Summer has arrived. How do I know? I have my first mosquito bites. Perhaps it’s not my favorite first sign of summer, but it’s a sign nonetheless.
Mosquitoes aren’t the only summer pests I’ll have to contend with this year. Two of the most consistent pests in the summer affect the squash plant. These are vine borers and squash bugs. These two insects are single handedly responsible for many people giving up on gardening.
If you are going to grow squash, I can almost guarantee an encounter with these fellas. Take a moment to let that sink in. Accept it. Make your peace with it. The happiest gardeners are those who work with nature instead of fighting to manipulate her.
Of course there are many chemicals that will kill squash bugs and vine borers. They will also kill ladybugs, bees and all the other beneficial insects that you want to attract for a healthy garden. Clearly, I won’t discuss the use of any of those. Let’s talk about some cultural practices that will help protect your plants from these damaging bugs.
- Planting nasturtiums or marigolds in and around squash plants will repel squash bugs.
- In the evening and early morning, take a bucket of soapy water on your garden walk and inspect the undersides of leaves and the stem for eggs, larvae or grown squash bugs. Pluck them off and drop them in the bucket.
- Cut a toilet paper roll vertically, wrap it around the base of the squash plants and tape it closed. This will prevent the vine borer moth from laying her eggs in the main stem of the plant.
- Companion plant onions with squash to repel the vine borer.
- Choose winter squash varieties instead of summer squash. They are less susceptible to vine borers. (see my article here for the differences between summer and winter squash)
- Plan on having a short season. Squash matures quickly, so you can just plan on doing a few squash crops over the course of the summer instead of trying to keep your first crop alive all summer.
The best advice I can give you when it comes to deal with pests is, don’t get discouraged. We get hungry and so does nature. Do what you can to prevent damage, but understand that it does happen and it’s a learning experience. Last year I let aphids take over my squash in order to attract ladybugs. If you allow nature to thrive, your garden will find a healthy balance without chemicals.
Tiffany Selvey is a Master Gardener who writes about her passion for growing, cooking, and living naturally at www.Songbird-Gardens.com. When she’s not elbow deep in soil, she enjoys raising a very active son, laughing with her husband, and wrangling their pets. Follow Tiffany’s gardening adventures on facebook and on twitter.