This summer has been brutal. But I am not complaining; just making an observation. It is brutal not just because of the heat, but because of how prevalent the pests are this year, That mild winter in 2019/2020 did us no favors. On Thursday of last week I noticed one of my zucchini plants was looking sickly as well as a cucumber. My friend and colleague JuliaLynne Walker over at the Bronzeville Agricademy had put a call out to be aware of squash beetles and boy was she right!  Last night the zucchini I had noticed was sickly was dead and I saw a squash beetle. I promptly cut a hole in the burlap mulch, buried a jar filled with soapy water next to the diseased plant and covered it with a board. Then I watered the board and the ground around it real well. The beetles love the damp wetness at night.

The next morning (AKA today) I went our with Neem oil and alcohol in spray bottles. Alcohol paralyzes them, Neem oil kills their eggs. There were a lot of beetles in the jar already. I cut the diseased leaves and removed the dead plant completely. Then I burned all of it. I counted 15 beetles on those leaves in the fire. I went all Khalesi and the dragon on them. I will go back tomorrow and check under that board again. I expect to find more. I also sprinkled diatomaceous earth all over the burlap mulch around the squash and cucumber. This will help control future outbreaks.

An entire zucchini plant had to be destroyed. Sprayed with Neem and captured beetles with soapy water. Jim Bruner | Mezzacello
Remove all diseased leaves and burn in a brazier. The potash can be recycled. Jim Bruner | Mezzacello
An unopened virgin toy sacrifice to the squash bug gods. Jim Bruner | Mezzacello

Next year when I plant squash or cucumbers, I will not plant next to a fence. I grow them on trellises to make harvesting easier. It works well with cucumbers and vining squashes like butternut, but not zucchini and yellow squash. I thought they would like climbing the trellis and having the fence as a backup for climbing. Really it was a bad idea because I backed myself into a corner with vining squashes because the whole back side of the plant was out of sight and air circulation was diminished. Lesson learned. Please share your strategies for growing healthy squash and cucumbers!

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