Planting squash in your garden can be very exciting especially since they tend to germinate very quickly. I have had zucchini and yellow squash germinate within 4 days! The also produce beautiful large flowers that will attract bee’s to your garden.
One issue that seems to plague various squash plants is stem-splitting. This is when the stem of the plant seems to dry and crack open, exposing the inside of the stem. Stem splitting can happen very quickly, sometimes within just a 24 hour period. It can be very disheartening to see your stems split and your squash plant slowly dying but before you throw your hands in the air and give up on gardening, lets take a look at why this happens and what can be done to help save the plant.
Many times the reason why your squash stems are splitting are due to natural causes. Strong gusts of wind can easily put stress on the large hollow stems causing them to split. One way that I combat against this is to mount some soil around the stem until it reaches the leaves. Make sure the the soil covers the split. Also many people use tomato cages for their squash plants. Both methods will help stabilize the plant to combat against stem splitting. By using a tomato cage you will also slowly teach the leaves to grow vertically in order to save a lot of space. This will especially come in handy for home gardeners with small back yards who are trying to maximize their space as squash plants tend to take over the garden bed!
Another possible reason for stem split are pests. There are many different bugs that can wreak havoc on all different varieties of squash but there is one that stands out when it comes to identifying the cause of stem splitting. The Squash vine borer is a black and red moth that resembles a wasp in body shape and flight. These moths lay their eggs at the base of the plant and when when the larvae hatches it burrows itself in the stem of the plant, stopping the flow of water and nutrients to the rest of the plant and ultimately causing the stem to eventually split. Using organically acceptable insecticides will only help if you catch the larvae before they get inside of the stem. The best way to get rid of them is to cut them out at the first sign of possible stem split. Gently cut them out and cover the stem with good soil. I have heard that some gardening pro’s simply take a pin and kill the larvae without damaging the stem. I certainly am not there yet but hope to be one day!
Until Next Time!