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I planted spaghetti squash from seed a few weeks ago. It did well in a starter pot, and I moved it to a larger one. It kept getting bigger, up to a fifth leaf and the start of a vine, but now it seems to be doing poorly.

When the cotyledons wilted and died, I assumed that was normal. Then the first leaf did the same. Now the second leaf up is turning yellow / brown and dry at the edges and wilting slightly. The top three leaves are doing fine, but they don't seem to be growing much anymore. It's been nearly a week since I saw any growth.

Is any of this normal or is the plant maybe damaged somehow? I can get a picture if necessary. The plant is still indoors in sunlight, and I planned to move it outside when it got a little bigger (I'm in Arizona so it's still warm).

squash plant wilting

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    Yes please, one or more pictures would be very helpful – kevinsky Oct 23 '15 at 19:13
  • @kevinsky ok picture added. – Tesserex Oct 23 '15 at 20:10
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From what I understand, squash generally don't like being transplanted. So, the odds of it being stressed are high. It's also likely that the soil may need more phosphorus and/or potassium.

Since transplanting can be hard on squash, it may be stunted if the squash were bothered particularly by the multiple transplants. I had a squash that seemed to be stunted from a transplant. Its roots seemed to be rotting when I finally pulled it up (although it had sufficient nutrients). It did not, however, have enough sun.

When it's been a few days after the transplant, lots of sun should be good for your squash.

If there's a fungal infection in your roots, I'm not sure how people generally recommend dealing with that, but I imagine something like copper might be able to help, since it's anti-fungal. Here's a link from a company's website that I've shopped at, which seems to have great quality stuff (and free, fast, shipping). I haven't tried their copper though.

It's also possible, from what I see in the picture, that your squash got too much nitrogen. Did you fertilize it, or did the soil come pre-fertilized? That can cause some of the same problems as too little potassium (with the added feature of burning the leaves). Anyway, if this is the case, you can either wait it out, or give it some extra potassium. More potassium seems to allow plants to be able to handle more nitrogen. You may need to balance calcium with these nutrients, too, if you try that. Transplanting into high nitrogen soil can be hard on a plant. Extra potassium seems to help transplants go better.

Speaking of leaves dying from the bottom up, I have a few zucchini plants outside. They got powdery mildew on the older leaves, and since it was so late in the season and they weren't producing fruit (probably because they're in the shade), I decided just to pull them up. However, they didn't die (they've been there about a week now). The leaves with powdery mildew, lower on the plant, died, and the top ones kept growing. One even grew a small zucchini (it never grew any before I pulled it up). They're in very low-light conditions, which is probably why this is possible (sun on rooted plants kills them fast).

Anyway, because of this experience of mine, I wouldn't be surprised if your squash is having some root difficulties. Both phosphorus and potassium should help to strengthen and encourage the roots.

You can always grow a new plant, too. I recommend starting it on your largest container first, if it's a squash. I think germination rates may be improved in containers with smaller openings up top, though (and the soil on top shouldn't mold as much). I've been trying out milk with just the screw-on part cut off (or a little below), and they work pretty well (much better than with the top half of the jug cut off so that lots of soil is showing). I'm doing peppers this way, though (not squash). If you planted a squash in a milk jug, it should probably be its final destination (since the roots may grow down the handle opening and have to be disturbed significantly to transplant). So, I'm just telling you this for illustrative purposes (since squash probably need more than a gallon, unless you're just growing them for leaves to eat). Squash generally have edible leaves (but if they're bitter, they may be toxic, being high in cucurbitacins). The only bitter squash leaves I've ever had were cotyledons, though (so, I don't recommend those for sprouts).

  • I just realized we have pretty hard water here, likely high in K / Mg, could the magnesium do that? I can try getting some phosphorus, otherwise I'll do over. If I want to grow for fruit, should I just start it outside or does it still need some starter soil? Maybe I need to pour a mound of something seedling-friendly over the outdoor soil? – Tesserex Oct 26 '15 at 23:24
  • I've heard of growing squash indoors, before. It can be done. I'm not sure how, at the moment. Outdoors is probably a lot easier, though. It's possible the water may be affecting it. You can water it with filtered water and see if it makes a difference. – Shule Oct 26 '15 at 23:59
  • I'll be tossing the whole plant. It is now infested with spider mites. I don't know if they killed it, but it's now definitely doomed if it wasn't before. Thanks for the tips. – Tesserex Oct 28 '15 at 22:34
  • Ah. Is it dry there then? We seem to have a lot of spider mites. Spider mites seem to attack plants most when it's hot and dry. Spraying affected plants with water periodically seems to help. It doesn't totally get rid of the spider mites, but it prevents them from attacking the plants as much. – Shule Oct 29 '15 at 1:25
  • @shule are you suggesting that since zucchini and cucumbers may not like being transplanted it is better to grow them straight in the raised bed vs 4 inch pots indoors? – JStorage Apr 29 '16 at 0:10
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If you catch them early, a spray with Neem oil would get rid of the mites, and it seems to strengthen the healthy leaves against powdery mildew and such. Since your climate is dry, mildew is not likely to be a problem.

My single squash mound is doing well this summer. I think the key is it gets lots of sun. It was planted from a pot when about 6 inches high, and I used a row cover to protect it until it had grown a few big leaves.

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