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Gardening Articles: Care :: Seeds & Propagation

Some Sumptuous Summer Squash (page 2 of 2)

by Charlie Nardozzi

Pest Problems

Summer squash are attacked by a variety of pests. Squash vine borer adults lay their eggs on the squash stems near the ground. The eggs hatch and the young tunnel into the fruits and can eventually kill the plant. Protect your squash plants by covering them with a floating row cover until they start to flower. Place aluminum foil beneath the plant to confuse the adult flies so they can't lay eggs. Surgically remove the young larvae with a sharp knife or inject Btk (Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki) into the plants. This bacteria kills the bugs without harming the plant, wildlife or humans.

Squash bugs are flat-shelled, brown or gray colored insects that form groups on the undersides of squash leaves. Their feeding can cause leaves to turn yellow and die. To control squash bugs, lay boards in the garden at night. The bugs will hide under them during the day, so in the morning collect and destroy hiding bugs. Powdery mildew and various blight diseases attack summer squash. Control these by planting disease-resistant varieties and cleaning up the squash patch well in fall.

Harvest Time

Summer squash fruits are best harvested when young and immature while the fruit skins are still soft. If allowed to mature, the fruits because seedy and tough textured. Begin picking summer squash even while the flower is still attached. The ideal size is 4- to 6-inches long. The more you harvest, the more the plant will produce. Don't let squash get overgrown. Not only will you be at a loss as to what to do with the giant fruit, it will slow down the production of additional squash.

Question of the Week: Slugs on My Lettuce

Q. My lettuce seedlings are growing great, but I noticed an abundance of slugs on the leaves. I don't want to use a beer trap to control them. What else can I do?

A. Slugs and snails thrive during periods of cool, wet weather. It's no surprise they love the young lettuce seedlings in spring when temperatures are still cool. To control slugs you need to change the environment around the plants, create barriers, or use non-toxic baits.

Remove mulch, weeds, and other hiding places for slugs around your plants. Cultivate frequently to dry out the soil. If growing on a raised bed, consider placing copper flashing around the bed to stop slugs from invading. Remove all the slugs within the bed and attach the copper to the top of the raised bed. The slugs don't like crossing the copper barrier.

Use non-toxic baits such as iron phosphate to control the slugs. The golden-colored pellets have a slug attractant that lures them to eat the bait. It also contains iron phosphate which is toxic to slugs, but safe for pets, wildlife, and the environment. Reapply after a heavy rain.

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