My squash patch decided to have an abundance of pests. I find it rather fun. I love diagnosing problems in the garden, I spent a couple internships in college doing it and got hooked.
First–here’s a mini guide to diagnosing your own pests.
- Consistently check your plants for damage, yellow leaves, insects or other problems. If caught early, problems are managed much better.
- Look for the easy answer first. Find out what your plant needs and compare it to the care you are giving it. These are generally issues like a plant in the wrong spot, over or under watering, chemical spills, etc. Most problems are caused not by insects or diseases, but the care and environment the plants are in.
- If you are in Utah, sign up for the Extension pest advisories. They keep you up-to-date on problems they are frequently seeing. Their site is also were I first go to start hunting for pests. It’s local, so I’m not finding problems that don’t actually exist in my area. Pests and diseases and typically regional. If you live in another state, look for the equivalent in your area. If you start Google-ing away, sometimes it can lead you down a path that has no basis in the climate and situation your are facing.
- Use the Extension office: but use caution. Unless you are talking to an agent or sending in a sample for diagnostics by an actual professional, calling the Extension can often mean talking to an intern or master gardener. They generally do a good job, but they are just normal people and their depth of knowledge can vary greatly. I’ve given less than great advice answering phone calls as the Extension when I was first starting out.
- Always diagnose the problem before spraying with insecticides or other drastic action. I’ll never forget the man who brought in a some dead insects off a tree. He had sprayed before he even knew what they were, and it turns out they were ladybug larvae.
Okay, so out in my garden, I was hunting for squash bug eggs, because I do subscribe to the pest advisories and they said to start looking. I found a whole bunch, and removed them with tape. My treatment for the squash bugs is to continue to monitor for adults and eggs and remove them when I find them. I only have a small squash patch, so it shouldn’t be hard.
While I was removing the eggs, I noticed that my leaves were yellowing. This is common for watering problems, or under-fertilization, but I was pretty sure that wasn’t the problem. Closer inspection led me to believe that I had spider mites. My best options for control are insecticidal soap or neem oil. I don’t have either on hand though, so I’m going with the third option–a hard stream of water to knock off as many as I can, and continuing to take good care of the plant.
My last squash plant problem was the sudden death of a zucchini plant. Over two days it wilted and died. I don’t know what caused it. There weren’t any signs of insect damage from squash bugs or vine borers, cultural control was the same as the surrounding plants, and I didn’t see any signs of a root rot. I’ve seen this happen before. On this page it lists sudden wilt with an unknown pathogen as a widespread problem. So I have no idea what happened to the zucchini plant, I just know that sometimes squash plants up and die for no apparent reason. It’s okay because I have three other zucchini plants.