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Squish these insect eggs before they hatch and damage your squash plants

A lush squash plant full of green leaves with a large yellow blossom in the center.
lbrix/Getty Images/iStockphoto
The adult squash bugs are laying eggs now on undersides of squash plant leaves. Before they hatch, squish them to save your plants.

Squash bugs and squash vine borers can really make a mess of your pumpkins, winter squash, summer squash and zucchini.

You may notice squash bugs around your plants - squash bugs are gray and look similar to stink bugs. But even more noticeable are the copper-colored eggs they lay on the underside of leaves.

It may not seem like these insects are doing much damage now, but if left unchecked, by August, they can overrun your squash patch.

The most effective control measure is to add another morning garden task to your list. And one technique uses that trusty bowl of soapy water.

Each morning, head out to your garden, flip over the squash plant leaves and then squish or cut the egg clusters off the plant.

Another method to try is to place wooden boards around the plants. In the evening, the adult squash bugs will go under the boards to spend the night.

Love tomatoes? Learn how to care for the plants in this episode of All Things Gardening: Tamp down your tomato blight anxiety by learning to mulch, pinch and prune.

In the morning, flip the boards over, grab the bugs and drop them into a bowl of soapy water.

Controlling the squash vine borer is a bit more complex. This insect is a day-flying moth with orange coloring on its back. It also looks a bit like a moth-wasp hybrid.

The squash vine borer adult is laying eggs right now. They lay them in the base of any squash, zucchini, pumpkins and several types of gourds.

The borer won't lay it's eggs on cantaloupes, watermelons and cucumbers. And butternut squash are resistant to this pest.

After the borers lay their eggs, they hatch into little caterpillars. They crawl into the stem and tunnel out, eventually killing that stem. And if you have a lot of squash vine borers, they'll kill the whole plant.

The keys to preventing this from befalling your squash plants is to add a floating row cover to keep the insects out. Denying them access from your plants from the get-go means they can't lay their eggs on them.

If the borers have already laid eggs on your squash plant leaves and caterpillars are present on the stems, take a knife and slit the stem and pull the caterpillars out.

The tried-and-true bowl of soapy water works in this instance, as well. Drop the caterpillars in the water and then cover over that stem with some moistened soil. With luck, it will re-root.

As for long-term controls for squash vine borers, it's good to clean up the area right around those squash plants because that's where they overwinter.

Also, try planting nasturtiums a little later this year. Nasturtiums planted near squash plants supposedly works as a repellent for the squash vine borer.

Q: Some perennials such as columbine and geum are said to die out in a few years, but can be propagated by self-seeding or dividing them every couple of years. If you divide these plants into two, is it necessary to replant both halves? Or can one of the halves remain in the original spot? - Marvin, in Saxton's River

A: It's probably best to dig up the whole plant. Cut it in half and then plant the halves in either new places, or you can plant them back in the same place or nearby.

Dividing a plant would leave the wounded plant tissue in the soil. By taking them out and then slicing them and cleaning them up a bit and then replanting them is a better practice.

Q: I went outside and found a critter had eaten the tops off of one of my hibiscus and one of my phlox plants. Will the plants come back? - Kyle

A: If the plants are fairly tall, deer are the most probable culprits. If the plants were topped when they were small, it could have been a woodchuck.

More on how to keep critters out of your garden: Don't let your garden become a woodchuck salad bar! Several fencing solutions to deter wildlife.

In either case, if they didn't munch all the way down, both plants should bounce right back and you'll start seeing some new growth from those stems and they should flower, also.

Q: My Yukon gold potato plants have been thriving; the plants are about two and a half feet high. I have noticed though, that on some of the plants the lower leaves are turning yellow and droopy. - Susan, in Killington

A: Yellowing on the lower leaves could be an environmental condition like too much or not enough rain. This could cause the plant to wilt, especially during a really hot day.

If it starts spreading, then there are certain diseases you have to watch out for. The most lethal one would be late blight but that hasn't been present in our area this season.

Late blight is a foliar disease that causes gray, watery spots on leaves, then the leaves yellow and die. This blight also spreads quickly.

The other culprit might be early blight, which is more like the one you see on a tomato plant. Early blight causes yellowing leaves and spreads slowly down the plant.

If you're not seeing the yellowing or drooping spread, you needn't worry too much about it.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener!Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with Vermont Public host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch by tweeting us @vermontpublic.We've closed our comments. Read about ways to get in touchhere.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.