Q: I plant zucchini every year, and we love the abundance of zucchini we get at first. The problem I have is that after about a month or so of growth, the roots get soft and the plant seems to wilt away. What causes this? How do I prevent it?
— Tracey Taszreak
A: Judging from the photos you sent, it appears your plant has been attacked by squash vine borer. It’s a moth larva that bores into the stem and cuts off the supply of nutrients from the roots.
The insect overwinters in the soil, which is probably why you’ve been having the same problem year after year.
The Ohio State University Extension has a fact sheet on the insect, which you can find at http://ohioline.osu.edu (enter “squash vine borer” into the search box). Among the recommendations are destroying the zucchini vines after harvest to get rid of any larvae that might be in the stems, and tilling the soil in the fall or spring to kill the cocoons in the ground.
If you’re ambitious, next year you can monitor your plants to crush any eggs before they hatch, remove any borers that get into the plants and catch the moths before they can produce more borers.
Chemical insecticides can also be used, but they need to be carefully timed for when the eggs are hatching.
Have a question about home maintenance, decorating or gardening? Akron Beacon Journal home writer Mary Beth Breckenridge will find answers for the queries that are chosen to appear in the paper. To submit a question, call her at 330-996-3756, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your full name, your town and your phone number or email address.