Monthly Archives: July 2014

Another Look At What I Consider A Failed Squash Season

An analysis of my first summer squash planting.  (I plan to replant by the end of July – we have 2 planting seasons here, although with this global cooling of the past few years, the cold weather gets here sooner in the fall than it used to ).

I am very disappointed with the plants and their production.  Something got the garden this year and I strongly suspect Dow Agriscience and their poison aminopyralid had something to do with it.  The heirloom Rattlesnake Pole Beans also totally failed – all 3 successive plantings.  The peppers failed.  I have a dozen or so heirloom pepper varieties that I have replanted for years.  This year, however, the pepper plants were deformed and never grew properly.  I don’t trust any of the very few peppers that have been produced.  Most of the few fruit shrivels long before the fruit matures.  I am going to have to buy new heirloom pepper seeds and Rattlesnake Pole beans this fall from Southern Exposure, Baker Creek and maybe Seed Savers.

The squash just didn’t do either.  At the very first of the season, most of the plants initially grew wonderfully.  Then they started to die.  The plants just died almost overnight long before producing anything but a few male blossoms.  Often times the leaves quickly yellowed and the plant then dies.  Some plants just flopped over in a day – but careful examination of the plants did NOT show any sign of squash vine borers, so something else killed them.

Some of the butternut squash plantings are developing yellow spots that precede death.

Here are some pictures of the death and destruction.

Here, the base of 6 Waltham Butternut squash plants are dying – starting at the base of the stem and dying along the vine.  About 6 or so feet along the right vine, the leaves are starting to develop those yellow spots.  The vines that have grown to the left and around the base of the raised bed are rooting into the ground so hopefully the fruit set on those vines will mature although the base of the plant is dying.

the base of these waltham butternut squash vines are dying

After seemingly growing well for a while, many of the summer squash are developing light green spots on their leaves.  These plants quickly dye after the leaves finish turning yellow.
light green spots developing on squash leaves

More summer squash baby leaves turning yellow, away from the veins.  This quickly spreads to the entire plant and it dies.  I have kept my evil squash bugs to a minimum so they are not a problem (although I hate them and can’t tolerate even one bug or nymph or eggs on the leaves) and I don’t think they have transmitted any disease to the squash.  It’s got to be something else, but what?  I recently spread organic fertilizer all over the beds – but the plants were already deteriorating before that – and the beans and peppers were already damaged before the fertilizer application.

light green spots on waltham butternut squash leaves

These are hybrid butternut squash (these seeds grew fine last year).  After growing well for a while, they are developing yellow spots.  These yellow spots spread and turn more yellow, then those spots turn brown and a hole appears as the leaf dies.
spots on butternut squash leaves

Many of the baby squash are molding.  They have been pollinated – bees are all over in the early morning, and I like to hand pollinate all blossoms I find each day.  For some reason, the fruit is no longer reaching maturity – lots of baby fruit is dying even before the blossom even opens for pollination.  Early in the season, the fruit was reaching maturity.  Is there a delayed reaction to aminopyralid?  There has been no other herbicide usage on my property.  We are way out and far away from any neighbors and surrounded by 60′ trees, so I don’t think any herbicide drifted in from anywhere.
baby fruit is dying on zucchini and squash plants

Some more yellow leaf spots on Waltham Butternut squash in another area of the garden.  It seems that this if affecting mainly the butternut squash varieties.  This vine is growing on the ground and has rooted along the vine.
yellow spotson butternut squash leaves

More hybrid butternut winter squash.  So many of these plants are developing these spots.  The yellow spots spread, turn whiter, then brown that turns into holes then the leaf dies.  This seems to start at the base of the plant and spreads along the stem quickly.  I have a document from Dow Agroscience that talks about the 3 day rule and it specifically mentions fields that will be planted with cucurbits (squash).  This tells me that that poison does affect cucurbits to some extent.  I have to think that this very odd damage to my squash is somehow related to that poison that has been let loose.   I have never
yellow spots o butternut leaves

This leaf has what I believe to be spider mite damage.  I see tiny blackish spots on the bottom of the leaf and believe that it is spider mites.  Some of these leaves also have a small black hopping bug on their top.  I think it is some sort of plat-sucking bug.
white spots on squash leaves

The leaf on the upper left – below –  has a bit of powdery mildew on it.  The past few weeks, powdery mildew hasn’t spread fast because it has been so hot and dry.  I have been spraying affected leaves with Neem oil and it seems to hold the powdery mildew down.  The leaf in the bottom middle has what looks to be spider mite damage.
problematic squash leaves

I just don’t know what to think.  This bed was planted with about 50 squash plants, half a dozen varieties including both zucchini and yellow summer squash.  The plants all started out very nicely, but then started dying quickly.  When they were growing well, they were starting to produce nice zucchini – the yellow summer squash never really made it.  As you can see, there aren’t many squash plants left and these plants just aren’t producing any fruit.  I just don’t understand.  Last year when my beds were only half full, and full of sandy ‘top soil’ at that, my plants did very well – much better than they have done since I filled the other 6″ of bed with that composted horse manure.
dying squash

I have planted basil seedlings in the open areas.  I’ll let them grow for a while until I pull everything up and plant a second round of summer plants.  If you can make it out,  in several of the top beds in the pic, you can see the scrawny, half alive pepper plants – by this time they should all be full and bushy with lots of peppers – didn’t happen.

Articles that I have read about the poison aminopyralid, a test is mentioned whereby pea or bean plants are planted in samples of suspected soil.  If the seedlings grow fine, all is well, but if the seedlings show problems, then Dow’s poison is still at work.  I think I’ll plant bean seeds around the garden and see how they fare.  Haven’t heard back lately from the Dow rep who contacted me – they are supposed to stop by and look at the destruction and see if they lay claim to any of the damage.

Puzzled and upset . . . . . . . .

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