The Q&A Archives: Viruses On Squash

Question: For about the last three years, my summer squash plants have had yellow-streaked leaves and have not produced well at all. I was told this was probably a tobacco leaf mosaic virus. How can I: 1) confirm the diagnosis and 2)fix this? Shortly before I noticed this, I bought a camellia plant which had white streaks on the pink petals. I was told by the nurseryman that the reason the flowers had these lovely streaks( which I wanted!!) was that the plant probably had a virus. Then I start to notice this in my squash plants. What can I do?

Answer: First, let me say that the camellias streaking is totally unrelated to the squash.

Your squash probably is suffering from virus problems. Squash are very susceptible to several viruses which are introduced by insects such as aphids. Usually, the squash fruit shows a mottled appearance when the plants are infected. I have found virus to be especially bad in my fall gardens in the south.

The best way to avoid virus problems is to start with quality, disease free seed. Second, plant in spring after frost danger is past and cover plants with a floating row cover made of one of the new spunbound polyester products. These materials allow light to pass through but prevent insects from entering.

When squash begins to bloom, you can remove the cover to allow bees into pollinate. By that time the plant is far enough along to allow you to get a good crop before viruses can set in. Some gardeners leave the cover on longer, lifting it each morning to do the bee's pollinating work themselves, using a paintbrush to move pollen from male to female flowers!

Good luck with your garden.

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