The Squash Experiment

I’ve been neglecting the blog recently, but I’ve been taking good care of the plants.  Here’s a quick update on the squash planted the day before a predicted frost :



Here’s a close-up.  Baby squash!!   I used the male flower from the squash plant that’ s growing in a yogurt container in the house to hand pollinate the flower since this group of plants didn’t have any open male flowers.

5-12:  The squash is a little bigger and hasn’t fallen off.  Hopefully the hand pollinating took.

I’ve been putting two gallon bottles of warm water into the cold frame most nights and then covering the window of the frame with an exercise mat to keep in the warmth.  It’s the perfect size to cover the window and because it’s padded it’s got great insulation.   When it’s really cold like it’s been for the past week with overnight lows in the 30s and 40s I’ll still throw the frost blanket over the bed and/or pull the plastic covering over it. 

The only problem I’ve had so far is that there are so many pill bugs in the frame.  But they’re not bothering the plants, so I guess it’s okay.   I sure hope the weather warms up and stays warm because the next problem I’ll have is the squash growing to big to close the cold frame window.   The experiment so far is going well.

Happy Gardening!!

Saga of the Squished Squash

Being all about diversity, I wanted to give as many veggies as I could a try. Squash is supposed to be good for you and is supposed to be one of the most prolific vegetables you can grow. So, I started a few seeds inside, gave away some and kept one. I planted it in the garden in early to mid May. It’s in the front left square.

This was 5-16-08 05-16-08 (6)

This was 5-31-08 05-31-08 (11)

This was 6-17-0806-17-08 (7) As you can see, the plant pretty much sat there.

Then it hit its sweet spot and started to grow.

This is 06-24-08, just a week later compared to what it’s been doing in the ground for the last month.06-24-08 (4)

This is a week later on 6-30-0806-30-08 (7)

And this is two weeks later on 7-14-08 with lots of huge blooms on it.07-14-08 (7) 07-14-08 (6)

The problem is that just about all of those pretty blooms produced lots of pretty little baby squash that turned brown and died. I only got three good squash from the plant. Then I noticed that the stem was turning brown and yucky looking.08-02-08 (7)Not the best picture, but the picture above and the picture below were taken on 8-2-08 when I gave up on the plant and decided to pull it. When I pulled it, I found a long tap root probably a couple feet long. It was growing towards the middle of the bed.08-02-08 (5) I was wondering if the plant was getting enough water because I’d come out and see the leaves wilting. It looks like the roots were going to where the water was.

Anyway, this morning I get a newsletter in my e-mail from Mike McGroarty. Guess what the title is? “Why Some Summer Squash Doesn’t Mature.” In this newsletter, he describes my problem and my solution, which was to hand pollinate the blooms.

Here’s the text from the e-mail:

Why Some Summer Squash Doesn’t Mature
It happens all too often. You’ll see big blossoms on your summer squash plants and tiny little squashes forming behind the blossoms. But after a few days the blossom dries up and the tiny squash shrivels and turns brown. Why does this happen?

There are a number of reasons why this may be occurring in your garden. The first thing to consider is the weather. Extreme temperatures of below 55 degrees or above 85 degrees while the plant is flowering can affect the plant’s ability to set fruit. Squash enjoy warm weather, but not too warm!

Squash plants prefer to grow in full sunlight. If they’re not getting enough sun, the plants protest by not setting fruit. They’re also fair weather friends. If the plants are blossoming and a heavy rain occurs, the rain can wash the pollen from the male flowers, preventing the female flowers from being pollinated. Likewise, never water your squash plants with an overhead sprinkler early in the morning. Each male flower opens for only a few hours in the morning. It’s in the morning hours that pollination is most likely to take place, and a sprinkler can wash away the pollen.

You can help pollinate your summer squash but first you need to know how to tell a female squash blossom from a male squash blossom. It’s easy once you know the difference. The female blossoms will have a tiny squash forming directly behind the blossom, while the male blossoms have just a stalk behind the blossom. That little squash behind the female blossom is the ovary, and if it isn’t pollinated it will wither and fall off.

To pollinate your squash blossoms, go out to the garden in the morning, before 10 a.m., armed with a cotton swab or small paintbrush. Now locate a male flower and gather some pollen by rubbing your swab or brush on the stamen in the center of the flower. You’ll see the yellow pollen on your swab or brush. Then move on to a female flower and rub the pollen onto the pistil in the center of the female blossom. Voila! You have pollinated your squash and will be rewarded with fresh, tasty vegetables for your dinner table.

Too bad I didn’t get this newsletter a couple of weeks ago.

Oh, well. Next year I’ll know what to do.

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