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Top Problems Growing Squash Plants and How to Fix Them

Squash plants are some of the most common vegetable plants in the world, and they are easy to grow at home in your own garden. However, gardeners often face issues growing these plants.

The top problems growing squash plants are leaf discoloration, plant wilting, mildew, drooping, bug infestations, and leaf holes. To solve these issues, you will need to wisely utilize fungicides, pesticides, soil nutrients, and better watering habits.

Squash can be one of your biggest crops – you just need to know the tricks of the trade. Read on to learn more about how to grow the best squash possible.

Your Squash Leaves Are Turning Brown/Black

If your squash leaves are turning brown or black, you are likely dealing with an issue related to the growing conditions of the plant. It is important that, when you notice the leaves of your squash plants turning brown or black, you take action as soon as possible to repair it.

One of the many reasons that the leaves on your squash plants might be turning either brown or black is because they have been exposed to cold temperatures. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, when squash plants become too cold, they could go into thermal shock and wilt and turn brown.

If your squash plants are already browning because of the weather, your first task is to make sure that they warm up as quickly as possible. This means watering them with warmer water if possible, bringing them into the sun, and keeping them warm at night. Squash plants are not likely to survive a frost.

To keep your plants warm at night outdoors, you will have to use some sort of blanket, tarp, or plastic covering over your squash plants to make sure that they aren’t exposed to low temperatures. You might also look into building a small hoop house over your garden beds to trap in the heat that is soaked into the earth by the sun.

Your Squash Leaves Are Turning Yellow

When the leaves of any plant turn an unnatural color, this is an indicator that the plant is, for whatever reason, not receiving the proper care it needs. In regards to the squash plant, when the leaves turn yellow, it can be a sign of a disease that could be potentially fatal for your growing vegetables.

The University of Minnesota Extension suggests that yellowing of squash leaves could be indicative of a viral infection called squash mosaic. Squash mosaic turns the leaves of the squash plant into a splotchy green and yellow pattern. Severe cases of squash mosaic can often lead the fruit of your squash plants to be misshapen and lumpy. Another sign of squash mosaic is the curling of the leaves on your squash plants, so be mindful of this symptom as well.

Since this disease is spread by aphids, one of the ways you can both cure and prevent squash mosaic is by using a vegetable-safe insecticide. One such pesticide is Eight Garden Dust Insect Control. This pesticide dust is as easy to use as just sprinkling it onto your plants to keep aphids and other pests at bay. 

Your Squash Leaves Are Wilting

Wilting leaves are one of the most common issues that gardeners and farmers face when they are trying to grow vegetables, and squash plants are no exception. In fact, because squash plants have softer leaves, flowers, and fruit, if not given the correct conditions, the whole plant can end up wilting and withering.

If your squash plants are going through a period where their leaves are wilting, you’re going to have to do a little bit of investigating. Squash plants can have several different reasons for why their leaves may be wilting.

One of the main reasons a squash plant may be wilting is because it’s been stricken with a case of bacterial wilt. Bacterial wilt is a plant infection that is caused by cucumber beetles. When cucumber beetles eat parts of your squash plants, they end up infecting the plant with little germs that carry bacterial wilt.

According to plant experts at Iowa State University, bacterial wilt can often be confused with normal plant wear and tear from natural causes. Both bacterial wilt and normal wilting due to temperature or poor watering look similar. The squash leaves become a bit softer and start to wrinkle, losing their resistance to the elements.

Though it may be confusing at first, the Iowa State experts have a technique for testing whether your squash plants have bacterial wilt. They suggest cutting into a vine attached to one of your squash plants and testing the texture. If the plant’s wound oozes or leaks a sticky, stringy fluid, then you are dealing with a case of bacterial wilt.

What is unfortunate about cases of bacterial wilt is that they can’t be easily cured. When plants wilt to a certain point, it is nearly impossible to get them to return back to their normal state. This means that when your plants wilt, most of the time, water won’t allow them to come back to their normal state. 

What you will need to do when you have a case of bacterial wilt ripping through your garden is to segregate your infected plants from the healthy ones and make sure that the healthy ones don’t get infected. 

Your Squash Plants Are Dying/Rotting

One of the problems that many new farmers or gardeners encounter when they are working with their first crops is that plants start to die on them. Along with this plant death, many plants also start to rot. Plant death and plant rot are both symptoms of deeper underlying problems that need to be taken care of, so they don’t spread to the rest of your crops.

One of the reasons that your squash plants can rot and die is because of a condition called blossom end rot. If you notice that the flowers, fruit, leaves, or stems on your squash plant are beginning to turn soft, brown, and break under slight pressure, then you are likely dealing with a case of blossom end rot in your garden.

According to the Extension of North Carolina State University, blossom end rot is not actually a disease. Rather, it is a condition that is caused by a lack of calcium absorption. When the squash plant isn’t able to get the proper nutrients, they are still able to grow. However, their growth is either stunted or mutated because they don’t have the correct ratio of vitamins and minerals to grow properly.

Solving the issue of blossom end rot is not as easy as just putting more calcium into your soil. In fact, there is a bit of chemistry knowledge that is necessary to have when you want to repair blossom end rot damage in your garden. 

Just because your soil has an appropriate amount of calcium doesn’t mean that it will be absorbed properly into your squash plants. If the pH of your garden or crop soil is too low, your squash plants will not be able to retain and soak up the calcium necessary for proper plant growth.

What is unfortunate about diagnosing a case of blossom end rot is that it cannot actually be cured with the plants you currently have in the ground. You will likely have to work through the plants you have right now and wait until the end of the season to fix your soil. The team at NC State Extension suggests that, if you find that your soil has a low pH, you should till lime into the garden or crop.  

Lime is a helpful addition to any garden that has a pH that is too low. Lime itself has a high pH, which means that, when it is incorporated into your soil, the soil of the pH lowers. At the end of the season, you will need to till lime into your garden. NC State suggests tilling the lime 6”-8” into the soil. Check out this Jobe’s Organics Garden Lime Soil Amendment – this variety is easy to spread in your garden. 

Your Squash Plants Aren’t Flowering/Producing

Squash plants are unique – they are a vegetable crop, but they also produce large edible flowers. These flowers are often washed and fried in a light batter, which makes them a summer delicacy in many areas of the world. However, most people plant squash plants for their actual fruit. When your squash plants aren’t fruiting or flowering, this can be a frustrating problem to solve.

The most common reason that squash plants may be flowering but not putting off fruit is that your squash plants have not been properly pollinated. An expert at Iowa State University explains this conundrum well in his article. He starts by explaining that squash plants have both “male” and “female” flowers, all on the same plant. To grow properly, the pollen from the male plant needs to be spread to the female plant.

Pollinators like hummingbirds and bees help to spread this pollen from male flowers to female flowers because the female flowers need the pollen to be able to turn into fruit. The Iowa State expert then explains that, because most of the first flowers to bloom on squash plants are only male, there might be a lag period between when your squash plants start to bloom and when they start to produce.

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This issue is not one that can be solved by using a supplement or mineral for your garden. Rather, you will have to be patient and continue to care for your garden as you usually would. Eventually, the plants will produce fruit.

The expert from Iowa State also mentions that poor weather may be the cause of poor plant growth because the bees that pollinate your garden stay in their hives when it’s wet out. 

Your Squash Leaves Are Turning White

It is a serious reason for concern when the leaves on your squash plants turn white. As a rule of thumb, your squash plants should have vines, stems, and leaves that are pliable but sturdy, relatively hydrated, with a strong green color. If the leaves of your squash plants turn white, that indicates an underlying condition.

White spots on the leaves of your squash plants indicate the presence of powdery mildew. As is explained in the name of the condition, powdery mildew causes a powder-like coating to appear on the upper sides of the leaves of your plants. It is a condition that can affect many different plants and is well-known to many gardeners around the world.

While powdery mildew is caused by the presence of mildew spores in the air, water, or soil that your squash plants are exposed to, the plant needs to be under certain conditions to be susceptible to powdery mildew. Much like the variety of mildew that can grow when areas of your home are left damp and cold for an extended period of time, the same can occur in your garden.

Plants that are kept in cool and shady areas of your garden, home, or property will likely encounter a case of powdery mildew. These plants are likely also getting too much water because when plants are left in the shade and get watered, the water doesn’t sink into the soil or get evaporated; rather, the water stagnates and grows bacteria. 

These plants should be moved or replanted into an area that has more sunlight, which allows absorption and healthy evaporation to occur.

Another way that plants can develop powdery mildew is through lack of garden aeration. For your plants to grow properly, they will need to be spaced far enough from other plants for the wind to blow through. Air must be able to circulate through your garden; otherwise, the water and bacteria left on your plants after watering will sit and create that powdery mildew layer on the leaves of your squash.

To get rid of powdery mildew in your garden, you will have to employ a gentle, vegetable-safe fungicide. One of the most common fungicides that gardeners and farmers use these days is neem oil. Neem is a plant grown in India that has natural antibacterial and antifungal properties. This Natria Neem Oil Spray is as easy to use as spritzing on your plants and allowing it to sit. 

Your Squash Leaves Have Holes

One of the most frustrating issues that farmers and gardeners encounter when they are trying to grow squash plants is the presence of bugs in their garden. This has the potential to be an issue in anyone’s garden growing any number of plants, but bugs are particularly an issue when growing squash because squash bugs specifically target them.

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Squash bugs are the reason for the holes in the leaves of your squash plants. They can be some of the peskiest pests to deal with. They tend to munch around the edges of the leaves of your squash plants but also can sometimes bore holes in the middle of the leaves themselves.

Getting rid of squash bugs can be tedious, but there are a few methods you can use to get rid of them entirely. First and foremost, the Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests picking them off, along with picking off their eggs. Rinsing them off with a hose on a low setting can be helpful, along with spraying a mild insecticide. They also say that planting bug-resistant species is one of the easiest ways to prevent squash bug invasions in the future. 

Your Squash Plants Are Drooping

Sometimes when your squash plants are exposed to growing conditions that are less than ideal, the plants will start to droop, meaning that their leaves, vines, stems, and fruit lose hydration and become weaker. Unlike many of the other issues that squash growers may encounter, drooping is generally an easy issue to remedy.

The main reason that your squash plants might be drooping is that they haven’t been hydrated well enough. This is particularly likely to be the case when you are working with summer squashes. Because the summer months get so hot and dry, you will need to provide your squash plants with more water and more shade.

Final Thoughts

Squash plants are a helpful source of nutrients and minerals and are one of the world’s most widely available vegetables, making them ubiquitous in people’s gardens internationally. If you are looking to grow squash, you need to be prepared to encounter any number of problems.

Some of the issues that squash farmers face are leaves that change colors unnaturally or die, plants that wilt or droop, mildew or disease, and bug infestations. If you aren’t careful, your entire crop can be lost to these pesky issues.

Utilize these tips wisely. If your leaves are turning yellow or if they’re turning white, they need the help of a fungicide. If you have insects, you’ll need to use a pesticide. If your plants are wilting or drooping, consider moving them or using more water. I hope these help – happy gardening!

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