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Squash vine borers

 
cameron johnson
Posts: 74
Location: Prattville, Alabama, zone 8, 328ft
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Is their anything I can plant with my squash and pumpkin plants to help keep these little monsters away, last year I just had them in with the corn but they didnt stand a chance this year im going to go the companion planting type route, so does anybody know of any plant that might give my squash a fighting chance. And as a side note I did stay on the squash trying to remove every vine borer I could find but they ended up looking like freddy krueger got his hands on them and I finally was feed up and just pulled them all up and smashed the plants untill I was sure none could survive so maybe this year Ill have a leg up on the little devils. And side note 2 I know squash and corn is already companion planting I am just looking for other ideas. Anyways thinks for reading
 
chip sanft
Posts: 331
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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I've had a lot of trouble with squash vine borers. I haven't noticed any companion planting that made a difference but that's just me.

Things that seemed to help were:

1. Burying the stem. Not because it prevented borers from getting at the plants but because the nodes put out roots, too. Then when the borers got going on one part of the plant, other parts could continue growing.

2. Planting late. I did this last year and it seemed to help somewhat but it seemed like the late spring last year pushed the borers' schedule back too. The long southern growing season makes it feasible to plant in late June and still get a crop.

3. Variety selection. There definitely are differences in how various cultivars react to the damage and some seem to mind it less. I kept seed from the more successful ones and will be planting them again next year and hopefully in a few years I'll have a type that's less vulnerable.

Hopefully others will be able to talk about what worked for them too. The brother of a guy I work with is an organic grower up in Maine and he has given up on squash because of the borers. I can't imagine life without squash.
 
                    
Posts: 238
Location: AR ~ozark mountain range~zone7a
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I am kina new to gardening, I lost 5 vigorous organic grown summer squash plants this year. And I was out there when it happened! A big gust of wind popped thru the garden, all of sudden...whack 5 big healthy (albeit buggy) squash plant toppled. The damage was done, and I pruned the cracked leaf stems and buried the stems up to the first remaining leaf stem, (expecting new root growth as Chip suggests), they survived & further rooted, & some production, but I knew the vine borers would surely get them, probably sooner than later. (And yeah I had a good amount of Dill growing very nearby, which I will try again!) Next year, I'm going to try excessive lightweight mulch build up to support the plant 'in place' to prevent plant toppling in the first place.

For next year, I plan on having a strong concoction of fragrance in a spray bottle, I will also crush some growing Dill leaves, daily as I walk thru. I really think it might help to spray any breakage/damaged plants...I think the bugs are attracted by the strong smell emitted when even a leaf is tattered, and the stink from squash bugs getting smashed by me as I pick them off. I think this may be true of tomato plants also, it seems only after they have split or broke from heavy growth, or simply tying them to a stake, then the bugs show up earnestly, I think they smell that particular type of plant and fly in at night when I'm not looking! [I'll be careful not to spray the flowers, I'm having a hard enough time with pollination as it is(few if any honey bees around here)]

I have used little twigs to plug up the holes from pruned leaf stems & dead flower stems, attempting to block the squash vine borers, and I have done the 'stem surgery'...dragging the maggots out with a wire, bandaging with aluminum foil, lots of fun cutting those guys in half with my scissors. Next year I think I will try making some 'stem plugs' out of rolled tightly (like a cigarette or Golf Tee size) spicebush leaves, garlic/onion leaves, or American beautyberry leaves...who knows it might work! One thing for sure, next year, my squash & tomato plants are not going to smell like squash & tomato plants! Fingers crossed...hahaa

james beam
 
Deb Stephens
Posts: 374
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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cameron johnson wrote:Is their anything I can plant with my squash and pumpkin plants to help keep these little monsters away, last year I just had them in with the corn but they didnt stand a chance this year im going to go the companion planting type route, so does anybody know of any plant that might give my squash a fighting chance. And as a side note I did stay on the squash trying to remove every vine borer I could find but they ended up looking like freddy krueger got his hands on them and I finally was feed up and just pulled them all up and smashed the plants untill I was sure none could survive so maybe this year Ill have a leg up on the little devils. And side note 2 I know squash and corn is already companion planting I am just looking for other ideas. Anyways thinks for reading


I am soooo glad you asked this question because I have been dying to pass on a "cure" that I came up with myself several years ago. (Actually, I did mention this in another thread a year or so ago, but it is such a great tip, I don't mind doing it again.) Since I have started doing this, I have not lost a single squash -- of any variety -- to vine borers. Really, NONE!

All you need to do is go to your local feed/livestock supply store and purchase a couple of rolls of vet wrap. (This is identical to the stretchy bandages you can buy in any pharmacy for humans, but a LOT cheaper. And more colorful, usually.) When your squash has two or three true leaves on it, simply wrap a strip of vet wrap around the stem from just barely below the soil surface to the point where the stem narrows. As your squash grows, you may want to add a bit more to cover the thicker parts of the stem further up. The idea is that the rubberized bandage sticks tightly to itself (so no awkward tying or slipping as with cloth strips) but it stretches as the plant grows and does not squeeze it or stunt it. The bandage breathes and allows for moisture, but completely baffles the vine borer's instinct to drill into the vulnerable stems. Using a bright color, like pink or red also seems to confuse the borers -- who look for a green stem. (Don't use yellow as that color actually attracts many pests.) One roll goes a long way. The bonus is that vet wrap makes an ideal tie up for sprawling plants as well, so if you don't use it all as borer prevention, you can always use it to tie your tomatoes!

Of course, allowing squash to sprawl and root along the stems is another good way to keep them producing, since IF vine borers manage to breach the barrier or drill in above it, you will still have plenty of roots further along to salvage the plant when the main stem dies back. Same with cucumbers, pumpkins and melons.

If all else fails, and you notice a borer soon enough, you can sometimes save the plant by making a slit with a razor blade at the infestation site and pulling out the offending larvae. If you flush the "wound" with a dilute bleach or peroxide solution and tape it up, the plant will usually recover if not too badly damaged.

Planting white cushaw (actually most cushaws) is another good idea. They aren't necessarily resistant to the vine borer, but they will definitely give squash bugs a run for the money.

Good luck!
 
Alex Ames
Posts: 399
Location: Georgia
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Thanks Deb! That sounds like it will work and be workable.

I have heard putting floating row cover on them until the first female
blossoms appear will work.

Anything to keep the moth from laying it's eggs at the base of the plant.
 
Deb Stephens
Posts: 374
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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Alex Ames wrote:Thanks Deb! That sounds like it will work and be workable.

I have heard putting floating row cover on them until the first female
blossoms appear will work.

Anything to keep the moth from laying it's eggs at the base of the plant.


I wouldn't put too much stock in the floating row covers. Not only are they expensive (and cumbersome), but I don't think they would work against vine borers. Cabbage moths, definitely, but not borers. I have had my squash attacked (before the vet wrap cure) when they were in mid-season and producing squash like crazy. One day I would have a healthy and productive plant and the next day a wilted and sorry-looking mess. But, then again, it may have something to do with where you live, since it is more about the life cycle of the moth than the squash.
 
John Polk
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Another thing is to select varieties with hard (not soft) stems.
Given a choice, the little bastards will ignore the hard stems.

 
cameron johnson
Posts: 74
Location: Prattville, Alabama, zone 8, 328ft
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Please John give some examples of hard vined varieties I would buy them in a heart beat if it meant slowing these little buggers down
 
chip sanft
Posts: 331
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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I think John was talking about varieties such as Waltham butternut, which are reputed to resist the borers. I myself didn't find them better than other squashes at surviving the dreaded borer plague. But that's just me. YMMV.

One cultivar I planted that took the borers' damage but still was somewhat productive was "Hopi pale grey squash," which I got from Jackie Clay. That's the one I'm hoping to develop over a number of seasons into a variety that will be productive despite the damage.

We actually did plant one other hard-vined type that pretty much shrugged off the squash vine borers and produced like mad: the luffa. The thing is, though, that you have to eat luffa while the fruits are small (abou 6-8") or else they start to develop the fibers that turn them into luffa sponge things at the end of the season. That is not tasty. Before those fibers form, though, they are good. They just don't cook up at all like other squashes (try stir fry if nothing else). But they are really tasty and very productive, in the southeast at least.
 
Matt Sans
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I've given up on growing traditional squashes in the Spring - I have slightly better luck in the fall. I've tried wrapping the stems and cutting out the borers. The only partial success I've had in the last few years is succession planting (every two weeks yank out the infected plants and put in a new one) - but that's a pain, less productive than I'd like and takes more room.

This year, I'm focusing on different varieties -

Tatume squash is a great zucchini replacement - it's been a winner the last few years. Pick it small for zucchini substitute but the big ones that escape notice and turn yellow still make a decent winter squash. Give it room, it's a sprawler.
http://www.rareseeds.com/tatume-squa/

On page 47 of the 2015 Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog, they define the characteristics of the four squash species. Of the four, Curcurbita moschata and C. mixta are both resistant to vine borers "once the plants are beyond the seedling stage". That held true for me last year with their "Tan Cheese" pumpkins (C. moschata) - the first pumpkins I've been able to grow. I've ordered a few more of the C. moschata and C. mixta to try this year.

I'm also trying the luffas Chip mentioned as seen in this blog post:
http://www.southernexposure.com/blog/2014/12/ridge-gourds-on-cattle-panel-trellising/

 
Jennifer Smith
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Location: Zone 5
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I planted luffa and my usual yellow summer and butternuts at our house in lower Alabama. First time I ever lost squash to borers, only the yellow summer though. The luffa grows there still.
 
Ed Waters
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We have had very good luck with muschattas. A good source is Baker's Creek. A wonderful is the Tatume as mentioned as well as the Lebanese Marrow, which is a bush variety and is suitable for planting in a pot. In addition we throw a tray of our spent micro radish around each group of plants. VB seem to find the radishes unpleasant. That is a great idea about wrapping the plants with the bandages. We have been using aluminum foil on our cukes.
 
Dylan Mulder
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Location: North Carolina
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Matt Sans wrote: On page 47 of the 2015 Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog, they define the characteristics of the four squash species. Of the four, Curcurbita moschata and C. mixta are both resistant to vine borers "once the plants are beyond the seedling stage". That held true for me last year with their "Tan Cheese" pumpkins (C. moschata) - the first pumpkins I've been able to grow. I've ordered a few more of the C. moschata and C. mixta to try this year.


I also want to confirm this advice. In my area, Cucurbita pepo varieties (especially small summer squashes) get hit very hard by vine borers. At my last place of work we grew summer squashes successfully, largely thanks to row cover.

I tried growing some in my kitchen garden without rowcover and lost every single plant to borers. I even tried the whole 'cut out/lance' the borer thing and found it to be finicky and ultimately a waste of time.

I've observed that the size of the plant is a big factor in success - the largest trailing plants fair the best because of additional rooting on the nodes.

Last year I grew Cucurbita moschata "Seminole", and had no vine borer damage. I did nothing for them besides plant the seeds.
 
J. Michael Wright
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I'm going to suggest an entirely different solution to this problem.

It has come to my attention, mostly from people like John Kempf, that plant susceptibility to pests and disease have more to do with nutrition than environment.
Usually there is an over application of N P and K while the other macro and micro nutrients are forgotten.
There is also a lot of evidence now that insects can see unhealthy plants through their infrared vision.

I would get a soil test and start learning about sap analysis. You will find our what your nutritional deficiency or excess is and you will be able to fix it.
 
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