Operation Dill and a Harvesting Quandry

Squash bugs, you’re on notice: Operation Dill is under way.

My lovely little pumpkins are ripening but it’s a race against the clock.

Precious Pumpkin No 1

Precious Pumpkin No 1

Precious Pumpkin No 2

Precious Pumpkin No 2

Precious Pumpkin No 3

Precious Pumpkin No 3

With less and less vine for the squash bugs to eat, my trio of pumpkins remain vulnerable. Last year this happened…

This pumpkin never had a chance

2013: A sad day

I’ve been hand picking squash bug eggs and removing adults from the vines for weeks, but predictably I missed a few. They hatched into destructive nymphs. I just can’t keep up.

Pauline at The Contented Crafter suggested planting dill. Apparently when grown together, pumpkins and dill make excellent companion plants. I raced to the garden center between appointments, but between the heat and my busy schedule, I didn’t plant them right away.  I deposited all six pots on top of the EarthBox, leaving them to wilt.  Boo!

I eventually gave them a good soak and they recovered. I pulled the three pumpkins together in a group, careful not to break the vines. I surrounded the fruit with dill.

ripening pumpkins

Ripening pumpkins

Curious how they would react, I placed a dill plant near a bug congregation. They scattered! Ha!!!

Then I had a good laugh at myself. Of course they scattered when a bunch of leaves disturbed their reverie.

Would it last?

I checked last night and found an adult intruder sitting on the pumpkin stem.  No, no, no!

Next Monday I leave for a much-anticipated, week-long vacation to Victoria, Canada with my bestie Boomdee. Yay, me!

The men of the house will do a cursory check on the plants, but none of them are on board with hand-picking bugs while I’m gone.

So…should I harvest them Sunday morning before leaving town, hoping they’ll continue to color? Or should I leave it up to Operation Dill and take my chances?

What would you do?

Six Ways to Control Squash Bugs in your Garden by Sarah Toney


28 thoughts on “Operation Dill and a Harvesting Quandry

  1. I would twitch a LOT. I don’t have squash bugs on my pumpkins, I have possums and possums chew dirty great holes in the side of them to get to the tasty seeds inside. Could you not put something sticky on the stems that lead to the fruit so that the rotten little swines get stuck in their voracious quest to dismember your pumpkins? Times like this call for genius ma’am! I have read about people putting the fruit inside pantyhose (stockings)…maybe if you put several pairs of them on the fruit the squash bugs could only hover on the stockings and not manage to get their destructive little beaks through to the tasty fruit below? I would be trying things like this because you can bet your life that as soon as you and Ms Boomdee are out of the door your husbands will be settling back down with a beer, the remote and the local pizza shop on speed dial and that will be the end of their pretense to care about pumpkins and squash bug squishing ;).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fran, I can always count on you to make me laugh out loud, while at the same time delivering sage advice. You rock!

      I think I may have passed on that pantyhose tip to you awhile back when you were trying to deter the possums. It is supposed to work well for rats, and seemed to help when I did it years back.

      …a beer, the remote and the pizza join on speed dial…LOL LOL LOL

      I’ll have my pumpkin dilemma solved before I get on that plane. Mark my words.

      Thank you, madam, for this gift of a comment.


  2. I’d be taking remedial measures too – stockings sounds a good one.

    I’m quite shocked by the pests you have in comparison with me. I don’t think there is much excuse not to grow organic in Northern England (UK) but seems like other parts of the world really are not so lucky.


    • The stockings seem to be a hit with everyone…as long as we don’t have to actually wear them! Good riddance to the pantyhose years, eh?

      I fear we’ve upset the natural balance of things with herbicides, GMO crops, imported wasps, etc. Our gardens are a natural outcropping of this global and worrying problem.


  3. Oh dear, what a quandary. I think I would harvest them to spoil the disappointment after (and worry during) my holiday! But then again I am also not one to give up -I saw my beautiful fat lily buds nibbled at yesterday… I felt like chopping them all down right away, but I will wait and see if any of them manage to open into a half-decent flower!


    • Oh, best of luck with your lilies. It’s non stop chow in the garden beds, isn’t it? I’m reading it everywhere in the Northern hemisphere gardens.

      I don’t like to give up either, though your ideas of me worrying are valid and spot on. It’s so funny how I get wrapped up in the survival of three little pumpkins. I know you can relate.

      Best of luck in your August garden.


  4. Part of the answer has to be another question — do pumpkins continue to ripen after they have been picked? I don’t think they do, but I may well be wrong. They are fantastic looking pumpkins, the markings are wonderful. Boo hiss to the bugs!!!

    Have a fabulous time with Boomdee. I can just imagine you both talking talking talking, laughing laughing laughing, and drink cups of tea, or the equivalent!! Enjoy every minute.


    • Anne, good question. I did a bit of reading, and it seems it depends on how far along the pumpkins are. I’m crossing my fingers and taking the plunge, while at the same time trying a few things with two newly-discovered, tiny fruits on the vine. Stay tuned.

      As for Canada, thank you for your well wishes. I’m pretty darn excited and will no doubt have plenty to share.

      We have such a good time together and will do exactly as you say, enjoying tea, sparkling water and perhaps a glass of wine or two. xox


  5. A week-long holiday with Boomdee! What a hoot! I hope you have the most wonderful trip – you both deserve loads of fun and relaxation! Safe travels. Oh … and yes … the gorgeous pumpkins … if you harvested early could these be your pumpkins to be carved for Halloween – that way if they didn’t ripen it wouldn’t matter so much? Otherwise, Narfie’s suggestion of pantyhose sounds superb! I’m still giggling at her wise and wonderful comment above! Canada, here you come! Enjoy! xoxoxoxox

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Dani. I’m pretty excited. I haven’t taken a vacation with a girlfriend in decades. Can you believe it? Of course you can because you have young children too.

      This will be a huge treat spending time away in a beautiful place with a dear friend. No laundry to fold, no bills to pay, no litter boxes to clean. What will I do with myself. Hee!

      Yes, the old pantyhose trick is up next. It worked do discourage rat chewing many years ago. Lets see if the bugs are equally deterred. I like your idea though, that carved pumpkins don’t need to be ‘perfect’ or even fully ripe, as long as they are far enough along that they won’t soften and turn to mush. I’ll keep you posted.

      Thanks for your well wishes. xoxoxoxoxo


  6. Hey, dill ! That’s really interesting. I’ve been doing some reading on ants. Apparently borax mixed with powdered sugar and water will end them. I wonder if that would do in squash bugs too? Of course you’d have to ensure Mousey-poo couldn’t get at it. I like frans idea of pantyhose too. I think I would certainly harvest, 3 greenish pumpkins are better than buggy ones I think. Plus, by nourishing their appetites, might they be healthier to lay more eggs for next year?

    Speaking of Mouse, he’ll be so sad that you will be away next week. I wish you could bring him with. We could hide him out in our room and take in for walks on a lead 😀 Sorry for stealing away your girlfriend Mouse, I’ll take good care of her xoxox


    • Are you still dealing with ants in your lovely garden? It’s always something.

      I used the pantyhose method on the pumpkins several years ago to discourage rats chewing in the night. Apparently they don’t like the texture. I don’t know if the barrier works for squash bugs, but I’ve got an experiment planned, so stay tuned.

      I will miss Mr. Mouse and I know he’ll wonder where I’ve gone to. The boys like to spoil him with snuggles, treats and games of ‘catch’ with the laser pointer. Lindy joins in too, but poor Slinky doesn’t see to see it.

      We can always send him a postcard. 😉


  7. Blast, we can’t get your fellows interested in the growing things at all can we! I would have thought – in the interests of Halloween carving etc – they’d be lined up on the deck with their 45’s drawn and ready to take those squash bugs down – I fear Narf may be right – the chairs, the remote and the pizza place on speed dial. Oh Gardening Nirvana Lads!! Prove us wrong – whip those bugs into shape – or oblivion – have the biggest and best pumpkins on the street this Halloween……… Failing that, I have nothing! Good Luck Alys and have a most wonderfully happy and adventurous visit to Canada with the gal pals! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • The irony, Pauline, is the my youngest son*loved* growing pumpkins for years. He’s the one that wanted a fruit tree for his 10th birthday and the reason we started growing pumpkins in the first place.

      Next week is the last week of summer vacation. On the 18th they’ll both be back in school.

      You and Narf keep me in giggles! Thank you for that.

      Canada will be so much fun. I hope you can join us in our travels one year, somehow, somewhere.


  8. I have come back to you from visiting another of my favourite blogs, which may be of interest to you. The Wonderful Robbie of Palm Rae Urban Potager has a fantastic garden and mentions in this post her challenges with pumpkins/squash bugs ……… she may be able to offer some helpful advice to you. http://palmraeurbanpotager.com/2014/08/06/all-my-lifes-a-circle-yes-harry-it-is-all-my-lifes-a-circle-seasons-spinning-round-again-the-years-keep-rollin-by/comment-page-1/#comment-4364


  9. I wonder too if pumpkins will ripe after you pick them. I have no idea what to do with such evil creatures!! I would certainly remove all stems/leaves from the garden or burn them. And I would probably cover that patch with black plastic for a while so everything underneath it will die. Maybe that helps preventing a new investation next year?
    But most of all: just enjoy your trip with BFF Bomdee! Cheers, Johanna!


    • I did a bit of research yesterday, and depending on how far along the are in the ripening process, they will still color a bit more. I’m going to write a bit more about that today or tomorrow.

      Funny thing about covering the patch, though: they like to hide under things and can winter over for long periods of time, even in the snow! Can you believe it? They are a hardy and tenacious bunch.

      As much as it breaks my heart, I’m going to skip growing them next year, the first time since 2003. It’s just too disheartening otherwise. Hopefully a full two years without a host plant will be the end of them.

      Thanks for your travel well-wishes. Lots of garden photos to follow.


      • wow, these are really hardy creatures. I am glad that I have never encountered them before. It might be indeed the nest solution to ‘feed’ them for a couple of years. oh, you poor pumpkin deprived person!!!


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  12. I think I’m odd man out here. I’d try all the suggestions including putting something sticky on the stems and planting the dill and see what happens. All bugs will survive when we humans are long gone from the planet. They were here first and can survive anything. Wonder how they will survive GMO corn? We won’t. I will be thinking of you two next week having a good time in Victoria. My daughter wanted to take me there for my birthday. With all I’ve put into this house, it will take another year for me to put a good stash together for the fun. Have a blast. Hugs to you both.


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