Sunday, May 3, 2009

Thirsty Feeders

Squash is one of my favorite summer vegetables. They are easy to grow and and don’t require as much care throughout the season as other garden inhabitants can. They are also easy to incorporate into many existing recipes which is a good thing because just a few transplants can bring squash into the kitchen every day.

To extend our summer season, we put our first planting of squash in raised beds. These beds heat up quicker than the surrounding soil. As cool as this spring has been, this may put us 3 or 4 weeks ahead of the game. The downside of using raised beds is that the soil tends to dry out much quicker. Squash needs about 1-1/2” of water per week. To get the healthiest plants possible you need to keep the soil moist in the 10-20” zone below the surface.

To solve this problem we plant our squash around containers that are buried to within 1” or so from the top rim. This ensures that we are watering to the proper depth in a quick manner.

Before planting we prepare the bed as we would regardless of where we are planting squash. First we use a garden fork or a spade to loosen the soil to a depth of 4-6” without turning the soil over.


Next we rake the soil out to remove as many clumps as possible.Then we bury a container left over from a previous landscaping project. We only dig a hole about half the height of the container. The remainder is buried by hilling soil up around the sides of the container to create a mound.

If you don’t have one available almost any container with holes in the bottom will do. Another one of my favorite containers to use are old milk jugs. The old nursery containers we use are just large enough to place a milk jug inside. This gives us the option of providing a slow application of water should we go away for several days.

Because we have ample stores of compost, we then mix in a few shovels full around the container. If you prefer to use a slow-release fertilizer, such as a 5-10-10, you could do that now as well. Just be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended application rate.Now all that is left is to plant our seedlings, apply some mulch and water them in. We will water once a week now and twice a week when the weather becomes hot.Using our containers we can apply a compost tea or a liquid fertilizer if needed. By not applying water in an overhead manner, we reduce the chance of diseases such as mildew. Like with soaker hoses or drip irrigation, we are conserving water without the expense of extra equipment or return trips to the garden to shut off hoses. You can use this approach for most thirsty feeders such as tomatoes, cucumbers and melons too.

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