We Were Soldiers is one of my favorite Mel Gibson movies. He plays Lt Colonel Hal Moore who fought an epic battle in the Ia Drang Valley during the Vietnam War. At one point, the enemy presses them on all sides and is about to over run them. Moore sees it all, stops and shouts “Broken Arrow!” This is a call for all available aircraft should converge and attack that area.
This is me, my squash and the squash bugs. I had to call it. Yesterday morning, feeling overrun, helpless, hopeless… Broken Arrow meant calling in Sevin Dust.
I always seem to get mid-season fatigue. So many things are ripening and we struggle to harvest, eat and store, and then to add compost and replant. Blight and pests develop and start to plague my plants Plus I have a job, a family and a life. On top of the fatigue come the squash bugs. They have killed so many of my squash plants in years past, and they are now infesting my squash again.
I knew they would be coming, and so inspected leaves, popped the adults between my fingers, and used duct tape to pull off the eggs and young beetles. But it has gotten to be too much. Too many squash vines, too many of the enemy, not enough time. I really felt like Moore, like I really was about to be overrun and to lose all my squash.
The Rusted Garden
I really wish I would have done some research prior to dusting. I saw the insects on the leaves, and so I dusted the leaves. Gary Pilarchik of the Rusted Garden gave some great advice for using Sevin dust in his video linked below.
My opinion is to be as organic as possible in the garden but not to the point you get frustrated and/or lose a crop. Sensible and methodical use of insecticides are a good option. Never dust or spray everything with insecticides or the like. Each application organic or non-organic should be done with care and purpose. Squash bugs are bad! – Gary Pilarchik
As I said in another post, I am in favor of using Sevin dust (or any other insecticide) judicially. I was very glad to hear Gary say this and to give his advice. What I learned from the video was:
- Just dust the base of the plant and some of the dirt. The bugs will walk through it and die, leaving the other areas of the plant safe for beneficial insects.
- I (unfortunately) dusted all the leaves, although a lot of the leaves were had bugs. Or thought would have bugs. I also notice that some of the mature bugs always seem to eat/kill the vines at the base of the plant, too. I noticed that last week, where the base vine looked really damaged and the leaves were wilting and dying. It makes perfect sense to protect this area.
- Gary doesn’t say it, but I believe he is doing this in a preemptive manner to keep the bugs away. My vines are already infected, so I think my used on the leaves may be justified.
- With my next wave of zucchini, I am going to use this technique.
- Grow zucchini/summer squash in a tomato cage to keep the leaves off the ground. This will limit access to the plant to the dusted base of the plant. Makes good sense, although I have seen those suckers fly!
- I have some cages and will try this in my next wave of zucchini.
- Another good reason to trellis my winter squash to keep it off the ground!
You can see below some of my zucchini with dead branches, and the dust on the leaves. In the foreground are the latest succession of squash. And in the background is some storm-swept corn plants.
The Winter Squash
This is what really terrified me. Below is my trellis that I set up, and the squash is growing quite nicely on it. This was taken July 13th.
Below was taken in the morning of July 21st. The butternut squash on the first trellis has already started to die. I really felt I had to take control quickly. I felt I was going to lose the whole crop.
Here is a better angle for the damaged squash.
One other thing: I think that I can do a better job visualizing and spacing my squash in the future so that I can dust the base of the plant. There are a lot of vines spreading out between the two trellises, so I am not sure how I would dust them other than direct application to the lead vine on the ground.
I don’t regret my action. I think I can be more preemptive in this application and keep it limited to the squash bug entry point. In keeping with the military metaphors, it is like the Spartans at Thermopylae!