Archive for July, 2010

Deterring Squash Bugs and Vine Borers


Squash Bugs and Vine Borers…even the words make me shudder. Hot Florida weather comes at a cost. The bug population this spring and summer has been overwhelming to say the least. Organic gardening in this climate has posed some definite challenges.

Squash bugs appeared to cover my squash by the thousands while vine borers attacked at the vine level. Through the first bout of vine borers, I cut each growing vine at the base and removed each and every worm. I had great results.  But, when round 2 came these 3′ vines were now 12′ vines and were overtaken all throughout the stems. There was  no way to physically pull them on round 2 and I lost that battle.  Before making it 1/4 of the way through my beautiful vines the borers began to indulge in the fruits of my labor. Even the resistant butternut was overcome and the insides hollowed out. Still yet, I  managed to harvest over 60. I burned all the vines and infected fruit, destroying the borers that remained. As you can see, I was not successful in my burn attempt. I threw some gas on the green vine pile and did not know there was a spark of fire hiding in its depths. The fire ran upstream and ignited the gas tank in my hand, causing it to explode and throw gasoline all over my front. Standing in the middle of the fire, somehow only my hand took the damage. Amazing. Anyhow, I finally admitted defeat and threw up my white flag to the vine borers on my trip to the ER that night.

One unknown spark in burnpile + gas = 3rd degree burns

I took these minutes before the accident

Yellowing Leaves are a sign of Vine Borers


Vine Borer inside the vine

I have exhausted just about every logical method to eradicate Mr. Borer. All crops were covered shortly after planting seed with Reemay, yet were still infested. Many other recommendations online such as  each vine were impractical in such a large garden and the side notes always say, “may not work.” My thought is to plant a late August crop which is possible in Florida with our long season. Our northern friends can avoid the borer by planting veggies in the Moschata family such as butternuts. Gourds like Cucuzzi and Luffa are edible when small and are great substitutes for Zucchini.  Northern areas don’t seem to have such dramatic borer infestations in the south and Moschata counterparts are normally not bothered by these insects in those regions.

Squash bugs need to be controlled a.s.a.p. The eggs are noticeably seen on the underside of the leaves in your garden. They are  maroonish to brown in color and remind me of strawberry seeds for some reason. There will be several laid together. Destroy these as they will hatch promptly. Small squash bugs are easy to kill when young but the adults are hard to destroy. Their population grows quickly. The bugs can be hard to spot. They will run around the leaves as you move them, staying out of sight and they are fast. If you lay a board or newspaper out in the garden, they tend to collect under them at night, making for easier eradication. Signs of Squash Bugs in your garden are black wilted leaves.

I planted our giant sunflowers near the squash this year (those beauties grew to 8′) and it helped cut down on these bugs considerably. Squash Bugs, Stink Bugs, and the adult Vine Borer Moth (which kind of resembles a wasp)  are all attracted to sunflowers. Each day the flowers were covered in these bugs. Fill a bucket with soapy water, and throw the bugs into the bucket. It kills them fast. Also be on the lookout for Squash Bug eggs on the leaves. Dunking your sunflower heads in the bucket may seem quicker than plucking the bugs off but the wetness will cause molding of the heads. Picking them off really doesn’t take long. There were so many on ours I could grab them by the handful.  After a few days you will notice a LOT less of the little boogers.


DIY Garden Markers

I had a hard time finding good markers (or enough of them) so I figured why not just make some? I racked my brain and came up with a simple and fast solution.

You will need:

  • Large dairy container tub(s) (cottage cheese, butter, yogurt, etc)
  • Scissors
  • Sandpaper (optional but beneficial for long-term markers)
  • Permanent Marker with fine or medium tip (We like Sharpee)

Dairy Container

Begin making cuts from the top to the base as shown below (these cuts should be spaced as wide as you would like each marker, be sure to leave enogh room to write on):

Make Vertical Cuts

 Cut full-circle around base to seperate your markers.

Seperating Markers


 Cut ends into v shape

Snipping Corners

Garden Marker

I lightly sandpaper the area I plan to write on. This removes the shiny finish and makes your permanent writing more permanent. If this is for indoor plants you may not need to buff. If wet soil could get splashed up on your writing, it will fade over time (1-2 months) if not sandpapered. Those saving seed from multiple varities of similar plants like tomatoes will want to buff their markers. I can use unbuffed markers in a freshly planted garden and theybegin fading out about the time the varieties are big enough to discern. I have a few dozen tomato plants and some look similar so I make sure those are buffed. It really only takes a second so why not?

Sandpapered Markers

Whip out that sharpee



Yes, you can even use the lid

Remove Lip


Cut and V Tips