Zucchini and cucumbers are supposed to be easy vegetables to grow. If you let them go for a couple of days, both plants give you baseball-bat size fruit that many people end up pushing off on unsuspecting neighbors. While I've gotten a decent yield from both plants this year, I'm also finding some challenges.
In addition to black beauty zucchini (which seems to be growing wonderfully, but my two plants are only giving me 3-4 squash per week), I planted eight-ball and papaya squash. The eight-ball was prolific early, but quickly became infested by what I assume is a squash vine borer. The stems are turning to yellow mush, and investigation finds a lot of small worms eating their way through the plant. I lost one plant completely to this pest a few weeks ago. The papaya took longer to mature, but it also shows signs of damage from the evil worms now. I think I've harvested four squash from three plants.
Both the eight-ball and the papaya squash plants are also starting to get what I assume is powdery mildew (gray spots that look like mold on their leaves). I pulled a papaya plant today that succumbed and failed to produce any fruit. While cleaning up the eight-ball plants today, I found a hidden squash that was the perfect size to harvest. It had somehow managed to find a way to sit on uncovered soil. I brought it in and noticed it was soft. I sliced it open to find a brown mess of rot. I sure hope that was an isolated incident.
Other than a yellowing leaf here and there, the black beauty plants are, well...beautiful. Still, I've mostly been able to keep up with harvests. We've eaten quite a few zucchini-based meals, I've given maybe 8 away to friends, and I've frozen 13 cups of shredded zucchini. I need more, as I have a killer veggie chili recipe that gets thicker (and more tasty) with the addition of zucchini.
The cucumbers also are starting to have their issues. Some leaves are withering and turning gray on the trellis. I feel that I planted too many plants too close together. I followed square foot gardening guidelines and planted 6 seeds per square foot along each side of my A-frame trellis. The vigorous plants (which have already provided many quarts of pickles) seem more interested in tangling with each other than climbing the trellis. I really hope they keep producing for another month...my husband has a strong taste for pickles and I've only canned five quarts - the rest have been refrigerator pickles.
Of course, I'll do some googling, but I'm wondering - what do you, oh gardeners of the internet, do to keep your summer squash and cucumber plants healthy and vigorous as long as possible? I haven't gone to any drastic methods - plant, water, mulch, one watering of fish emulsion, and a few sprays of pyrethrin to keep the cucumber beetles away.