An Ailing Zucchini Plant - Already?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I've planted several types of cucurbitaceae in the back part of the plot this year. (And boy, do I feel like Hermione for just having uttered the word cucurbitaceae.) This includes cucumbers, crookneck squash, one of my butternut squash plants that is still hanging on after the initial shock of being set outside, and one zucchini plant. Out of all of these, the zucchini plant has been doing the best. It's been growing fast and already has quite a few buds at its center. My mouth begins to water at the thought having the chance to try fried squash blossoms.

But I get ahead of myself sometimes. My excitement for a plateful of crispy fried squash blossoms was indefinitely squelched when I went out to the plot on Saturday and found that the leaves of my zucchini plant had started turning yellow.

Initially I thought this might be caused by a nutrient deficiency, but then I remembered reading about the squash vine borer -- the larva of a moth that can bore into the stem of zucchini and cause the entire plant to wilt and die. So much for squash blossoms.

So I inspected the stem and found that it indeed was damaged. It was split open and looked as if it had nearly dried up. I am not sure how the plant is even surviving at this point.

But I saw no sign of any insect larvae, and the plant is not wilting, so I don't think this is a case of squash vine borer. My theory is that the plant simply became too top-heavy with leaves and caused the stem to snap open. Could this be the case? And more importantly, can the plant survive on such a thin lifeline to the soil? I wish I had a Hermione here to tell me the answer.

I decided to leave the plant in for now and see how it goes. I have a sinking feeling that I just need to start all over, though, and so I planted two more seeds. There is still enough time in the season to grow those desired squash blossoms, not to mention the zucchini itself. At least I hope so.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awwww, that stinks! If it was me, and mind you, I'm no expert at all! I'd be getting out the duct tape or the electrical tape and taping that thing back together. What can it hurt?

10:09 AM  
Blogger Molly said...

bummer. It's amazing how plants can continue to survive with only the most tenuous connection to their roots. Try heaping the soil up around the base of the plant--it may put down new roots from the top. Good idea to plant more seeds though. I know from experience how humiliating it is to have to beg for zucchini. I had zucc crop failure two years running and the patronizing looks from fellow gardeners as they handed me a shopping bag full of their surplus was more than I could bear. (poor thing, she can't even grow zucchini!) I ended up buying mine at the farmers market.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Major bummer. Good thing summer squash grows like gangbusters...

I just posted my first zucchini flower of the season and I was also thinking about fried squash blossoms this morning - stuffed with cheese and maybe a little cumin and chile powder - oh yum.

Sending anti-pest thoughts your way.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Erica Tesla said...

You know, I have something similar going on with my cucumbers - the stems are whitish and looked ailing for awhile. I left them alone, though, figuring I'd either under- or over-watered (my mom's killed cucurbitaceae both ways, actually), and let them go with whatever came from the sky. It paid off - I have my first flowers on the cucumber plants I left alone, and one little prickly cucumber on its way. (This is my first garden, so naturally, very exciting times.)

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My pumpkins are doing the same thing! My transplants were not very big, but after I had planted them, the leaves were growing nicely and the stem was drying up. I pulled most of them out and planted more seeds. (left one just to see what happens) I'd herd that cucurbitaceae don't transplant well, so I thought maybe that was the reason. My new pumpkins are sprouting now, so hopefully they will do better.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Muum said...

Hope your zucchini survives. Zucchini is either 'too much' or 'too little' in my experience. It isn't a very moderate type veggie. keep us posted!

7:19 PM  
Blogger Sparow said...

In my experience, Zucchini stems split very easily with the weight of the leaves. If I were you, I'd heap a lot of good-quality, moist soil over the split part! Good luck!!!

8:20 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Man, that is very, very frustrating, and I haven't the slightest idea of what to do for it. I can see why you would wish a spell of "unfictionality" for Hermione.

I like both the duct tape and mounded dirt solutions. The duct tape could provide support, while the mounded dirt could provide a new opportunity for roots. Good luck in the plant healing!

12:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My zukes are doing ok so far but I've yet to plant out the butternut squashes - weather turned a tad cool here so I'll wait a week or so.

6:33 AM  
Blogger kate said...

I wish I knew what the problem was ... a true gardening mystery. I'd love to know since I have planted my first veggie garden this year.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't worry - if you decide to stick a few more seeds in the ground, you'll still have zucchini. Here in Minnesota we're just now planting all the summer seeds, and we still manage to have too many zukes by August!

10:42 AM  
Blogger Meg said...

Too bad! How's it doing now?

I agree with the reassurances that others have given about starting anew -- if you already put in new seeds, they'll catch up soon enough. However, I don't think I'd go the route of mounding up or burying the stem, if only because squash can be so succeptible to rot/mildew problems due to moisture. I don't think it will put out new roots like a tomato plant.

If I knew why the stem was cracking like that, I'd definitely share ... it's happening to one of my own zucchinis, and it sucks!

3:07 PM  
Blogger Christa said...

Aw, thanks, everyone, for your sympathy and suggestions. I would certainly feel embarrassed if I couldn't grow zucchini -- the one vegetable so many gardeners seem to end up with too much of.

I love the duct tape idea!

I'll keep you posted...

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have crookneck squash in Annapolis with exactly the same problem - yellowing spots on the leaves. I've been checking online. Could this be mosaic virus?

10:04 PM  
Blogger Ed Bruske said...

Tape it and stake it, Christa. It can survive, but it has lost some of its vascular system, and the split is an entry point for disease. Therefore I would not mound soil over the split part.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Christa said...

Mosaic virus? That's one I haven't heard of before. I'll have to find out what that is.

I decided to tape the stem. Hopefully that will prevent further splitting.

7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I asked a Master Gardener at the Annapolis farmers' market today. She said it most likely IS the SVB and that the best thing to do is to plant more seeds to replace the infected vines. She said that everyone has them in MD (and I'm assuming D.C.), and that with succession plantings you will (eventually) get a crop. I'm off to do this, and to bury the vine in several spots hoping to encourage more roots, so we'll see. Other things that people do, which she said she'd tried (unsuccessfully) were, wrapping the stem, wiping the stems daily to wipe off the eggs, slitting the stem at the place where hole was and physically removing the larvae, burying the stem in several spots to encourage new roots, and butterfly nets early in the season to capture the SVB moth. Please let us know how you fare with this, thanks.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I am in Oklahoma and have this same issue on almost all of my yellow and zucc. squash. I have only lost one plant though, the rest are doing quite well so far. I had SVB attack last year, and its much different (the stem is wet and chewed up). You will also note that every one says to "split the vine to get the larvae out." Well, in this case its wide open already and there is no borer! I wonder if it has something to do with all the rain we are getting? I have read that the vines will root and have been covering with soil from the beginning with no harm. I have also read that you can bury the vine in several spots to promote new roots, provided they grow long enough before they die. Tape won't work as these are split wide open and dry.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I've tried fixing my broken stems by splinting them with tongue depressors and duck tape. seemed to have helped. good luck.

8:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a squash thing I can't figure out. My zucchini and summer squash plants look very healthy and are covered in blossoms, but each morning I go out and find something has chewed blossoms right off the stems. They almost look like they were cut with scissors, it's so neat and tidy. I am new at gardening and have heard of something called cutworms. Is this what they do?

9:17 AM  
Blogger Christa said...

Hi, Owings,
I'm not sure if that would be caused by cutworms. I think cutworms usually cut the stem at the base of a plant, not the flower. I noticed that some of my early squash flowers fell off the plant very easily. The slightest touch and they would drop off. I don't know what caused it.

9:34 PM  
Blogger anna said...

my zucchini leaves are yellow but the stems are fine...viirus???
also, something is nibbling my eggplant leaves, again, stems are fine.

peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers thriving


5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is my first time planting Zucchini and I had to transplant it and it ended up getting bigger then I thought(in my flower bed until I had dirt ready to transplant it) anyways it seems to have perked up, and it blooming lots but the flowers seem to keep falling off and leaving just stems straight across, is this normal. I have seen some ants in one of the flowers and I got out the ant killer could the ants be the problem?

11:05 PM  
Blogger Carolanne said...

First time I've ever had a problem with growing zucchini. Bloom fine then they get about 2 inches long, dry up rot and fall off. What am I doing to cause this or better yet how do I fix it?

1:19 PM  
Anonymous amber n said...

The flowers falling off the zukes is natural. the plants have both male and female flowers. the female make the fruit. Also male flowers are usually the first to bloom so dont worry :)

6:03 PM  
Anonymous amber n said...

but i have a other problems with my zukes. the leaves turn yellow and die after they have been growing for a week. the new growth is fine. i was wondering if maybe they get too much sun and heat? i live in texas and its pretty warm already.

6:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My zucc plants seem to be healthy, they have good blossoms but the leaves are turning yellow and drying up about a week after they blossom. Any suggestions on why this happening and what I can do?

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Kari said...

I just found your post about the zucchini vines that split after googling because I am having the same problem. This is my first garden and I put my zucchini seedlings out about 10 days ago. They were growing like gangbusters and then I noticed the vines splitting near the base and now the leaves are turning yellow on one plant.

Just wondering if you ever figured out what caused it with your plants? I mounded some dirt on top of them where the vine is splitting like some of the responses suggested. Did you try that and did it work? Thanks!:)

2:47 PM  

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