My vegetable garden is going to hell in a hand basket. Well, not the whole garden, but the two beds in which I planted a delicata and a butternut squash vine respectively. The vines have fallen prey to that arch-enemy of cucurbits, the squash bug.
I have been growing vegetables off and on since 1975, and this is the first time I\’ve had a problem with bugs. Sure, there were always a few Japanese beetles nibbling at the bean leaves, and cabbage butterflies laying eggs that would hatch into gray-green caterpillars in the broccoli, and slugs making holes in the lettuce. But I\’ve never had bugs come anywhere near killing a plant.
The squash bugs have. Their first victim was the splendid delicata vine, which bore seven beautiful green-striped squashes and a dozen flowers promising more. One day I noticed a bunch of odd-looking orange-colored eggs on top of a leaf. The next time I looked, there were thousands of gray bugs of all different sizes hanging like bunches of grapes from the stems, the leaves, the fruit. In a week, the plant was dead.
I picked the seven squashes, which hadn\’t quite reached maturity, roasted and pureed them and put them in the freezer.
Having sucked all the nourishment out of the delicata vine, the bugs have now assaulted the butternut plant. It is full of glorious big squashes that are nowhere near ripe. I doubt that the vine will survive long enough for them to mature.
Short of blasting them with heavy-duty insecticides, there is not much you can do about squash bugs other than pick them by hand. I could spend the rest of the summer doing just that, but I would have to stop writing, drawing, reading, cooking, and living to dedicate myself exclusively to squashing squash bugs.
I thought that if I lived right and used plenty of compost, my vegetables would be invulnerable to pests and disease. But it turns out that in gardening, as in the rest of life, being righteous is no guarantee of anything. If there is any justice in the universe, when good gardeners die we will be given allotment plots in heaven where we can spend eternity growing organic veggies free from the scourges of mildew, bugs, drought, and untimely frosts.