Sunday, August 7, 2011

Potato Harvest and Squash Vine Borer Damage

There are good things and bad things happening in the garden. I harvested my crop of potatoes two days ago and stored most of them in a dark room in the cellar in layers in bushel baskets. I think I could have waited a few more weeks to harvest them. The leaves were beginning to yellow quite a bit but they were not close to being completely dried out. But I was looking for space in the garden to start some more pole beans since the ones planted earlier seem to be in decline. Whether this is from the hot weather and lack of rain or from a groundhog that might have been chewing on their stems I don't know. [The soy beans right next to them are pretty much gone - apparently a groundhog favorite. ] After I finished the harvest I read that one way to harvest potatoes is to cut off the plants and leave the tubers in the soil for a couple of weeks before harvesting them.

I have been looking for evidence of squash vine borers for several weeks. For the past several years the only evidence has been suddenly dying plants with the stems nearly chewed apart. I had never seen the squash vine borer. I noticed two days ago that one of my squash plants clearly had been infected and was finished. I pulled out the plant and then dissected the stem where it was clear something had gotten into it. I saw the first borer, followed, as the dissection proceeded, by eight others. In the photo there are three visible - one trying to crawl out of the picture, another just a little above my finger nail, and the third farther back. Today I checked my two other older squash plants. Both had holes in their stems and borers inside. I did my best to scrape the borers out - I only actually saw one in each stem - and the put the stems back together and covered them with soil. I expect one will not survive because I cut out a fairly large section of that part of the stem and that leaves only a small passageway for water to get to the leaves. The other one may survive, although I don't know how many borers I left inside.
One thing I did note is that the borers entered above the cheesecloth that I had wrapped around the stems when the plants were small. One obvious effort to make next year (and the rest of this year) is to keep wrapping cheese cloth around the stems as they grow. I know that one suggestion often made is to grow the plants under row cover material so that the insect that lays the eggs that become the borers can't reach the plant. But then the material has to be removed when the plant begins to flower and it seems to me that the borers come after that. Fortunately I have three other squash plants started, one of which is already producing. We won't lack for squash. This year we have either had a lot of squash at once, or none. Next year I would like to try starting squash plants at three week intervals to even out the harvest and, hopefully, limit the damage from borers.

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