Saving Butternut from Heat

This year has been extremely hot which is great for our luffa, peppers and tomatoes but many of our squash plants are suffering. We have gone 55 days in a row with temperatures in the 90s. Very little clouds to give the plants a break. The tender flowers of the Butternut squash are wilting and drying out before they get pollinated. The soil is also drying out faster than usual. It doesn’t help that our crop rows are on a slope which causes water to move away from some of the plants.

The black fabric weed block we use is very helpful for warming up the soil early which is necessary in our short growing season climate. It extends growth early on and also late in the season. Unfortunately with the high temperatures I believe the squash production is down due to heat stress.

We finally came up with the idea to take some of our old, torn hoop fabric cover, which is thin and white, and cover the black wee block around the Butternut squash. This helped reflect back some of the powerful sun rays so there was less heat.

It worked! The plants quickly produced 6 new Butternut squash.

Check out the farm’s YouTube Channel:

Success with Spaghetti Squash

Every now and then a customer would request spaghetti squash but since it wasn’t a common vegetable we never thought to grow it. After an increasing number of requests we decided to set aside a test area to try and grow it along side the butternut and acorn squash.

We couldn’t be happier with the results. With only a few plants we grew almost 30 squash and some of them were incredibly large! Every customer that requested this squash bought one to try and the feedback was amazing. “The best spaghetti squash I’ve ever had in my life!” was becoming a common comment on deliver day. With my limited experience eating this squash I actually had to agree with them! Even the man of the house who is not a fan of any kind of squash fell in love with it.

If you are not familiar with spaghetti squash it looks like a yellow football and about the size of one too. Like other fall/winter squash you cut it down the center, scoop out the seeds and baked it in the oven until it is tender. The difference with this squash is you take a fork, pull it down through the tender meat and it comes out in strips like a thick spaghetti noodle.

I recommend everyone grow this because it is so easy to grow with a big return.

Over Cross-Pollination or Franken-Squash

What is that thing?

This is a picture of a pumpkin plant. But you are saying to yourself…..that doesn’t look like a pumpkin. You are correct. That is definitely NOT a pumpkin growing on that pumpkin plant.

As part of our desire to continuously regrow our heirloom vegetables without purchasing new seeds every year we started to collect seeds so we could plant them again the following year. It was lost on us that there could be a possibility of cross-pollination that would cause the seeds collected to result in a completely different fruit! This year we learned that the squash family is one of the most susceptible to cross-pollination.

This fruit looks to be a cross between a pumpkin and a yellow squash. It grew early in the season like a summer squash would. There were round, smooth green fruit, like a zucchini in round form. There were also pumpkin shaped fruit that was too small and green or yellow fully ripe. Each plant had it’s own style of franken fruit, but the style was not mixed on a single plant.

We completed a taste test of the frankensquash to see if it was edible and it was, but the flavor was odd and the seeds had strange patterns in the fruit. We pulled off the edible pieces and ate them.

But now was the painstaking part! The pumpkin plants had grown to full size and were beautifully pest free. We had to pull them ALL out and replant them with store bought seeds. After all, our customers were expecting pumpkins at the end of the season!

We lost some time but luckily the new plants quickly germinated and gained some time back for our fall crop. Painful lessons learned. Until we have crop rows on opposite sides of the property, we will need to purchase new seeds every year to guarantee quality for our customers.

Get a closer look at the franken-squash on the farm’s YouTube channel:

Large Squash Flowers

This year’s squash took a very long time germinating and we even had to reseed multiple ones that were not successful. We’ve never had such a hard time with them. This included ALL the squash. Not just zucchini but also yellow squash, butternut and acorn squash. I still don’t know if it was the seed source, the weather, or potentially pests? Either way we finally got the squash growing and I’ve never seen such large flowers and leaves in my life! It’s amazing! The flowers were larger than my hand and the leaves were the size of the Elephant Ear plant.

Production this year didn’t disappoint. Like previous years, we had to harvest nightly to prevent over-sized fruit. Although we have a couple customers who prefer larger zucchini for firm Zoodles making, most prefer the smaller ones.

Something else we experienced with the squash this year is the fruit was inconsistent in the summer squash. Some had lines, some speckled and some had solid color versus any kind of variation. I assume this is due to the open pollination of the heirloom seed company I have been using. I may consider not using this seed source next year or may move to a close pollination source.

Either way, I’m impressed with the size of the plants this year and hoping it’s related to soil conditions rather than the seeds themselves. Maybe the compost is kicking it into high gear! That would be fantastic just in case I change seeds for next year.

Green and Gold Zucchini Squash

Last year we tried to grow zucchini with minimal success due to the shade. With the expansion into a sunnier area our zucchini plants were much more fruitful! The left hand side row is your standard green zucchini and the right is the gold zucchini.

All the plants consistently produced to order. We were able to cover all requests without waiting. As the summer went along we found we had to pick every evening to be sure the squash didn’t get too big. The day before it looked just a little too small, but the next evening it had grown too big! There were occasions where we they ended up with squash too big to sell. Those we made into zucchini bread. We had a lot of zucchini bread so I froze some of it. The longest I’ve kept a frozen zucchini bread is 5 months and after letting it defrost in the refrigerator it tasted just as good as the day it was baked! Just make sure it’s not a juicy bread. The bigger the squash is the firmer it is.The large firmer zucchinis were sliced and used as noodles for a vegetable lasagna.

Zucchini is now one of our easiest growers and better sellers.  It also stores better than most of our other produce.