Squash, Winter and Summer





_Sowing date:_ Having warm-enough soil is everything. At Elkton I
first attempt squash about April 15. In the Willamette, May 1 is
usual. Farther north, squash may not come up until June 1. Dry
gardeners should not transplant squash; the taproot must not be
broken.
_Spacing:_ The amount of room to give each plant depends on the
potential of a specific variety's maximum root development. Most
vining winter squash can completely occupy a 10-foot-diameter
circle. Sprawly heirloom summer squash varieties can desiccate an
8-or 9-foot-diameter circle. Thin each hill to one plant, not two or
more as is recommended in the average garden book. There must be no
competition for water.
_Irrigation:_ With winter storage types, an unirrigated vine may
yield 15 pounds of squash after occupying a 10-foot-diameter circle
for an entire growing season. However, starting about July 1, if you
support that vine by supplying liquid fertilizer every two to three
weeks you may harvest 60 pounds of squash from the same area. The
first fertigation may only need 2 gallons. Then mid-July give 4;
about August 1, 8; August 15, feed 15 gallons. After that date,
solar intensity and temperatures decline, growth rate slows, and
water use also decreases. On September 1 I'd add about 8 gallons and
about 5 more on September 15 if it hadn't yet rained significantly.
Total water: 42 gallons. Total increase in yield: 45 pounds. I'd say
that's a good return on water invested.
_Varieties:_ For winter squash, all the vining winter varieties in
the C. maxima or C. pepo family seem acceptably adapted to dry
gardening. These include Buttercup, Hubbard, Delicious, Sweet Meat,
Delicata, Spaghetti, and Acorn. I wouldn't trust any of the newer
compact bush winter varieties so popular on raised beds. Despite
their reputation for drought tolerance C. mixta varieties (or cushaw
squash) were believed to be strictly hot desert or humid-tropical
varieties, unable to mature in our cool climate. However, Pepita
(PEA) is a mixta that is early enough and seems entirely unbothered
by a complete lack of irrigation. The enormous vine sets numerous
good keepers with mild-tasting, light yellow flesh.
Obviously, the compact bush summer squash varieties so popular these
days are not good candidates for withstanding long periods without
irrigation. The old heirlooms like Black Zucchini (ABL) (not Black
Beauty!) and warty Yellow Crookneck grow enormous, high-yielding
plants whose extent nearly rivals that of the largest winter squash.
They also grow a dense leaf cover, making the fruit a little harder
to find. These are the only American heirlooms still readily
available. Black Zucchini has become very raggedy; anyone growing it
should be prepared to plant several vines and accept that at least
one-third of them will throw rather off-type fruit. It needs the
work of a skilled plant breeder. Yellow Crookneck is still a fairly
"clean" variety offering good uniformity. Both have more flavor and
are less watery than the modern summer squash varieties. Yellow
Crookneck is especially rich, probably due to its thick, oily skin;
most gardeners who once grow the old Crookneck never again grow any
other kind. Another useful drought-tolerant variety is Gem,
sometimes called Rolet (TSC). It grows an extensive
winter-squash-like vine yielding grapefruit-size, excellent eating
summer squash.
Both Yellow Crookneck and Black Zucchini begin yielding several
weeks later than the modern hybrids. However, as the summer goes on
they will produce quite a bit more squash than new hybrid types. I
now grow five or six fully irrigated early hybrid plants like Seneca
Zucchini too. As soon as my picking bucket is being filled with
later-to-yield Crooknecks, I pull out the Senecas and use the now
empty irrigated space for fall crops.





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