Fungus Kills All My Squash Plants - Knowledgebase Question

Boca Raton, Fl
Question by tbob49
April 28, 2010
We have tried for two years to grow Sumer Squash and Zucchini in pots without success. Peppers, tomatoes, string beans and bush beans all do fine within 10-inches. The plant starts from seed fine and the plants really take off and squash form from the many blossoms. Suddenly, there appears to be a grey fungus all over the plant and the plant and the squash all dissolve into a mush.

Answer from NGA
April 28, 2010


It's really difficult to diagnose a plant problem without actually seeing it so I can only offer some potentials for the problem. It could be that fungal disease such as powdery mildew has attacked your plants, or they may have contracted a bacterial wilt (Erwinia tracheiphila). The bacteria invade the water conducting tissues of plants, causing a rapid wilt of the plant. Progressive wilting occurs, beginning with a single leaf but soon including the entire plant. The bacterial wilt organism produces a sticky substance in the vascular tissues that plugs them, preventing the transport of water. If an affected stem is cut near the ground, drops of the sticky substance can be squeezed from the stem. These droplets, after drying for several minutes, will adhere to the skin if a finger is placed on the stem's cut end and slowly removed. Fine strands up to 1/4 inch long will form when the finger is removed. Plant wilting and stringing of sap are diagnostic for bacterial wilt.

If neither of these sound like they fit the problem, I'd plant the squash in a different part of the garden this year and if symptoms return, take a sample of the leaves and stems to your local extension office for positive diagnosis. Here's their address: County of Palm Beach: County Cooperative Extension Service, 531 North Military Trail, West Palm Beach - (561) 233-1700.

Best wishes with your summer squash!

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