just pulled up the dead vines from
butternut and spaghetti squash, both
planted in the same bed. We found
nematodes on one set of roots. How do I
treat them? And will I be able to use
that bed in the spring?
Solution: The best
way to control nematodes is to practice
crop rotation. Sometimes that can be
difficult if you have a small garden.
When you rotate crops, be sure to follow
susceptible crops with non-susceptible
crops. Corn and onions are good crops to
follow susceptible ones like okra. You
can also solarize the soil in July and
August to kill many of the nematodes.
Rototill the soil and cover with
plastic. This needs to be repeated
several times and may not be worth the
effort for many gardeners. Another
approach is to plant cereal rye (Elbon
is a good one developed by the Noble
Foundation) in the affected area in the
fall. Then mow and rototill the crop
into the soil in the spring two to six
weeks before planting. As the rye
decomposes, it releases a chemical that
kills the nematodes.
Patty Leander recently gave a
presentation on vegetable gardening to
the Williamson County Master Gardening
class in Georgetown. I was one of the
students who heard the presentation.
During one of the breaks for snacks I
asked about how to prevent squash borers
from destroying my crop. Patty advised
covering the plant with netting to keep
out the beetles that lay the eggs which
eventually grow into larvae that destroy
I followed her
suggestion and have had good results.
However, I have developed a new respect
for bees and other pollinators when I
had to artificially pollinate the squash
flowers with a Q-Tip. While doing this
work I noticed some bees actually
working the plants. I was delighted to
have their assistance.
beetle that causes the squash-borer
problem nocturnal? Could I open the
covering during the day, say around noon
to let the bees do their work?
Any guidance you can provide would be
Good question, John, but first, let’s
clear up a not-so-minor detail — it is a
moth, not a beetle that lays the eggs
that hatch into borers. The
squash-vine-borer moth visits plants
during the day, and I have seen the
female moth laying eggs in my garden in
the morning as well as in the afternoon.
Unfortunately, bees are most active in
the morning when squash flowers are open
and receptive to pollination, which
means if you uncover plants for the
bees, the moths will also have access. I
know of many gardeners who uncover
plants in the morning to allow
pollinators to visit and then inspect
their plants carefully for
squash-vine-borer moths or eggs before
replacing the cover.
method of exclusion is to keep plants
covered with rowcover or Micromesh
netting for the first five to six weeks
of growth, right up until the female
flowers start to open, then remove the
netting so the pollinators can do their
work. This means the moth can do her
“work” as well, but usually by the time
the larvae hatch and burrow into the
stem, the plant has had time to produce
a number of fruit. Trying to outsmart a
squash-vine-borer moth is a
time-consuming effort and may not appeal
to every gardener.