible drainage issues in that particular spot.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 1:46PM
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west_texas_peg(8a West Cen TX)

I'm on the western edge of central Texas and the squash bugs are terrible this year. They killed my first planting of squash (I did harvest several) and they have now found my 2nd planting AND melon and cucumber vines.

I have used insecticidal soap then Sevin powder, then dishwashing soap and picking them off. They have laid eggs on all my plants so everything will have to go in the dumpster instead of compost pile.

A neighbor said to not squash them as it would draw others but to pinch their head off...sorry I'm not into holding one of those things and pinching its head off! The Western Kingbird had a field day on them in the vines on the trellis...was feeding 2 baby birds as fast as she could catch them.

I planned to plant a Fall crop of squash and melons but now I don't know. My husband was at our small town ag supply and the owner said everyone has been plagued by them this year so I'm not the only one dealing with them.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2008 at 5:04PM
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Yo my 4 zucs also died .. turned grey this is roch ny area .. never in 4 years .. help

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 5:12PM
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I am sorry that everyone seems to be dealing with my same problem, but it is nice to know that i am not the only one and it is not my lack of experience (entirely). But now I need to ask another question....
I pulled up my zukes and yellow squash since the last time I posted, and now I am worried about my cukes... I am not sure if I even have a problem or if this is normal. The tops of the runners look absolutely wonderful, dark green leaves and many flowers, however when you follow the main stems towards the soil all of the leaves are drying out and the stems are a brownish (dried out wood looking) color. This has been going on for a while but it starting to worry me now. Is it normal that bottom of the plant looks this way? Is there supposed to be new foliage coming from the bottom or just at the top? Is this again the SVB or possibly some type of disease slowly killing my plants?

Also- I have a post titled "fall vegetable help for newbie" and in it one of my questions is if I can plant another zuch plant that was given to me today where one of my old ones were... I have very limited space in the garden and would like to give it another try... SVB die down this time of year correct?????

Thanks for all of your advice!

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 5:35PM
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greenhouser(Middle TN Zone 6)

sunriseonthehill: I can't afford row covers. That starts going in to some real money. It's so expensive to grow a garden as it is. Insecticides are taking us for broke this year due to the white-fly invasion that appears to be immune to everything including Neem Oil. I'd rather do without the squash or buy them at the store when the prices are lower.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 5:44PM
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greenhouser(Middle TN Zone 6)

engineeredgarden: We've never had serious problems with squash bugs. The SVBs do all the damage. This year add the white-fly and they they died before they could really start to reproduce. We also found tan spider mites in the garden. This is really a bad year for us. The white-fly started on the tomatoes, spread to the peppers and eggplants, then to the already borer infested squash... then to the string beans.

Peggy: That's how it goes. It's seldom just one garden in an area. My neighbors lose all their squash also. So far our Butternuts and cantaloupes are doing OK as the WF aren't to bad on them and I spray them constantly. I'll probably die from all the poison I used this year in the gardens.

aling: Wherever you plant it, cover it or it will quickly succumb to the same problem the other squash had.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 5:53PM
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Thanks greenhouser! what can I use to cover it? Like you I can't afford row covers. And any ideas on my cucumbers?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 6:50PM
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fanfortony(7 Frederick, MD)

As for covers, I just use tulle fabric from the fabric store. I don't mess with the "garden" stuff. Tulle is the fabric you would use on a wedding veil. Very cheap. 74 inches wide and only $1.50/yard. Sometimes, if you catch it on sale, only $1.oo/yard. Just hold it down with bricks or rocks or U-pins. Whatever you can find. Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 8:26PM
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Thanks that is a great tip! But just to make sure I understand correctly...I need to lay it over the whole row and cover the whole plant? I thought I needed to just cover the vine...? do I not need to protect from anything that may come up from under the soil?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 10:25PM
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granite(z6 NC)

The SVB and squash bugs arrive via flying moths and beetles. The adults lay the eggs on the leaves and stems of the plants and then suddenly there is a population boom of the terrible critters. The row covers prevent the first bugs from laying the eggs onto your plants. You do need to hand pollinate your blooms if you use the row covers, as the bees can't get in to do their jobs either.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2008 at 9:47AM
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greenhouser(Middle TN Zone 6)

aling: I don't know what the problem with your cukes can be. Have you looked at the older leaves, the undersides? Sometimes older leaves just die off as the plant advances and makes fruit. I would look for insect pests.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2008 at 7:05PM
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greenhouser(Middle TN Zone 6)

aling: I don't know what the problem with your cukes can be. Have you looked at the older leaves, the undersides? Sometimes older leaves just die off as the plant advances and makes fruit. I would look for insect pests.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2008 at 7:06PM
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I received this interesting article form the local extension office. I'm in Zone 6 West Virginia.

It just FYI
The established controls for the squash vine borer are somewhat deficient. The gardener who goes on the offensive for controlling this pest will: A. Inject Bt into the hollow stems near the base. B. Slit open the stem, remove the borers, then cover the infected stem with soil in order to grow additional roots. C. Cover the plant base with shaving cream or some other barrier. D. Cover the plant with a row cover; then pollinate by hand. These procedures seldom work well because the borers from previous seasons have entered your soil and pupated. In fact, following the above prescriptions will insure that you continue year after year to cultivate the squash vine borer as though they were your pets. The Bt does not work, because the borers work in the solid portion of the plant base, and some always seem to escape. The slitting operation does not work because you always miss one or two borers, and the plant is too weak to save at that point anyway. The barriers and row covers don't work because your pets are already in place, despite your crop rotation efforts. The above are mostly anecdotal remedies, similar to those for slugs and snails; a real waste of time and effort.

With this pest, it is better to operate with defensive tactics. First, minimize your plantings of hollow stemmed cucurbits. Instead of pumpkins or winter squash, grow butternut squash. Limit your summer squash to a single variety or grow a solid stemmed variety such as Zucchetta rampicante (Pinetree Seeds Co.) As soon as your hollow stem summer squash starts to lay down from the weight of the plant, place aluminum foil on the ground underneath the stem at the base to disorient arriving moths. This will result in minimizing the attraction of your garden to the moth from adjacent and removed properties. Second, minimize the number of moths originating on your own property, by not allowing any larvae to reach the ground, ever. We'll discuss how to do that in the next paragraph. The result of this procedure, is that over time you will eliminate the number of moths hatching on your own property. And, in a few years you will have no moths except for the stray one that was blown to your property by the wind. Since you have minimized your hollow stem plantings, the outside incursions will be small, infrequent, and occur in random years if your immediate neighbors are not also growing hollow stemmed cucurbits. If they are, then you need to act in concert. If you live near to commercial growers of cucurbits, the problem may well be insurmountable. You would have to follow all of these suggestions in addition to protecting your plants with row covers. In addition, there may be some sections of the country where the squash vine borer moth is found in great numbers.

As to procedure, here is where I suggest you start: First, plan on succession plantings. Pretend that your zucchini is lettuce or any other veggie that we are accustomed to replant several times. Harvest as much fruit as you can before the stems are invaded. Inspect every day that you harvest, and guess when it is about one week before first leaf wilt, based on the amount of frass and the number of holes in the stem, then pull the entire plant out of the ground. Cut off the lower section containing the larvae, and place in a bucket of water, or soapy water, or no water - whatever it takes to destroy existing larvae, or at least prevent them from ever reaching any soil, so that they can never pupate, or wrap in plastic wrap and send to the landfill with your trash. Put the rest of the plant in your compost pile. Plant one or two (or more, depending upon family size) zucchini seeds every 14 to 21 days, so you will always have fruit all summer. Over the years, your squash vine borer problem will slowly disappear (again, depending upon your immediate neighbors.)

If you minimize the attraction, gradually destroy all those moths originating on your property, and plant successively, you will enjoy plenty of summer squash, and eliminate the need for chemicals on one more garden challenge. If you have but little space for summer squash, then your succession starts will have to be in containers. As you throw each infected plant away, another good sized one will be ready to take its place. Instead of having a continuous supply of squash, you might have to go without squash for a week or two between plants. That will not be hard to take, compared to the alternative.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 11:54AM
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angelady777 (was angelady on GW) - Zone 6(6)

Thanks for the cheap row cover tip, fanfortony. Lots of great info from everyone else as well on trying to overcome these dreaded bugs.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 3:00AM
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Thanks, or should I say I truly feel your pain,I had squash plants 40" high loaded with little squash and blooms we went to the six foot rat for 3 1/2" days when I came back the green with white strips worms had destroyed the leves and squash. They were also inside the blossoms so that's the end of my squash season, Oh! I tried several sprays even soap spray they went from 16-20 on each leaf to 3-4 but those babys can eat, with hope I have two squash plants in different area, I starting the every other day spray thing, my zuc. had a battle of it's own. but in our area every one said they just pulled theirs up, I Feel your Pain, Guilt Trip

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 6:51AM
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organic_mamag(Z5 IN)

For those who think that SVB's are only a spring/early summer risk, I have to say that isn't the case. I had no problems at all until the end of July. I grew two zucchini plants and harvested tons of healthy zucchini. We ate quite a bit and I managed to freeze 22 cups of shredded zucchini. Then suddenly one day my zucchini wilted and died. I dug it up and found 3 SVB grubs in the base of the stem. Soon after that I found evidence of the critters in my spaghetti squash and pumpkins. While it is true I didn't use row covers earlier in the year, I don't think I would be any safer in late July than in early June just because of the dates.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 7:56AM
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This is a very interesting thread. I just came from cutting my pumpkin wine open in so many places, pulling borers out. It was terrible, I just dont think my plant is going to survive. And reading sunrise's information from the county extension, i guess it's doomed. Funny thing, this is the first time im gardening veggies, and my garden has been dormant for many years, previous owner was too senior to garden, and I have not seen any veggie plots near our house, so where do these moths come from? And Im done for next year too? It's extremely frustating!

(thank you for letting me vent)

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 10:12AM
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I can tell you that butternut squash are not exempt from SVB, mine were taken down to the ground from them and the squash bugs too.

My acorn squash seems to be the one holding on the longest although it also appears to be withering.

I have also been finding eggs (assuming they are SVB since they are visually the same as what I saw on my squash) on my nearby okra plants. What's that all about...these monsters will stop at nothing til they have completely destroyed EVERYTHING in my garden?

I'm telling you that the farmers market is becoming more and more appealing. Last year my sister in law bought big beautiful perfect tomatoes for about 30 cents a pound there. $10 for a big box.

The fabric row cover idea is a great one..I have a whole bolt of that stuff left over from my wedding :)

But I'm just not clear on the self pollinating thing. Does anyone have any advice on how and WHEN to do that?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 10:32AM
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WOW, 30 cents a pound for tomatoes? The farmers' market in my town is selling them for almost a dollar a pound. And people flock there to pay that price so that's the end of that.

My question is this, especially after reading that very informative article. If you raise your vine up on a strong stake like some do, does that minimize the svb since you're getting the vine up off the ground?

So far I've been lucky, but man oh man have I been vigilant. Also, I used a prophylactic dose of Sevin when I first planted. Maybe I'm kidding myself, but I honestly think that has helped. I even treated the soil with the liquid.

Good idea on the tulle, fanfortony.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 2:21PM
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Ditto on the Butternut squash on SVBs. They took out mine last year seems OK this year though they took down my Zuch by July and not a single fruit, just before it actually. Next year I will cover and find some needles and inject BT. I have the Zuchetta as well and that has help up. I lust to kill SVBs.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 3:58PM
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