2017 Squash Family (end of season notes)

Butternuts: Metro PMR wicked awesome, good spacing. Butterbush (3 sisters) bombed
Cucumbers: renegades did well, main planting did even better, picking and slicing types easier to tell apart
Delicata: best yet, good yield, less mildew but hit by borers
Pumpkins: grow Baby Bear (single plant did great), start seeds in sterile soil, be vigilant about borers
Watermelons: tasty, but stunted and unproductive
Cousa squash: wasn’t as special, and didn’t do as well, as we hoped. Just grow zucchini next year?
Zucchini: did well (one plant produced into November), 2nd crop should be started earlier (almost had time to produce)

2016 Squash family (end of season notes)

2016 squash image

General: grow winter squashes in rows next year; groups of 3 harder to check for borers, try interspersing with other crops in perimeter beds to reduce spread of diseases
Butternut squash:  our most productive variety, did well relative to other squashes
Cucumbers: both types better w/mildew, but hit hard with bacterial wilt, volunteer plant in pepper bed held out the longest – try 2 plantings & early varieties?
Delicata squash: tasty variety, but only 1 squash per plant
Pumpkins:  bad borer (borers hid inside stems) and mildew damage, best variety so far (bush type, grow on ground)
Watermelons: good year, volunteer plant also produced
Yellow Summer squash: less robust than zucchini, destroyed by borers early – try second planting? Try cousa type?

2015 Squashes (end of season notes)

Not a great year for squashes, lots of squash vine borers, kaolin clay somewhat effective, possible damage from potassium bicarb treatment, try starting in pots 2 weeks before planting

Cucumbers: slow to get started, generally poor showing for both varieties, mildew problems, several small misshapen fruits

Pumpkins: sad showing, possibly due to borers and potassium bicarb treatment, possibly due to variety

Summer Squashes: zucchini wonderful, yellow squash bombed – find disease resistant variety

Winter Squashes: slow getting started, better yet not perfect, still had mildew and vine borer problems, label varieties next year

Watermelons: poor germination, replanted

2014 Squashes (end of season notes)

Squash Vine Borers and Mildew still problematic – frequent surgical intervention and overplanting (to compensate for plant loss from borers) and focus on productive, mildew-resistant varieties

Cucumbers: pickling type did better – try different standard type
Delicata Squash: Sugar Dumpling more productive, standard variety squashes small
Kabocha Squash: serious mildew issues, disappointing yield – try resistant variety
Melons: uneven germination, transplanted, major mildew, difficult to tell when ripe – failed experiment?
Pumpkins: unimpressive germination and yield, produced wide range of sizes
Yellow Squash: shorter season & more mildew than zucchini – try Success PM (mildew resistant)
Watermelons: uneven germination, transplanted, low yield
Zucchini: excellent variety: mildew resistant, early, productive and very hardy
Zucchino Squash: poor germination, 7 seeds = 1 plant w/1 huge squash, mildew killed plant before ripe

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

How does your garden squash grow?

Squash growth, 4 daysWe know that summer squash grow so fast that if you miss one during harvest you'll find a Moby Zuke in a few days. But I'm a left-brained geek who likes numbers, so I planted some reference sticks next to a young Zephyr on Saturday, August 4 and checked it four days later on August 8. It had just about doubled in length and more than tripled in girth, well on its way to blimpness. That's how fast a summer squash can grow. I picked it immediately before it could scare any dogs or small children.

The Three Sisters

Three Sisters photos
Corn, beans and squash were the three main agricultural crops of many Native American groups in the continental United States. Known as The Three Sisters, growing these crops together -- as the Native Americans are believed to have inspired Colonial farmers to do -- demonstrates an agricultural strategy known as Companion Planting.
Here's how it works. The Corn stalks provide structure for the pole beans to climb. The Bean roots fix nitrogen in the soil for the Corn and Squash. And the Squash plants spread along the ground like a living mulch, blocking the sun, retaining moisture in the soil, discouraging weeds and deterring pests with prickly hairs of their vines. In this way, the three crops not only occupy the same plot, but also synergize, enhancing the growth of one another.
Robbins Farm Garden introduced a Three Sisters plot in 2011, and is featuring one again this year. This is in happy coincidence with the Arlington Historical Society's 3rd Grade Educational Program on Colonial Life, which includes The Three Sisters. Colonial farmers adopted The Three Sisters planting strategy from the Algonquin, the Native Americans who originally inhabited this land. In Colonial times, Arlington was known by the Algonquin name Menotomy.
In 2011, our Three Sisters plot contained Double Standard Heirloom Corn, Garden of Eden Italian Pole Beans and Chucky F1 Pumpkins. We were unaware that the Corn should be planted first, followed when it is six inches tall by the Beans and Squash. When planted all at once, as we did that first year, the Beans outgrew the Corn and required staking. This, as well as a desire to try different Corn and Squash varieties, led to a few changes in our 2012 Three Sisters plot.
This year, we planted only the corn, Miniature Colored Popcorn on May 12. We will follow when the corn has reached six inches in height, with Garden of Eden Italian Pole Beans again (they did exceptionally well in 2011 and were delicious) and JWS 6823 PMR F1 Butternut Squash. Butternut Squash were selected because they are less susceptible to Squash Vine Borers than most Squashes. The borers can be extracted from the vines, but the lack of access created by the Corn and Bean plants make this disagreeable procedure more difficult.
Nutritionally, The Three Sisters also work well together. In combination with Beans, Corn and Squash contain all the nutrients necessary to produce proteins and niacin. Combining the Three Sisters with other seasonal herbs and vegetables in a stew is a traditional treat. All three crops can also be stored without refrigeration. Corn and Beans can be dried, and undamaged winter Squash will keep for many months in cool, dry conditions.
Variations of Three Sisters abound. Pueblo tribes of the US Southwest adapted the companion planting to a drier environment, often including a Fourth Sister known as Rocky Mountain Beeweed to attract bees to pollinate the Beans and Squash.

Squash Vine Borer

I noticed that some of the winter squash leaves were wilting.  To me, this is clearly an indication of the presence of a squash vine borer.  I gave it a couple days, and it was only getting worse.


In addition to the wilted leaves, we also appeared to have small holes in the vines near the base, and "yellow brown excrement".

To find the worm, I pressed along the main vine starting at the base until I found a soft spot (which was on the bottom of the vine).  I then used a knife to cut into this spot until I could spot a worm.  This is the larger worm I dug out of the squash vine.

Fans young and old

I opened up the garden today to entertain quite a number of visitors. Three adults were much impressed with our potato plantation, never having seen blossoming potatoes! We're educational for adults as well as children. I wish I'd had a camera for a sturdy 3-year-old fingering a squash leaf attended by a smaller one looking on. I fed the two some peas from a pod, and when the mother asked the 3-year-old to say "thank you," he said "more" instead. Two other older children, Korean, decided to keep the peas to plant them as their peas hadn't come up.

Fall Crop Update

The peak of the harvest is past, and yet we tried second plantings of some crops because we had the space, to see what would happen.  With about a month to go, here's their progress.

Cabbage & Cauliflower:  large leaves, producing well, but no sign of heads yet.

Carrots:  leafy fronds are doing well; no sign of poking out of the ground.

Beets:  alive but struggling.

Spinach:  mostly eaten by Something.

Peas:  half-height, base leaves yellowing, no sign of peas.

Lettuce:  looking good!  Might harvest some next week.

Also, here's an update on some first plantings:

Eggplant:  *continues* to produce, though more slowly.

Beans:  the bush beans produced another handful; the pole beans have disappointed.

Potatoes:  we pulled a single plant to obtain some potatoes for display at Town Day.  The number amidst the roots was extensive, and while mostly small-to-tiny, there was at least one big red one.  From just one plant!

Squash:  the tiny zucchini was accidently harvested; there's still a medium yellow squash; and the pattipan has several small fruits (not to mention flowers) which it thinks it has time to make bigger -- we'll see.

The mildew is back to some extent on the squash, and worse, has jumped to the other side of the garden and covered the collard leaves.

The rest of the greens (kale, chard, arugula and other herbs) still doing well.

Monster squashes

Last night, we took some more zucchinis, including a very robust, slightly curved specimen, and our first pattypans, a type of squash I've seen in the store but never purchased. One curiosity about them is that they look a little individual pot pies, but some have the stem coming from the middle of the dough, and some have the stem extending from the bottom of the pan (figuratively speaking, of course).

All the squash plants are massive and seem poised to provide an avalanche of produce.

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