Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Year of Cucurbits!!

No, we haven't forgotten. :)

I admit that back in January when we were starting Grow It Eat It's Year of Cucurbits, I felt some trepidation. There are lots of things that can go wrong with squash, cucumbers, melons and their relatives, and we've had nearly all of them happen in the demo garden: our melons failed to thrive, our cucumbers were devastated by bacterial wilt, and the squash that made it past vine borers and squash bugs often succumbed to powdery mildew.

However, whether it's thanks to our polar vortex winter or some other factor, this has been a remarkably pest-free year for us. Squash vine borer moths are chancy to spot, so it's not unusual that we haven't seen any, but we've also had no damage caused by their larvae. Since every other deterrence or destruction method has failed for us, I was all ready to inject Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) into the stems of affected squash, or even prophylactically, but I haven't had to. I'm still crossing my fingers - normally I'd say we were home free where borers are concerned, but so many pests have made delayed appearances this year that one never knows.

We have seen a few squash bugs (and their egg clusters) but at about a hundredth of the levels we usually see. Cucumber beetles are fairly plentiful, but they've done no damage thus far; they are usually the culprits where the sudden death of bacterial wilt is concerned. And, in the demo garden at least, we're avoiding other cucurbit diseases. (I've lost a couple of squash to mosaic virus, which is endemic at our community garden, and seen powdery mildew there as well.)

Which means we are harvesting! Buckets full of cucumbers, arms full of squash.

by Darlene Nicholson
Yesterday's harvest completely destroyed the previous record: we delivered 212 pounds of produce to Manna Food Center. In one day! This is only part of it:

And yes, there were some gigantic squash in there (it's what happens when you're not in the garden every day), which helps a lot with weight totals. These are the tromboncino squash we harvested (pruners to the right, for scale):

Monster zucchini, as well. A couple of five-gallon buckets of cukes. (And lots of other things too: beets, carrots, potatoes, and some less heavy items.)

Our other cucurbits are coming along well: various melons, mao gwa (edible fuzzy gourds), tiny mouse melons, a watermelon that's bred for containers and is producing in one, and more. Earlier in the season we discovered in one bed what we were calling a mystery volunteer squash until it started displaying white flowers and we realized it was a gourd; it's climbed all over that bed and the fence behind it, and is growing masses of these:

by Darlene Nicholson
The children's garden grew lots of gourds last year, and likely some of the seeds ended up in the compost, since the same plant popped up elsewhere as well (and has been removed; one is enough!). This year's children's garden team has erected an enormous tunnel of bamboo:

which is being covered with gourds and many other plants. It'll be very impressive by the end of the summer.

We hope our luck holds! I'd love to hear how everyone else's cucurbits are doing this year; please leave a comment if you have stories to tell. And I leave you with a squash flower that looks like a duck:

You're welcome. :)

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