Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It Was Bound to Happen

Every year like clockwork in July, the borers come. I saw one earlier this year but caught it in a fish net and killed it. Yes a fish net. I don't have a butterfly net and this was left over from my water gardening days. Hey it worked. Anyway that borer left no eggs behind. I was lucky. My luck has run out.

I lifted up the row cover on my pumpkins to pick the male blossoms for lunch. Yes that row cover that was supposed to keep the borers out, kept one in. One of the pumpkin vines had lifted up the row cover and the borer very happily walked right in. I actually have two vines. One of which is not growing very fast. I decided I only had time to try to save one, so riped up the little one. I checked the plant over. Maybe the borer hadn't laid any eggs.

All along the main stem at every leaf node was an egg. Whimper. A single borer can lay over a hundred eggs and she got right to the main part of the plant. I tried to find borer eggs on the vine that was left, but couldn't. They like to lay the eggs underneath and picking up the stem might break it. In addition it is starting to root at every leaf node, so I really don't want to rip it out of the ground. Those extra roots may save its life later. I must have looked silly with my butt in the air and face to the ground trying to peer under the pumpkin vine. I didn't see any. Maybe the borer follows the vine of one plant as she lays her eggs. I'm hoping. I'm also going to keep that row cover tighter to the ground. But if they do follow the vine laying eggs then likely I'll find another trapped in there later. My only consolation is that if they are trapped in there I get to have my revenge on them.

I will keep a close eye on the vine in a week. They take a week or two to hatch. If I find them I'll dig them out of the vine and destroy them. Then patch the vine back up with some old rags.

And what did I do with the vine I pulled out that is infected? Well people tell you to burn them. I don't have a good place to burn them anymore. Some years I put them in the trash. Today I finished constructing a compost pile. I buried the vine in the center where it will get to about 160 degrees. In about 5 days or so I'll turn it again and make sure it ends up in the middle. I'll keep the pile hot. I'm hoping it kills the eggs. At the very least its food source will be decomposed so it will have nothing to eat.

The good news is that the second seeding of my cucumber and zucchini has germinated. They will be kept totally under a row cover until the borers are gone in August. I was a little worried about my cucumbers. There were only 15 seeds in the packet when I bought them and there were only 6 left for this sowing. I put them a foot apart, two seeds to growing spot. If they had elected not to germinate I would be out of luck with cucumbers. But five of them germinated and I'll cut the weaker of the two extra out later.

Things to remember for next year: only grow borer resistant squash (butternut and resistant zucchini), don't give in to pumpkins - too much angst; buy a larger packet of cucumber seed.


  1. Oh Dear -Eating the male parts of pumpkins! And catching borers in a fish net. I caught a 13 pound salmon - I will have it smoked and eat it with lots of dill!

  2. What a battle! Would neem oil or anything else kill the eggs?

  3. I confess. I must have black widow in me. I used the male part of the pumpkin to fertilize the female zucchini since there were no male blossoms on my summer squash at the time. Then I ate the rest of it. But I really don't think it is something I have against males. The borer was female. I'm quite sure of that.

    Yumm smoked salmon and dill. Now you only need cucumbers -- and a bagel and maybe a slice of tomato.

    I'm not sure if neem oil would work or not. I've never used anything toxic to bees in my garden. Soap is about as toxic as I've gotten (and rarely). I usually just hand pick things, but the little borer eggs are so hard to find. I will probably just wait and see. If I lose it then well no pumpkins this year. I can live with that. My kids will be disappointed however. For next year I may plant Neck Pumpkin, which is a butternut squash that is supposed to be really good in pies. That ought to appease them.