The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Squash Vine Borers

Summer squash plantEvery garden has an archnemesis, and the squash vine borer is ours.  Unless you've experienced it, it's hard to imagine the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you go out and your three foot tall squash plant --- complete with young fruits --- keels over in an afternoon.

Our first vine borer year, I caught the infestation too late, and had to try the poke-the-caterpillars-with-a-pin method.  I'm here to tell you that doesn't work.

So now we spray Bt once a week.  I'm not entirely comfortable with it, even though Bt is a bacterium, not a chemical.  If anyone has had good luck killing off their squash vine borers another way, I'd be curious to hear it.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I have an organic method for controlling squash borer that worked this year on my Zucchini, but it won't help for butternut squash.

In New Hampshire we only have one generation of SVB a year. So I waited until July (after egg laying time) to plant Zucchini. I also covered the vines to make it hard for any SVB stragglers to find a place to lay eggs. Waiting won't work for winter squash because it takes too long for the gourds to ripen. You can't plant that late and still get ripe fruit.

I didn't have any SVBs and did get some Zucchini. Still I had other difficulties that prevented a full harvest. New Hampshire can be a difficult place to grow squash.

Comment by Suburban Hobby Farmer Sat Jan 21 13:26:17 2012
That's pretty much like what we ended up doing with our summer squash. We changed over to crookneck squash (which are a little less enticing), then started succession planting the squash, figuring each plant will only last for a few weeks before the bugs get it. Our latest summer plantings do tend to be bug-free (but frost comes pretty fast, so we still do the earlier plantings.)
Comment by anna Sat Jan 21 13:50:21 2012
I know this is an older post, but I've had the same problem in my garden. I am told that zuchetta rampicante (I think that's how it's spelled) is borer resistant. I'm growing it this year, we'll see if it really is. Apparently it is also an all around awesome squash.
Comment by houligan19 Mon May 21 08:16:17 2012

houligan19 --- Some of our friends grew those two years ago. They were pretty, but I didn't think as tasty as our favorite varieties.

Yellow crookneck also has a reputation for being borer resistant and we grew that last year. We really liked the taste, but the borers still got them. (Maybe it took longer for the vines to succumb, though? I'm not sure....)

Comment by anna Mon May 21 12:10:08 2012

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