Everyone Enjoys My Squash, Except Me!

In early Spring, we moved from our home in a small Pennsylvania Borough which only allowed a growing space of 35 square feet, to a semi-country house with at least 510 square feet of space available to grow our vegetables. And what’s more, the new land came with its own fertilizer, a heaping helping of two-year-old horse manure. After reviewing several sources on the web, I learned that this organic material needs no other additives… it’s like nature’s own Miracle Grow. So we decided to get started right away. Our list of desired plants ranged from beans and beets to zucchini, with many others in between.

We started off by purchasing and planting six cucumber plants, only to watch as they were destroyed by cucumber beetles. The tiny ravenous beetles started to consume other plants until I gave them a hot mouth. I soaked red pepper flakes in a gallon of water for 48 hours, then drained the mixture through a funnel into a spray bottle with a coffee filter to catch the pepper flakes. The recipe I followed suggested that I should also add a nature soap to the mix. I mixed in a tablespoon of Meyers Natural Soap – the result was a sweet lavender fragrance with an extremely hot bite to boot. We used this mix to spray our leaves every 3 to 5 days, as instructed. For the next attempt, I tried planting seeds in a totally different location.

With one problem behind us, I soon discovered an even bigger issue that grew faster than rabbits. This new problem was two-fold: squash bugs and the squash vine borer moth. Between those two insects, we lost butternut squash, cucumbers, summer squash, zucchinis – all gone within six weeks. We did get to collect some fruit, but nowhere near as much as we were anticipating – most of the fruit died immature on the vine when the borers killed the plants.

This got me to thinking – I bet someone at the [Grow] Network could help us out with a fix for our squash problem. Perhaps someone will know a good solution and send it our way. I know that nothing good in life is free, so I spent a little time thinking about what I could contribute in exchange. So, here are a few suggestions I can contribute that might help out somebody else who’s having a different problem…

Raccoons: Anytime you need to use ammonia for something around the house, dump out the ammonia around the area where the raccoons are a problem. Cover the areas where you don’t want them with any hot spice like chili powder or cayenne. Grow some Scotch bonnets, cut them up and add them to your compost pile – the raccoons will remember where their mouths got set on fire.

Chipmunks: A while back Marjory shared a post about using castor oil to deter gophers (3 Ways to Protect Root Crops from Gophers and Moles). That should be a good fix for chipmunks too, just get yourself some castor oil and use a hose-end sprayer to spray the areas where you know they’re burrowing.

Rain Water: That Emergency Water 101 course had some excellent information, but one can do a lot to gather rain water right from one’s own gutters. First check the laws in your state, county, and municipality to make sure rain water collection is legal. Clear your gutters of all debris, rinse the gutters using a hose and some soap. Next install some covers to keep debris out of the gutters (some of these covers are costly, and I’m still looking for a dealer with a good cost-effective solution). Locate some used 55 gallon drums to collect the water as it drains from your gutters. You can find used food grade drums at distribution centers, and you can buy blue drums that held soap from car washes – there’s no need to spend $150 on a plastic 55 gallon drum.

Hopefully those little tidbits can help someone out, and hopefully somebody can offer up some ideas about dealing with the squash bugs and the squash vine borers that I’ve been fighting.

Thanks to V.S. for participating in the [Grow] Network Writing Contest.

We have over $2,097 in prizes lined up for the Fall 2015 Writing Contest, including all of the following:

– A 21.5 quart pressure canner from All American, a $382 value
– A Survival Still emergency water purification still, a $288 value
– 1 free 1 year membership in the [Grow] Network Core Community, a $239 value
– A Worm Factory 360 vermicomposting system from Nature’s Footprint, a $128 value
– 2 large heirloom seed collections from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, valued at $103 each
– A Metro-Grower Elite sub-irrigation growing container from Nature’s Footprint, a $69 value
– 2 copies of the complete Home Grown Food Summit, valued at $67 each
– 3 free 3 month memberships in the [Grow] Network Core Community, valued at $59 each
– 4 copies of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD video set, valued at $43 each
– A Bug Out Seed Kit from the Sustainable Seed Company, a $46 value
– 4 copies of the Alternatives To Dentists DVD video, valued at $33 each
– 4 copies of the Greenhouse of the Future DVD and eBook, valued at $31 each

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This post was written by Anthony Tamayo


  • susan says:

    So I always wanted to save rainwater, but my husband says we’ll have mosquito problems. I live in lower Hudson Valley, Rockland County, NY. Anybody have the same question or answer?

  • cat says:

    thanks for the tip about the castor oil. I’ll try that for my squirrels! how much castor oil for 1 gallon of water? say 1 tablespoon?

  • Sandy says:

    I live in a zone 3 area in Northern Wisconsin where in 4 years since I moved here I haven’t seen any squash borers. When I lived in Madison, which is a zone 5 area, I read a recommendation to cultivate frequently to at least 3/4″ below the soil level to disturb and discourage juvenile squash borers, a strategy to interfere with their migration onto the squash. I still do this just in case.

    In a previous garden in Iowa, the borers were a real problem. My garden partner regularly ordered an organic inoculant that was said to have been formulated to kill squash borers. It had to be injected into the main stem at least twice during the growing season. This was somewhat effective, but the borers eventually infested the squash. At that point, I would take a 12″ length of heavy gauge copper wire and probe into the main stem of the infested plant and anywhere else I spotted borer frass until the borer larvae were thoroughly mashed. Once the borers appeared, it was necessary to check the plants frequently and gouge away. The plants survived but required frequent inspections and continued gouging. Wishing you better luck and mounds of squash in 2016!

  • sclindah says:

    My best solution for squash bugs is to plant catnip among them. It gives of an odor they don’t seem to like and has been my best deterrent, plus the bees love the blooms!

  • Ashley says:

    I have the same problem! Looking forward to seeing some answers, and will definitely try the catnip idea. After reading up on the problem some this year, I am planning on attempting to use companion planting to solve or prevent some of my pest problems next year, rather than keeping my garden so compartmentalized.

  • Carrie says:

    Sounds like you have the exact problem I have. Until this season, I wasn’t able to harvest more than a couple of squash per season. It’s was so frustrating. I had beetles and borers galore. I also tried everything on the market to kill the suckers, including surgery on the plants to remove the borer directly. Nothing worked! So finally I tried my own idea, with decent results. I simply covered my plants with lightweight frost blankets. I have raised beds, which I have installed pvc hoops to the sides of the beds and use plastic covering the bed in order to protect my plants from frost in the winter. I planted my squash this year, and replaced the plastic with a frost blanket. I left it closed unless o was harvesting, and did a lot of pollinating on my own. Eventually towards the end of the summer, my plants out grew my beds and they were poking out underneath the blanket, but by then, I had harvested many many types of squash. If you can’t kill them, exclude them. I’m sure you could come up with a cheap version of a hoop tunnel over your plants using coat hangers, and the blankets are reasonable. Hope this helps.

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