Why is My Squash Wilting?

Why is My Squash Wilting?

Why is my squash wilting? Assuming you have been giving your vegetable garden adequate water, the Squah Vine Borer may be the cause.

Squash Vine Borer larva. Image Credit Matthew Orwat

Squash Vine Borer larva. Image Credit Matthew Orwat


Adult Moth. Image Credit Theresa Friday

Adult Moth. Image Credit Theresa Friday

Unfortunately presence of  the squash vine borer, the larval form of a clearwing moth, is usually noticed only after damage is permanent.  Prevention is possible with early recognition through vigilant scouting.

The adult moth is common in gardens throughout Northwest Florida, and is easily recognizable due to its black and orange coloration.The 1/2 inch moth is active during the day and will lay a single tiny orange egg at the base of healthy squash plants.

It only takes a week for the egg to hatch and for the larva to bore into the stem. Once the larva in inside the stem, it chews its way up the stem, blocking the transport of water from the roots to the shoots. By the time wilting is noticed, total blockage of the water conducting tissue (Xylem) is likely.



If the moth is noticed in the garden, preventitive application of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) or pyrethroid  (permethrin or bifenthrin) insecticide to the base of the stem may stop their incursion into the vine. Yellow traps full of water can be put out to monitor for them, since they are attracted to anything yellow.

Squash Vine Borer Egg. Image Credit Theresa Friday

Squash Vine Borer Egg. Image Credit Theresa Friday

If the vine is already affected, insecticide applications will not help. There is a slim chance of saving it by cutting out the larva. While performing this task make sure to preserve the stem and bury the stem of the plant in a few inches of protective soil. The plant may grow new roots and resume production.

For more information about the Squash Vine Borer, proceed to this University of Kentucky article. To learn more about pests of Cucurbits, check out this informative UF / IFAS publication, Insects Management for Cucurbits.


Proper Watering Techniques for a Healthy and Happy Lawn

Proper Watering Techniques for a Healthy and Happy Lawn

Turfgrass, like all plants, requires water for growth and survival. With the weather we’ve been having lately, watering your lawn is probably the last thing on your mind.

Footprints in turfgrass are a common symptom of drought stress. They are the result of a loss in turgor pressure, due to lack of water, in plant tissue.

Footprints in turfgrass are a common symptom of drought stress. They are the result of a loss in turgor pressure, due to lack of water, in plant tissue.

However, without sufficient rainfall, water to home lawns will need to be supplemented with irrigation. The most efficient way to irrigate or water your lawn is to apply water only when the lawn starts to show signs of drought stress from lack of moisture.

A few signs associated with drought stress include the changing of turfgrass color from green to a bluish-gray, or white cast. Another sign could be “footprints” on the lawn. If  walking across a lawn late in the afternoon causes footprints to be left behind, the lawn may need watering. When feet compress the leaf blades of the turfgrass, the low water levels in the plant tissue prevent the leaf blades from recovering, or “springing” back up, after being pushed down. If the footprints remain for an extended period of time, water the lawn to prevent the turfgrass from turning brown and becoming dormant. The visual condition of the turfgrass can also be used to evaluate drought stress. Turfgrass blades respond to drought stress by folding, rolling, and/or wilting.

 A recommended application of ½ to ¾ inch of water can be applied when your turfgrass begins to show the drought stress symptoms discussed previously. Once this amount of water is applied, do not apply again until drought is noticeable. If it rains, like it has been lately, hold off on irrigating until visible drought stress symptoms appear.

Irrigation frequency can vary based on grass species, rainfall amounts, soil type and amount of compaction, shade presence, location, etc. There is a fine line between under and over watering a lawn. Over watering can cause problems such as poor root growth and susceptibility to disease. Over watering can also increase the presence of weed species. When watering, avoid applying water to the point of runoff. Allow the water to soak into the lawn and soil. The optimal time of day to water lawn grass is during the early morning hours. If irrigation is done during the day that water is being lost to higher evaporation rates. Watering in late afternoon or late morning may be detrimental if it extends the time the lawn is naturally wet from dew. This extended “dew period” may increase disease presence in turf.

Automated irrigation systems are convenient, but can have flaws. Always check to make sure your system is working properly and is applying the correct amount of water. However, if significant rainfall has fallen for the week, the automated timed irrigation systems can be turned off so water is not wasted.

Once turf has been watered, it should not be watered again until similar drought stress symptoms are observed. It is never suggested to water your lawn every day, unless it is in the establishment phase or renovations are occuring. Proper watering techniques are key to creating a happy and healthy lawn.


Consider Volunteering at a Local School

Consider Volunteering at a Local School

Image Credit: Eddie Powell

Before the new school year begins for the kids in your county, consider volunteering at your local school garden.

The following information has been adapted from the UF IFAS Florida school garden competition website article “Benefits of School Gardens”

School gardens offer benefits to volunteers and students that go beyond the classroom. They provide a platform for students, teachers, and members of the community to interact in an outdoor learning environment. This type of interaction creates opportunities for students to improve social skills and practice collaborative learning.

It is essential that school gardens are given proper care and maintenance. Giving students the responsibility to water and care for the plants instills in them a sense of accountability. Patience is another virtue that students practice through garden participation, as plants do not grow, flower, or fruit overnight.

As the garden grows and becomes fruitful, students will take pride in the efforts that they put forth. This pride can help bolster self-esteem and allow students to invest in the beautification of their school. In this age of urbanization, children’s contact with nature is limited. Thus, school gardens ensure student contact with the environment.

School gardens allow students to work in a non-threatening outdoor environment where they can interact and learn about nature. Studies have shown that students who are allowed to learn in an outdoor environment, such as a garden, have improved environmental attitudes.

School gardens are a wonderful and exciting way to make school subjects more interesting and meaningful. School gardens create a learning structure that allows for creative thought, active learning, and social skills. The garden is a living lab that can serve as an excellent resource to teach various subjects, while allowing students to learn in an environment that is atypical to the sterile classrooms to which most students are accustomed.

Teachers throughout the country are discovering how useful and educational gardening can be. School gardens should be used to teach practically every subject covered in an elementary school classroom. The garden is a perfect place for students to learn about plants, insects, weather, and many other science and math-related topics.


For more information on helping a local school garden programs, contact your county University of Florida / IFAS Extension Office, which should have a list of the schools in your area that are teaching gardening. Also remember to ask about the Farm to School Program, which has resources for school gardens.

Green Industries Best Management Practices

Green Industries Best Management Practices

Landscape ProfessionalOn June 18, 2009, Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed into law SB 494 requiring all commercial fertilizer applicators have a license by January 1, 2014. Passing the Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMP) training is mandatory to obtain that license.  University of Florida/IFAS Extension provides training and testing programs in urban landscape management practices and issues certificates demonstrating satisfactory completion of the training.  These classes are available in English or Spanish.

After receiving a certificate of completion, a person must pay $25 and apply to receive a limited certification for urban landscape commercial fertilizer application.  A person possessing such a certification is not subject to additional local testing.  The certification expires 4 years after the date of issuance.

Using UF/IFAS-recommended application rates and timing of pesticides, fertilizer and irrigation can help prevent nonpoint source pollution (water pollution that is associated with everyday human activities and driven by rainfall, runoff and leaching) from urban landscapes.  By choosing plants appropriate for the site and maintaining them with correct cultural practices (irrigation, fertilization, mowing and pruning), one can significantly reduce the amount of water a landscape needs to thrive.

The GI-BMP class teaches landscape workers how to implement these Best Management Practices into their daily work.  This is an opportunity for Green Industry workers to complete this requirement and market their skills to clientele.  Trainings are available monthly across the Panhandle as well as on-line.  Visit the website for more information : FYN-GI-BMP WEBSITE. UF / IFAS Washington County Extension will be offering a GI-BMP class July 23rd. Follow this link for registration information.

Why Are My Tomatoes Cracking?

Why Are My Tomatoes Cracking?


Imagine this scenario: After you have heavily invested in your tomatoes, cracks appear on your previously perfect fruit just as they are starting to ripen.


cracked Cherokee Purple tomato on the vine

Cracking in Cherokee Purple tomato
Credit: Mary Derrick, UF/IFAS

How frustrating!  Depending on the severity of the cracking the fruit will still ripen and be edible, although blemished. However, if cracking is severe, insect and disease pests may take advantage of the weakened skin and feast on the tomato.

Why does this happen?

When tomato plants have fluctuations in the amount of available water in the soil, the skin becomes susceptible to cracking. This occurs when tomatoes are allowed to dry out, then heavily watered. The excess in available moisture causes the inside of the fruit to grow more rapidly than the skin, thus cracking appears. As tomatoes grow toward maturity, they become more prone to cracking. Wide fluctuations in air temperature can also contribute to cracking.

Avoid cracking in your fruit by following these simple suggestions:

• Keep your plants evenly moist through regular irrigation and mulching

• Shade fruit with ample foliage cover

• Select varieties or hybrids that are known to resist cracking

• Harvest susceptible tomatoes at an earlier stage of development and ripen indoors.



Happy Gardening!

For additional information follow these links:

Tomatoes in the Florida Garden

Physiological, Nutritional, and Other Disorders of Tomato Fruit