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Master Gardener

Sun, Jun 25th, 2000
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Stop Squash Vine Borers before They Start

This pest causes rapid wilting of pumpkins, summer and winter squash. When watering does not revive wilted plants, suspect squash vine borer. The adult borers emerge from the soil in late June or early July. Watch for a small (1/2") moth with an orange and black striped abdomen and metallic green and clear wings. They look like wasps when they fly. They lay their eggs at the base of the vine and upon hatching larvae will bore into stems to feed for four to six weeks. This is when you will see rapid wilting of the vines as water is cut off to the plant. You can also spot their entrance holes at the base of the plant; there may also be a moist greenish or orange sawdust-like material. Over time the base of the plant may become mushy or rot away. Squash vine borers are difficult to prevent but one way to detect the adult wasps is by setting out yellow colored dishes of water in the garden. The adults will think they are squash blossoms and fly into them and drown. Once you have seen them, use floating row covers for about two weeks to prevent them from laying eggs on your plants. Always remove row covers when flowering begins or you will delay pollination and fruiting. If you discover plants already infested with borers, you can carefully slice into the vine until you find them and kill them with the tip of a knife or wire. Cover the sliced stem with soil and keep moist. If it re-roots, the plants may survive. In the larvae stage they look like grub worms, white or cream colored with brown heads. If left to feed on your plants, larvae will feed, and then move to the soil where they spin cocoons and over-winter underground to re-emerge for another year of feasting in your garden. Be sure to remove all vines from the garden and turn over the soil in the fall, giving birds a tasty treat.

Watch Out for Wild Parsnip

Wild Parsnip, Pastinacea sativa, is a member of the carrot family. Its fernlike foliage and small yellow umbrella type flowers can be seen gracing almost every sunny roadside in Fillmore County. Innocent looking, contact with this plant can leave one with a painful rash that can sometimes take a year to heal. Contact with this plant is especially dangerous on sunny days and if skin is moist or sweaty. The rash can be a raised blistering, painful, itching, oozing thing that makes poison ivy look like a walk in the park. (Oh, did I mention the scarring?) Reports are that one neighbor was hospitalized due to an extreme allergic reaction. Whats being done about it? The Fillmore County Highway Dept. is currently testing methods of spraying, burning and mowing to control the spread of this rampant weed. Interestingly, it is not currently listed as a noxious weed, up there with the Eurasian Milfoil of the lakes region or the lovely Purple Loosestrife of the wetlands or the Kudzu vine thats taking over the south. In the meantime please avoid contact with this plant.

Next week: Apple Maggots and Renovating Your Strawberries

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