Growing squash, part 2

Larry G. Field
Thursday, July 18, 2019
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We grow the vegetable squash for use as spaghetti noodles with spaghetti sauce. Some people like them cooked wth butter added. We bisect them lengthwise, remove the seeds and invert them on a cookie sheet, cover with foil. By the time they are well cooked, many, perhaps most of the “noodles” will have fallen out of the fruit onto the cookie sheet. Remove the remaining noodles and enjoy.

We plant one row about 20 ft long, leaving 10 feet in all directions unplanted. This will not be enough room but we do this adjacent to our orchard and allow the longer vines to fill spaces between trees. You may have to allow 15 ft in all directions or prune or train the longer vines.

The planting spaces in our row are 24 inches. Each space receives 3 seeds and is thinned back to the healthiest plant after germination and early growth. The row includes one vegetable spaghetti, five* pumpkins, and five* winter squash * varieties. By fall this will be a jungle. I have accumulated a pop flat full of small sticks, skewers, coffee stirring, chop sticks, willow limbs, etc. Since each planting site will be a different veggie I mark all with these small sticks and log them: 1. Skewer, Veg. S, 2. Willow, sugar baby pumpkin, etc. If a planting site produces no plant, I will know which to re-plant at that spot.

When planting, I dig a furrow that will flow irrigation water. The seeds are planted in this furrow. When the plants have grown enough that a 2 X 12 will not excessively shade them I build a watering platform. I use 1 X 2 boards and build miniature “football goalposts” looking supports, perfectly aligned, down and over the row. The crossbars that support the 2 X 12s are held by one screw on each side. I secure a series of 4 ft hoses and soaker sprinklers on top of the 2 X 12. When I irrigate, I first run water down the furrow to soak the primary roots. I then run the four ft. spaced sprinklers to soak the roots that form on each vine at each node. Elevating the watering platform will allow the spray to cover the plants. If the hose was on the ground the plant leaves would block nearly all of the showered water. W.S., Veg. S. and Pump are the only items that I sprinkle irrigate, I do so because the node roots will be spread throughout the vines. I normally irrigate only the furrows where veggies are planted and leave the between row soil dry to reduce weed growth.

In the fall I allow the vines/plants to grow until frost kills the majority of the leaves. After that, I do not wait for a harder frost like many people do because the leaves are gone and the fruit would be exposed to the even colder temperatures and may be damaged. I pick, hose off the squash, air dry and transport our keepers to the basement, the rest go to friends, neighbors and the Food Bank. Some years I stack them into a livestock watering tank, other years I spread them on a tarp. Do not lay them on concrete; the lime may cause them to spoil more rapidly. They should keep at basement temperatures until the 1st of the year. As freezer space becomes available we will cook a large squash, eat some with a meal, save enough for one meal of leftovers and freeze the rest Repeat as freezer becomes available but don’t over-. space crowd your freezer with squash unless you plan to eat it ALL. We give away or donate a good deal.

I am frequently asked, “How do you keep this varied row of gourd family members from cross breeding?” Answer, “I don’t” Cross breeding has no adverse effect on the quality of the fruit which is part of the female plant. The female is not genetically changed when the egg is fertilized. If you get “weird” fruit using this technique, it is because some of your seeds were faulty.

The following analogy with human comparison may help ex- plain plant crossing. The fertilized egg/seed develops in the uterus or pumpkin fruit. This fertilized egg/seed will contain genetics from both male and female parents. The genetics of the mother/ pumpkin plant and the uterus/pumpkin fruit will not be changed.* The fertilized seed/egg can both grow to adulthood. The egg grows in the uterus until child birth. The seed matures within the fruit. Both will develop the characteristics of both parents. The child, after birth, matures to become an adult. The seed, if it makes its way from within the pumpkin to a growing site, will mature into a new pumpkin plant. Neither will be genetically identical to the parents.

* Back to the question, “How do you keep this varied row of gourd family members from cross breeding?” Again, “I don’t” Cross breeding does not affect the genetics of the parent. The fruit of the W.S., Pump & Veg. S. are parts of the parent with unchanged genetics. If I do anything to prevent cross breeding, it is that I do not save and re-plant the crossed seeds. Once again, do not save seeds from hybrid plants.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2019
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Tuesdays, Noon, Beartooth Grill, 305 1st Ave. S.

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