Yeah, I know it’s a yellow squash plant.
We just don’t say it out loud.
It’s known at our house as the “Bug Killer” plant. Every time I walk into the part of the garden where it resides, I acknowledge it, in a loud, clear voice.
We never, ever, call it a squash plant. It was Greg’s idea and I am so grateful he indulges in my little superstitions, sometimes.
We’re probably a little nuts, but there is a perfectly good reason in our minds for our behavior.
When I first moved to our home, I was thrilled to finally have a huge yard, where the dogs could roam and I could have a real honest to goodness veggie garden. My last home had a small patch where I tried to grow things; the strawberries did really well, but that was about it.
I could see where someone had once had a garden. The first couple of years I grew veggies in that spot. I added soil and steer manure. I carefully mulched and weeded. I watered regularly. And the results were less than spectacular.
The squash and zucchini plants sputtered and died. I would get one or two fruits, the rest would wither. The plants would just shrivel up.
I moved the garden to another spot, where there looked to be the remains of another garden. But two more years went by, and I had pretty much the same results.
My neighbors up and across the street, had great veggies. Every year they would load me up with Armenian cucumbers, and a crazy assortment of squash, zucchini and pumpkins. It was lovely, but I really wanted to grow my own.
I finally realized the culprits killing my plants were squash bugs. These guys are the devil. They breed like crazy and lay eggs on the only the choicest leaves. They also, can sniff out a veggie garden like a bloodhound scents people.
I went to the nursery down the street and talked to the guy there. “Oh you need pesticides!”
“I don’t want chemicals, I’m trying to grow organically,” I said.
“Ha, good luck with that!”
So I tried an organic nursery. “We have some Neem Oil, that might work.”
It didn’t. The leaves got slick and stinky, but still the bugs came.
The following year the bugs came out in full force. Nothing survived past the seedling stage.
I moved the garden again. Apparently, I didn’t move it far enough. The garden lasted about a month, but those little buggers found them eventually, and the plants went down for the count.
The next year, I was so discouraged, I didn’t even plant a garden.
I skipped the following year, as well. Supposedly, if you break the garden cycle for a couple years, they go away.
Don’t you believe it.
I tried again the following summer. As soon as I saw them, I asked a fellow who studied bugs, what to do. His solution was to check the plant every morning, and pull of any bugs, or eggs, I saw. I did that. Everyday, I went out and picked squash bugs off the plants. I cut off the leaves with eggs on them. I thought I was winning the battle. Then one morning, one plant was gone. I pulled that one out, hoping it was a fluke. Nope. By the end of the week, they were all gone.
One of my classmates this year, heard my complaint and told me to make a squash bug tea, when I start to see the bugs. “What’s squash bug tea?” I asked.
“Well, you take some water in a cup. Any time you find a squash bug, crush it and mix it in the water. Bingo, you’ve got Squash Bug Tea! Pour the mixture around the plant. I think they smell impending doom, and leave.”
It sounded gross, but I vowed to try it this year.
Oddly enough, I haven’t had to try it. But I’m ready, if I need to.
This year, I went extreme. Since a good section of the yard is desert native plants, I decided to plant one squash plant and put it in the middle of a sagebrush patch. I put a cage around it, set it to get watered regularly, and let it be.
As you can see from the picture, it’s rather large, definitely healthy, and is going like gangbusters producing squash. It’s a miracle plant. And we don’t want to jinx our good fortune.
We never call it a squash plant. We tell it it’s doing a great job at eating bugs. And it is. There’s not a bug in sight.
But just in case, I’m ready to dig in and make squash bug tea.