How Does Your Garden Grow | HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW: Having Trouble With Summer Squash, Basil

Editor’s note: How Does Your Garden Grow is a series the Gazette will feature this growing season, provided by master gardener Ken Oles of Wrentham. He will discuss various backyard gardening topics,, and answer your gardening questions.

The signs of late summer are everywhere. Goldenrod and purple loosestrife blooming along the highways signal the approaching ragweed season. The intense aroma of sweet pepperbush activates the olfactory receptors. Cicadas begin their evening chorus. Corn borers and Mexican bean beetles are active.

For the gardener, it’s decision-making time. Shall I plan for a winter cover-crop or gamble with a late sowing of snap beans? Succession planting can extend my harvest. What did I do with those leftover lettuce and cabbage seeds anyway? Shall I try saving my own seeds?

Growers are speculative by nature. Results are often unpredictable and surprises abound. It’s why we garden.

Interesting note from Roger Swain at Tranquil Lake Nursery in Rehoboth a few weeks ago: “In 1944 (during the War) 44 percent of all food was grown by amateurs in victory gardens. Then, in 1945, there was a food shortage! Why? As the number of victory gardens diminished, industry did not keep pace with the increased demands for food.”

Q My summer squash still doesn’t have the rich, dark green foliage. Most of it is light green with a few bottom leaves turning yellow. I have a lot of flowers but so far only one male blossom that has resulted in a squash. Is there anything I can do?

A The yellowing of older bottom leaves on your plants is probably more weather related. Just be careful not to over water.

Look at the underside of the leaves for a silvery-colored web, which is a sign that spider mites are present. If the edges of the leaves are curled and yellow, your plants may have aphids. Aphids live on the underside of leaves and leave a sticky substance that eventually turns black. Gently wash the leaves with a mild soap to remove the mold.

Pale green foliage can signal a nitrogen deficiency. Try an application of a balanced fertilizer.

Your squash develops from a fertilized female blossom after pollen from a male flower is transferred to the female. Pollinators include bees, wasps and various other insects that are attracted to the yellow flowers. Be sure to check your soil pH this fall. pH is a measure of soil acidity. For most veggies, pH should be in the 6.3-7.0 range (more on pH in a later column).

Q I purchased basil in a pot and left the pot outdoors with the intention of planting it. Very soon something began to eat the leaves so I brought it indoors. The problem has persisted. Any idea what the problem is and how to save the plant?

A Aphids (wingless insects), spider mites, and white fly are common pests of basil. White-fly infestations are ordinarily problems with greenhouse plants. Check the underside of the leaves for tiny insects and remove any by wiping them off with a soft cloth. Be sure to keep aphid-infested plants away from your other indoor plants.

HOW TO SUBMIT A GARDENING QUESTION: If you have any specific questions for our master gardener, email to with the subject line: How Does Your Garden Grow Question.

Ken Oles is a Wrentham resident and a master gardener with URI ( ) He is also the coordinator for the Harvests from the Heart community garden in Wrentham that produces fresh produce for the Wrentham Food Pantry. Ken is a member of the board of directors and vice president of Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom. He can be reached at Acknowledgement: Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom.

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