Monthly Archives: May 2012

Zucchini Appears To Be Recovering From Squash Vine Borers

Several posts ago I showed a picture of a zucchini plant that was wilting probably because of the evil squash vine borer.  I have treated all sizeable summer squash plants numerous times with in-stem injections of BT.  These 2 zuchs look like they recovered enough and are trying to regrow.  They should have an excellent root structure to build on.  Look at those new leaves !  The old, dead yellow leaf stems are still visible.  (The white powder at the stem is diacatamous earth to try to cut down on the excessive pill bug population – it seems to be working).

zuch recovering from squash vine borer


another zuke survided the evil svb

What could have been, look at this beautiful zucchini. Absolutely wonderful. I don’t expect the damaged plants to attain such stature, but I do expect production out of them.  (You can see the 2nd above damaged plant off to the bottom right side, by the Marigold).

 beautiful zucchini plant

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Mysterious Varmint Cuts Down My Only Surviving Jimmy Nordello Heirloom Sweet Pepper

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was blind-sided by aphids this year destroying most of my pepper seedlings in the greenhouse when they were just an inch or 2.  This included most of my Jimmy peppers.  I had this one surviving seedling that, although stunted, managed to grow big enough to be planted out in the wilds of the garden.  It grew pretty good for a week or 2.  Then, today when I was looking at my garden I found it cut down!  Something snapped its 1/8″ stem and gnawed a few spots further up on the stem.

jimmy pepper cut

jimmy pepper cut down by mysterious varmint

I’m going to leave the stem in the ground and hope that it might regrow.  What would gnaw some of the stem covering off and then snap the fairly strong inner stem?

I had a half dozen pepper seeds left in the packet – I purchased these from Seed Savers  a couple of years ago.  I decided to plant them all because pepper seeds aren’t supposed to have great germination after a year or 2.  So far, 3 have sprouted.  It will be a couple of months before these new seedlings will be ready to plant in the garden, but I am hoping for a few good peppers so that I can save the seeds.

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Potatoes In A Pot Aren’t Doing Well

I planted 2 seed potatoes in this large pot.  They grew great for a month, I filled in the pot with soil and mulch as they grew taller.  Just recently – about the time the nearby tomatoes started turning yellow, these potatoes started to die back.  There isn’t a whole lot to them left.  The vines are light and scrawny, but haven’t noticeably turned yellow like the tomatoes.  Perhaps a different issue is afflicting the potatoes?

potatoes in a pot appear to be dying

The 8 seed potatoes that I planted in this ‘back’ garden – in the ground – are still nice and dark green and look healthy.  If you look to the very top right of the pic, you can see yellowed tomato leaves.  The sick toms are awfully close to the potatoes and I have to suspect that the tomato problem very well might be able to travel to the potato, and since potatoes and tomatoes are in the same family, the tomato problem might very well infect the potatoes.

potatoes planted in the ground


Potatoes aren’t a major focus for my garden; they are something that I want to ‘play’ with without putting a lot of effort and care into.  If I ever get a bigger place, then I will work on growing good potatoes.  Right now, something always gets them, as it did last year.

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Squash Vine Borer

I was walking along my squash row, looking at the plants as I walked along.  Then – there it was – a squash vine borer fly just there on the leaf.  I put my gloves on and picked it up – took it to the greenhouse and put it in a plastic zip bag.

This is the top side:

squash vine borer

This is its underside:

bottom side of a squash vine borer

I mixed up a fresh batch of BT worm killer and injected the stems of all of my decent sized summer squash.  The SVB is a moth and when I was trying to pick it up with my gloves, some of the glittery wing covering that moths have rubbed off on the leaves.

These evil little bugs have already claimed the lives of 2 of my large zucchini plants.  Constant vigilance is needed since it seems that they are a constant pest during the summer here in the hot south.

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The Tomato Virus Strikes Again

This year I planted a hybrid tomato that I purchased from Twilley Seed Co. I planted ‘Grandeur F1’. The catalog description of this tomato is: “Long yeilding with strong disease package, 8-9 oz fruit, large leaved, vigorous plant, produces 5-7 fruits per cluster. High resistance F1, N, St, TMV, V.”

(F= fusarium vilt race 1, N= root knot nematode, St = stemphylium/gray leaf spot, TMV = tobacco mosiac virus and V= verticulum wilt & races)

Sounds like these plants should have been able to withstand what I think is fusarium wilt.
closeup of yellowing
These are the 2 tomatoes planted on the west side of my greenhouse (toward the end of last year, two tomatoes planted in this spot seemed to show leaf yellowing):

tomatoes on west side of greenhouse

These 2 tomatoes are outside the greenhouse door, on the south side. The Amish Paste tomato that grew there last season had yellowing later in the season.  I’m leaving those castor sprouts because the tomatoes probably won’t last long and the castors will replace them in that spot.

tomatoes on south side of greenhouse

These 3 tomatoes are planted in the ‘back’ garden. Last year, the heirloom cherry tomatoes growing there also had yellowing.

tomatoes in back garden turning yellow

Some of these leaves have small brown spots and one branch has shriveled up:

closeup of tomato leaf yellowing

Some more yellowing leaves:

closeup of tomato leaf yellowing

This patch is just yellow – no brown spots:

tomato leaf yellowing closeup

From my online research, this appears to be fusarium or verticulum wilt.  I specifically grew hybrids that were supposed to be resistant to these viruses, however, this year my tomatoes seem to have picked up this problem extremely early.  It appears that no place in my garden is safe to plant tomatoes.  These wilts also affect cucurbits, legumes, sweet potatoes and a number of plants to a lesser degree.  I think that my watermelons may have had it last year.

From my studies, it seems that fusarium wilt can afflict potato, tomato, eggplant, and pepper.  I don’t think that I have ever seen these problems in any peppers, or egg plants that I grew last year.  I really don’t know for sure what the problem is.  I live in a rural county – I should give the county extension agency a call – I’m sure we have one – and see what they might have to say about it.  I’ll add that to my to-do list.

According to my research, these diseases normally occur during hot weather when there has been a significant amount of rain and humidity.  It is hot now and we have actually had a decent rainy spring.

It looks like most all of my soil is infected with these killer viruses.  Tomatoes are probably our main garden vegetable – we eat all we can and can the rest.  These canned tomatoes are the basis of many of our meals and soups throughout the year.  We simply must get long term production out of them before they die.  Time to move!! (not really).

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Hybrid Summer Squash Out-Performs Open Pollinated Varieties

I prefer to grow open pollinated/heirloom varieties of plants. (I get a thrill out of saving seeds). However, here in east Texas, the growing conditions are harsh during the summer. As a result, the past few years gardening has not been as productive as I would like. (And this includes fresh seeds from seed sellers).  Last fall, after talking with a road side vegetable vendor, I decided to go hybrid this season. The vendor recommended Twilley Seed of North Carolina. I purchased all of my tomato, summer and winter squash and melon seeds from them (plus other seeds also).

The last 2 growing summer seasons were a total disaster for my yellow summer squash. This was due to a wide variety of issues from armadillos to squash vine borers to the drought. Also, my heirloom yellow summer squash just didn’t ever seem to produce well. This, along with me watching those volunteer cantaloupe grow very strong and well in the garden – they had to be hybrid and although they were the seeds of hybrids, they grew exceptionally well and strong.  I figured that real h1 hybrid seeds should do exceptionally well.

I planted 2 varieties of hybrid zucchini: 8 Ball and Obsidian. I planted 2 varieties of yellow crook neck squash: Sunglo and Horn of Plenty. While it is quite obvious to tell the 2 zukes apart, I can’t tell the 2 yellows apart.

I am so utterly amazed and thrilled with how totally prolific these hybrids are. I never had this many baby fruit on my open pollinated squash. This yellow squash has 6 babies, in various stages of development.

Prolific hybrid summer squash

This zucchini is Obsidian. It has one ready to harvest zuch with buds for more.

obsidian hybrid zucchini

This beauty is an 8-Ball zucchini.

hybrid 8 ball zucchini

You will notice the leaf mulch I use. I have to mulch because otherwise the soil would dry out in a day. It is so hot and dry here. Also, the white powder you see around is diacatamous earth. It’s main purpose is get rid of the excessive number of pill bugs (which DO eat and destroy seedlings) and hopefully damage squash vine borers and their offspring.

This is my very first zucchini harvest of 2012:  (The 8 Balls are coming in at just a few ounces over a pound.  The Obsisian is just over half a pound.

first zucchini harvest of 2012

If I can fight off the squash vine borers and am allowed to water my garden, it should finally be a good squash year. Lord Willing!

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Seedlings on the west wall shelf.  These are mostly pepper plants and basil.  I started 72 basil plants this season because I plan on making my own pesto.  I am just planting the basil here and there in the garden, where ever I find some room.

These pics are actually about 3 weeks old by now.  I plan to get updates next week – things are growing so fast now that the temps have warmed up.

seedlings - west wall

Some more peppers and tomatoes.

seedlings on east side of gh

These are tarragon and sage seedlings.

tarragon and sage seedlings

These are basil seedlings in their starter tray.  I planted the entire tray – all 72 cells – with basil.  The larger, faster growing seedlings have already been transplanted to pots or to the outside garden.

basil seedlings in starter tray

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The Dreaded, Evil Squash Vine Borer?

Always on the lookout for signs of the evil squash vine borer, I think that I found a sign today.  This 8 Ball zucchini was wilting in the middle of the day and the other squashes were fine.

Wilting 8 ball zuch

(Sorry for the blurry pic.)

So, I went on the offensive.  I got out my BT worm killer and mixed up about half a cup. I use 10cc of BT mixed with 4 oz of water – I mix it in an old 8 oz water bottle so that it is easy to measure, just fill it up half way with water. Also, this is enough of the mix to do the job for a few days.

I use a syringe, a 1″, 22 gauge needle – the fattest and shortest needle I could find – to inject the BT into the base of the squash stem.  I inject in 2 places along the first 4 or so inches of the stem.   If the needle gets plugged with stem material, just push down on the plunger until it clears the needle.  I hadn’t noticed any of the wet sawdust looking stuff the borers push out of their hole, but when I squirted the BT into some of the stems, it did squirt out of the bottom of the stem. I went ahead and injected all of the sizeable summer squash plants as a preventative. It does no harm if there are no borers. I will re-treat maybe a couple of times a week unless I see problems and need to take stronger action.

This zuke perked up in the evening shade. The smaller center leaves never wilted, so hopefully I treated the plant in time. These hybrid 8 Ball zukes are the strongest squash plants that I currently have growing. They sprout faster and grow faster and larger than the Obsidian zuke and the 2 yellow squash types that I have also planted.

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Something Cut Down My Only Santa Fe Grande Pepper

As I mentioned in a previous post, aphids got a hold of my pepper seedlings this spring and essentially destroyed them, all 72 seedlings that I start.  Very few of the seedlings survived and grew enough for me to transplant them into the garden.  I only had one Santa Fe Grande pepper seedling survive and thrive enough to make it into the garden.  A couple of days after I transplanted it outside, this is what I found:

santa fe grande seedling cut down

I have no idea what does this damage. I don’t know if it would be a cutworm? The stem of this seedling was cut in 2 places, one near the ground and one about 4″ up the stem from the lower cut.  I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come – every day another plant cut down.  Most of my peppers, however, are way too large to be cut like this.

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Cactus Flowers

This cactus that I keep in the greenhouse shot up 2 flowers the day after I gave all of my cactus a good watering.  I almost missed them – I didn’t have a chance to go out to the greenhouse until that afternoon.  The flowers were in full bloom with a multitude of yellow dots in the middle.  By the time I got around to getting my camera and taking this pic, they were already closing.  I put the plant outside to maybe a bee could get to the flowers.

cactus flowering

I do grow cactus from seeds, but it is so much easier to grow them from cuttings.  When I get around to it, I pick off a few of the baby cactus bulbs and root them in perilite, then plant them in miniature clay pots in the greenhouse.

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