Honestly. My garden has more characters creating drama than the cast of The Young and The Restless.
It’s been hot here. Really, really, haven’t-even-towelled-off-yet-from-that-cold-shower-and-I’m-already-sweating hot. So, when my (previously thriving) zucchini plants started to wilt, I chalked it up to the fact that the plants probably felt the way I was feeling in the heat.
Today, I decided to take a casual garden stroll in the incinerating afternoon sun. Why I decided to wait for the paralyzing heat to really investigate what’s going on is a mystery, but nevertheless I decided to have a closer peek at my droopy zucs. Here is what I noticed, right at the base of the stem:
- crusty, mealy yellowish-green grainy deposits
- white/grey lesions that looked a bit like cracks
This new observation immediately unleashed “Saul 1.0”- my obsessive-compulsive alter-ego. She is an irrational, impulsive honey badger (<– warning: swear words!)- but she gets the job done. So Saul 1.0 got a sharp knife, went back out into the sweltering heat and- whilst sweating profusely- and cut some small incisions where the grey lesions were. And
Can you see that?! Can you see that little jerk in there, peeking out at me, as if to say, “Hey! Look! I just chewed myself a condo inside your plant!”. Well, not for long, buddy. This guy got stone-cold evicted by Saul 1.0. What’s worse? I checked my other zucchini plants and ALL SIX OF THEM had the bugs. One plant had FOUR borers inside of it.
I looked for info in my usual books, and they all talk about this pest but their only recommendation is chemical sprays. No thanks. Then I found this interesting post at gardens alive and followed its advice.
IF THE BORERS ARE ALREADY THERE: Cut a small incision in the stem where you see the yellow sawdust-like deposits, remove and kill the bugs, and bury the damaged part of the stem under compost and hope that it spreads new roots. This is what I’ve tried, but I’m not very optimistic that my zucchinis will bounce back, seeing as the stems were so mangeled after the borer/Saul 1.0 combo was finished with them.
Sadly, waiting for the wilting is leaving it a bit too late. So, Future Saul 1.0 will be more proactive next year:
- STOP THE EGGS: adult moths (they look like red-bellied wasps) lay TINY eggs at the base of the stem in the spring. One way to prevent this is to “cut little pieces of row cover and use them to just wrap the vine itself. Do this before you plant, so that the covered section of the vine extends below the soil line; add more wrapping as the vine grows larger”.
- KILL THE EGGS: You may not be able to see them, but a weekly spray of the vine with insecticidal soap should smother them.
- BTK: “one of the oldest organic pest controls… Sold under brand names like Dipel, Thuricide and Green Step, this form of Bt ONLY kills caterpillars that munch on the sprayed plant part; it affects nothing else. So spray the vines once a week… Or just wipe the stems every five days vigorously with a damp cloth.”
- CHECK YOUR SOIL: If you’ve already noticed the borers, chances are that even MORE of them will be waiting in the soil there for next year’s crop. Make sure you hoe up the area before you plant next, and kill and cocoons you spot- they should be about an inch deep.
So, my friends, I shall keep you updated. Keep your fingers crossed- not just for me, but for Gabe, too. He has been sulking since I gave all of our ripe zucchinis to our landlord last week. I was able to stop his pouting by promising him that soon enough, we’ll have more zucchini than we’ll know what to do with. Just wait ’till I break this news to him tonight. Hopefully these zucs are as resilient as they are delicious, and hopefully I managed to find all of those little buggers…