Our beautiful squash plants have been stressed the last few weeks…too much sun and heat caused them to wilt terribly and a few of the young fruit got scalded and died. They looked to recover fairly nicely in the evenings until a few days ago, at which point they started to stay wilted overnight and the leaves had a yellowish cast.
Befuddled I thought perhaps in our attempts to keep them hydrated throughout the heat of the day we had actually succeeded in over watering. Keeping a careful eye on them I continued to water deeply in the mornings, covering them during the heat of the day with a shade cloth I had erected, and checking them nightly to see how they were doing. To my horror they were dying.
It was only after my mother closely inspected the plants that the true culprits were revealed. Ants. The horrible pests were drilling holes in my precious squash stalks and eating the poor plants from the inside out!
My dislike of ants began before I could walk when I was mistakenly placed on an ant hill as a young child and was, I can only imagine, traumatized for life as a result. To this day I squish ants whenever possible.
But I digress! This post is about my garden, not my psychology. It turns out, upon further research, ants have been known to eat squash plants of all varieties, especially if said plant is already stressed. Luckily there is a very reliable and totally organic solution to the problem. Diatomaceous earth. Composed primarily of silica, the fine granules basically dehydrate the ants to death. The stuff washes away with water, so several applications will be necessary, but I am hopeful that it will do the trick and get rid of the horrible little crawling things.
I am also hopeful that the majority of the squash plants will recover. There have been two fatalities so far, but the remaining plants seem to be struggling on, flowering a bit even and looking less wilted today than they did even yesterday before the first application. I am really depending on those sugar pumpkins so as to make pies this holiday season!
This is merely the most recent issue in a string of gardening mistakes this year – such as planting potatoes next to raspberry, or tomatoes next to corn…resulting in the death of said raspberries and the severe stunting of said corn. All in all the garden this year has been a learning experience and I will be sure, in the future, to do more research before sewing those seeds!
Happy eating and gardening!