Monday, August 19, 2013

Intruders!

Emergency surgery was at once performed.

The few pumpkins we had growing seemed to suddenly stop compared to the fast growth we recently experienced. Wilted leaves and rotten-like stems reaching out of the soil sparked curiosity and aroused suspicion.

One was worse than the other. The entire stem 24 to 36 inches up was rotten with an orange-ish wet, saw dust-looking build-up permeating the rot. 

I looked closely at the healthier of the two pumpkin plants. A wide hole in the vine-like stem gave proof to an intruder of some sort. Every new set of leaves up, a hole with an orange-ish excrement protruding out of it gave sight to something definitely living inside. They both were infected.
 
At first glance into the encyclopedia of gardening, I soon arrived on a page looking at a squash vine borer.  It’s an ugly white worm with a black spot for a head, growing up to an inch long. They come from the larvae of red and black clearwing moths, and feed inside the stems of squashes, cucumbers, and melons causing the leaves to wilt and slowly die.

The only way to control them is to slice the stem around the entry holes and physically remove them. And that’s what we did.

I sliced the stem of the healthier pumpkin with my rusty Smith and Wesson used for opening bags of salt in the winter. Figured this would be a dirty job. Starting at the base of the plant, I sliced up until the first hole. Baby slugs appeared in the stem rot first. As I sliced deeper near the hole, millipedes ran out and hid in the surrounding dead grass.
 
Then I saw the first one. Pulsating ripples of fat white slime contained by a thin wet film of something similar to what’s covering the very outside of a slim jim, except more alien-like, made  the shape of a one inch squash vine borer feasting out on our pumpkin plant like it wasn’t anybody’s business.

And when I attempted to pull him out with the knife he was not willing to let go so easily. But out he came. Then another. Then another.

Then another.

Some holes even had two fat ones feasting out together. The sawdust-like material had to be scraped out and removed too. When looked at closely, I could see microscopic baby worms living inside.
 
The whole process took an hour. We sliced a few feet of the pumpkin stems going up until no more holes existed. Afterwards, we taped the stem with some black guerilla tape and buried any stem on the ground.

After a few days the one pumpkin died. It left us a green pumpkin about 4 to 5 inches in diameter which we lifted and placed on the fence line to brighten up in the sun.

The healthier of the two survived. It let us know it’s doing well just yesterday, when the weight of the larger pumpkin ripped the vine off the fence top, bringing the pumpkin to the ground where it will finish ripening. Another pumpkin is starting as the vine continues to stretch.
 
The garden is calling out to us each evening. Looking at all the different insect species is probably just as dazzling as the astral lights. Small harvests have been coming every couple of days, but what I’m most grateful for is the time I get to spend in the garden. Even when the garden stops me from what I “need” to be doing in order to perform emergency operations.

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