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Successfully Starting Cucurbits From Seed

With cucurbits, germination depends on high-enough soil temperature and not too much moisture. Squash are the most chill and moisture tolerant, melons the least. Here's a failure-proof and simple technique that ensures you'll plant at exactly the right time. Cucumbers, squash, and melons are traditionally sown atop a deeply dug, fertilized spot that usually looks like a little mound after it is worked and is commonly called a hill. About two weeks before the last anticipated frost date in your area, plant five or six squash seeds about 2 inches deep in a clump in the very center of that hill. Then, a week later, plant another clump at 12 o'clock. In another week, plant another clump at 3 o'clock, and continue doing this until one of the sowings sprouts. Probably the first try won't come up, but the hill will certainly germinate several clumps of seedlings. If weather conditions turn poor, a later-to-sprout group may outgrow those that came up earlier. Thin gradually to the best single plant by the time the vines are running. When the first squash seeds appear it is time to begin sowing cucumbers, starting a new batch each week until one emerges. When the cucumbers first germinate, it's time to try melons. Approaching cucurbits this way ensures that you'll get the earliest possible germination while being protected against the probability that cold, damp weather will prevent germination or permanently spoil the growth prospects of the earlier seedlings.

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