2013 Squashes (end of season notes)

Powdery mildew – grow resistant varieties where possible
Squash vine borers – grow resistant varieties where possible, experiment with non-surgical methods
Cucumbers: did well, excellent yield (many dozens) – give a bit less real estate, grow pickling type on arbor next year
Pumpkins: disappointing yield (@ 12), lots of powdery mildew
Watermelons: good yield (@ 20), some vine withering, a few rotted and a few were harvested too late
Winter Squash (Delicata): disappointing yield (@ 12), lots of vine borers – give more space?
Zucchini & Zephyr (Summer Squash): good yield, compact plants worked well in space

Mildew Strikes Back!

This past Saturday, the mildew had spread across the patch of summer squash.  While *we* had been careful to avoid watering late evening, to avoid water sitting on leaves not drying off, Mother Nature had no such qualms.  For a week she rained on and off as she pleased, day and night, throwing in a few thundershowers for good measure.  Plus with the high humidity, and therefore a high dewpoint, we surely had leaves soaked in dew every night.

Nevertheless, we benefited significantly from using potassium bicarbonate (couple teaspoons mixed in a few quarts of water -- we didn't add soybean oil because that gummed up the sprayer) to prevent mildew.  Indeed, the cucumber leaves were still free of mildew, and we've had a much more abundant crop of cucumbers this year than last.  The winter squash along the fence showed some mildew encroachment, which by today according to our Thursday waterer had spread entirely over that patch.  Interestingly, the winter squash under the beans and corn was still free of mildew. Perhaps yet another advantage of growing the Three Sisters together!



Pesticides vs. Mildew

Mildew attacked the leaves of cucumber plants and zucchini (and other summer squash) plants this summer.  Despite this, we harvested abundant quantities of each, so one could just call this part of our ecological tithe, especially since we weren't eating the leaves.  Yet there was enough concern that we did try to address the problem.

We altered our watering, so as not to water from above near these plants (as well as the tomatoes, given the threat of tomato blight).  Water on leaves helps spread disease, and it's water into roots which counts.  We added a soaker hose in the area of these plants as well.

We also tried a couple pesticides.  The first was a dilute mixture of hydrogen peroxide.  The effectiveness was questionable, requiring multiple regular applications to seem to work.  The second was baking soda and soybean oil (vegetable oil) diluted in water:  about a tablespoon of baking soda with a half gallon of water; the oil helps the baking soda stick to the leaves.  A few days later, many of the leaves of the squash plants appeared free of mildew.  However, it is unclear how much of this is new growth unyet touched by mildew, since we cleared away the dead leaves.

10 Things to Do With Too Many Cucumbers

1. Fill garden apron pockets. Weight train.

2. Make cucumber moonbat hats for Town Day.

3. Have Elsa Dorfman photograph each one.

4. Slice thinly. Mulch neighborhood.

5. Serve cucumber aperitif/hair conditioner/poison ivy salve with cocktail umbrellas.

6. Carve miniature cucumber totems. Worship.

7. Create cucumber theater with handmade costumes and zucchini sets.

8. Give eye relaxation treatment to Belmont.

9. Dr. Ruth lecture series!

10. Remember winter. Declare delicious every single one.


Cucumbers break thru

cuke pairThe cucumber shoots are up.
We had planted the cuke seeds in pairs in 2-foot intervals on either side of the compost bins. Of the 8 seeds planted, 6 germinated, producing nice healthy shoots, a pair and a single on either side. To improve the odds of getting an abundant crop, we separated one of each of the pairs and replanted them to the center spot between those remaining. So now the spacing is 12 inches between plants, still 3 on either side of the bins.

Elizabeth, our CGO (chief growing officer) says to expect an explosion of cukes.  To make provision for that,  Alan, chief engineer, has built two growing ladders, one on either side of the bins, in readiness for the onslaught to come. 

Always looking for a little action, I proposed we run a cucumber pool:  $1 a slot on the number of cukes we actually get out of the garden. So far, no takers on that.

Cukes go under

PlantingSaturday we planted cucumber seeds, 2 at a time, in 2-foot intervals along either side of the compost bins. We waited till now because cucumbers don’t like cool soil. They are not as finicky as tomatoes and eggplants, the prima donnas that go in next week, but they are real pansies compared, say, to radishes and peas.

Back 120 years ago, cucumbers were a luxury vegetable, served mostly in high-priced hotels like the Parker House over in Boston. At that time, Arlington was the cucumber capital of the United States. It was home to the country’s most famous slicing cucumber, the Arlington White Spine, a great- great-grandchild of which we have just planted here.

Arlington farmers grew cukes during the winter months and early spring in greenhouses, where they kept the soil and the air warm with a combination of steam boilers and daily infusions of horse manure from carriage operators over in Cambridge.

Off-season, for special events, Arlington cukes fetched as much $1 each from wealthy Bostonians. During the summer months they could still get as much as 40 cents each. (To convert those prices into reasonable estimates in today’s dollars, multiply by 22. That’s the Consumer Price Index multiplier for 1913, the first year for which the index was established.)

Eventually the Arlington White Spine fell out of favor as a retail cucumber, though it still goes strong as a breeder. How it lost its position in grocery stores is a long story, one we’ll tell you later sometime. As a breeder, however, Arlington White Spine  remains the Man 'o War of slicers, claiming more direct descendents than almost any other rival.

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