Monday, August 08, 2011

Zucchini plant problems

Zucchini plant killers and their frass
Image from Wikipedia.

Remember I said that when I see something weird going on with the plants, I should respond with more "emergency" and less "huh"? I should have listened to myself.

A few weeks ago, we noticed some orange stuff at the base of the main stems of the two zucchini plants. And we said, "huh, that looks strange. Maybe we're overwatering it there." Then yesterday and today we noticed that the leaves were extremely wilted and that the base of the plant was all spongy. We thought that the base had just rotted out and after doing research, we figured we would cut the plants off above the damage and transplant them.

During that research, I saw some pages that said that the orange stuff was frass from the squash vine borer (SVB) larvae. We wanted to know whether or not that was the problem, so when we cut the plant off we checked for the larvae.

We found them. Oh, wow, did we find them. The entire main stem of both plants was full of them: in one section there were at least ten across the entire width of the stem so no wonder water couldn't get to the leaves. In addition to the fully growed larvae there were little almost invisible baby larvae, too. The orange stuff - the frass - is really just rotted vegetable matter and it smelled bad enough that Ian couldn't deal with them so I stepped in.

Even though we were throwing out the zucchini plants we wanted to be sure to kill all of the larvae. Unfortunately, although these are basically grubs they're harder to kill than the grubs we found in the lawn. I ended up having to squish them against the ground with the knife because they just wouldn't die when I squished them in my fingers. Unfortunately the "squish against the ground" method ended up shooting larvae guts at me. Ewww. Eww. Ewwwwwww.

Had we caught the problem earlier, we could have sliced the vine with a sharp knife and killed the larvae that way and the plant would have lived. Leaving it as long as we did meant that we almost certainly have lost our wonderful zucchini. Sigh.

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