The Q&A Archives: Wilting Cantelopes

Question: Every year my canteloupe plants grow well and set some nice fruit, but about the time the fruit is ripening, the entire vine wilts and dies in less than a day. What is the problem and what can I do to prevent it?

Answer: A likely cause of the problem you're having with your melons is bacterial wilt, which is spread by small yellow-and-black-striped cucumber beetles. You can test for the bacterial disease by cutting a wilted stem near the base of the plant. Squeeze the stem, and if the sap is sticky and forms a thread when you touch it with a knife and then pull the knife away, wilt is present. The best control is to get rid of the beetles. You can repel them by spreading row covers over your plants until they begin to flower and by interplant your melons with radishes. Another possible cause of the wilting is squash stem borers that feed inside the plant's stems. If borers are present, you will see the larvae when you cut open a wilted stem lengthwise. Row coversare a good barrier for these insects as well.

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