We had such high hopes for a summer full of zucchini bread and stuffed squash. The plants looked so good and grew so fast. But then it all went to hell.
First, there was the blossom end rot. The baby squashes would start to grow, but then stop growing, start turning soft and brown at the end, and then shrivel and die.
After a few months, this problem started to clear up on its own, and we gathered some nice zucchinis and one ginormous yellow crookneck squash. And then, quite suddenly, the zucchini plant died. Just wilted completely overnight.
When I went to pull it up, I was revolted. It wasn’t just dead. It was as if it had rotted from the inside. The stem had just dissolved into a brown honeycomb of nastiness. I couldn’t imagine what could have caused the horror show.
But, as I had hoped, Amanda, my organic farmer friend, had the answer. It seems our plants were beset by the Squash Borer. This fun little guy is a caterpillar who feeds on squash stalks, eventually eating so much of the main stalk that the plant dies, but hopefully not before he eats enough to transform into a horrifying looking black moth with orange legs.
According to Wikipedia, the rotting honeycombed appearance of the stem is called frass. Frass is caterpillar feces. Yum! Also from Wikipedia, this pithy piece of squash borer wisdom: “Oftentimes frass on the stem of a squash plant is the first symptom of infestation. The second symptom follows soon – the death of the plant.”
One strategy for fighting the borer: “Some gardeners…use a stiff wire, a needle, or a toothpick to kill the borer without too much damage.”
I love the garden. I’d love to be a better gardener. And I love zucchini bread. But I’m going on record right now that I will not be out in the garden next summer trying to kill a giant pooping caterpillar with a toothpick.