For many backyard growers, community gardeners and urban farmers, growing the cucurbits can be a challenge. This vegetable (fruit?) family is affected by a large number of garden insects as well as both bacterial and fungal disease. There are a few tips and tricks that can be used to make sure some harvest makes it to the table or sales booth in 2019.
First thing to do is mind your pollinators. Cucurbits are commonly dependent on pollinators as they have separate male and female flowers. Once the flowers emerge, use of pesticides can damage pollinators and lead to decreased harvest.
Scouting is a very important part of the Integrated Pest Management strategy. I had not seen cucumber beetles in large numbers until the July 4th holiday weekend. Then I started to see them in moderate to large numbers on my summer squash.
My own plantings of winter squash, both Waltham Butternut and Buttercup, died over the last weekend in July while the summer squash persisted. Suspects include squash vine borer damage or bacterial wilt from cucumber beetles.
Squash bugs are another common pest of cucurbits that can be present in large numbers in plantings.
One great strategy to get a harvest of summer squash is to plant a summer planting now for a fall harvest. Many of the pests of cucurbits will be transitioning to their over-wintered habitat and become less of a problem in fall. If you want to learn how to do this there is a free class on Thursday August 8th at the Bronzeville Growers Market to assist the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer on What to Plant NOW for the Fall Garden.