want new winter varieties in garden...seeking opinions/advice

eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)December 1, 2010

I have a very small garden, but have had limited success with butternuts and some pumpkins on trellises and allowing them to run a bit in a secluded part of my little yard.

Anyway, I am looking to change my winter squash varieties, not that my butternut squash have been poor, but what fun is gardening if you don't try new things?! Anyway, I am considering either Blue Hubbard or Buttercup. I don't think I have enough space for both, but I would like to do a few plants of one of them. I like the idea of the huge Hubbards, but perhaps they are too big for a family of three.

I am looking for plants based on a few criteria:

1) Ease of growing & growing on a trellis. I will be away for a while in the summer, so I need plants that will be fairly self-sufficient.

2) Pest resistance. One of the great benefits of butternut is the SVB resistance. Do either of these squash offer that?

3) Taste of the flesh. I like to make soup from my butternuts, but I am looking to branch out in my preparations. I hear both are great, and I suspect better than butternut.

4) Ease of storage AFTER cutting it open. I guess this is mainly for the Hubbard, since the Buttercup would be small enough to use all at once.

5) Seeds... How are they for roasting? I love to roast the seeds and enjoy them as much, or more than the flesh... probably more, but don't tell my wife!

6) Miscellaneous. Any other things that you could offer on either plant (or even another option) would be greatly appreciated.

I wanted to start this discussion now so that I have plenty of time to order the seeds I need, and move forward in the spring with a solid game plan.

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Hubbard and Buttercup are both of the same species, C. maxima. However there are multiple subspecies of C. maxima. The 3 most commonly grown subspecies, one has a brown leathery seed coat, one has a soft white seed coat, and one has a white seed coat covered in a second hard brown layer. The subspecies have been repeatedly crossed and bred together a lot, so there is no telling what the seeds will look like without actually looking at them. But the ones covered in soft white are common in hubbards, and they are the easiest to eat, in my opinion.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2010 at 1:16PM
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mrs.b_in_wy(5a WY)

Hello EG,

I agree. Trying new varieties is half the fun.

1) In my experience, between Blue Hubbard and Buttercup, Buttercup is more likely to climb. I take care of my cousinâÂÂs garden in the summer and have seen her Buttercups climb trees on their own initiative. The fruits generally are small enough that they donâÂÂt need additional support. One in our 2009 garden weighed ~12 pounds, so a fairly stout trellis would be in order.

On the flip side, in 2009 and 2010, using different seed sources, the Buttercup vines had the most annoying habit of aborting their fruit when most everything was going gangbusters. My aunt had the same thing happen. I might try another strain next year before I permanently cross Buttercup off my list.

Our largest Blue Hubbard in 2010 was ~22 lbs. WeâÂÂre a family of three, too, but IâÂÂm the only squash-eater :) My favorite climber this year was (C. pepo).

2) I donâÂÂt have SVB here (not yet, anyway), but if SVB are bad in your area, you might be happier with C. moschata varieties (which is what Butternut is). As nick_1 noted, both Blue Hubbard and Buttercup are C. maxima. As I understand it, SVB burrow into the hollow vines of C. pepo and C. maxima but have a much harder time dealing with the C. moschata vines. Not all the garden catalogs list the species name. Sand Hill Preservation is one that does. I added a link to Sand HillâÂÂs squash page below. Futtsu/Black Futsu, Chiriman and Shishigatani are a few C. moschatas IâÂÂd like to try one day.

3) Hmmm. Taste is quite subjective. I havenâÂÂt found an overall favorite with respect to flavor yet (though I certainly like some more than others). I've read that C. maximas are thought to have the best flavor, but I think Butternut competes quite well with Buttercup and Hubbards.

4) When I open a big squash, I usually just bake the whole thing and freeze what I donâÂÂt plan to use immediately. I donâÂÂt do anything special beyond scooping the (cooled) flesh out of the skin.

5) As Nick_1 noted above, the seed coats are variable. IâÂÂm tempted to try a âÂÂnaked seededâ type some time (i.e. Lady Godiva). I think they might all be C. pepos, so that might not be such a good idea for you. Some of the C. mixta/argyrosperma types are grown mainly for their seeds, too. I'm afraid I donâÂÂt know how they do against SVB.

6) How much space do you have? How creative can you get with it?

Here is a link that might be useful: Sand Hill Preservation - Squash

    Bookmark   December 2, 2010 at 10:39PM
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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)

Thank you both for your attentive answer to my inquiry.

I don't have too much issue with the SVB. They usually destroy my first crop of zucchini right around the time I get tired of picking 5 or 6 new squash every 2 or 3 days... I just pull the plants and start new ones in their spots and by the time I am missing having zucchini, they are back in business again!

They also usually take out my pumpkins (regardless of the type) before I get more than 1 (sometimes 2) nice pumpkins from the vine. It's sad, and unfortunate but I don't really mind. I might have to stick with moschata types though, since I was able to harvest 4 nice sized butternuts without any attention being given to them last summer (lots of traveling, little time for gardening).

As far as the ability to get creative with my plants... The area I grow them in my tiny little yard is right next to the south side of my house. It is the farthest corner of my yard from my backdoor, and it is very warm there - reflection off the WHITE exterior of my wall certainly helps, I think. Anyway, this area is about 9 feet wide by 12 feet long. I put a bed in there, shaped like an "E". The Backbone of the "E" runs along the side of my house and is 12 feet long. The backbone is about 3 feet wide. Then the "spokes" coming off the E are each about 4 feet long and about 2.5 feet wide. This gives me just enough space to be able to access each area via a walkway. Two of the spokes have 7 foot trellises "permanently" in place. The trellises are 10 feet long 4x4's from recycled wooden pallets, with a cross brace and nylon garden netting for the vines to grow up. Last year this space was used for onions (the base of the E - no trellis), a cheyenne bush pumpkin (I got one nice sized pumpkin from it) and two butternut squash plants. The area got completely overgrown with weeds, as I was unable to really get in there to tend it given my schedule this past summer, but I still got 4 nice sized butternuts out of it. No weeding, no watering, etc. I just went back there to harvest when the time was right.

So, creativity wise, I think I have it covered (although I'd be interested to hear other suggestions). I have another area I "could" run the vines if necessary, but that area has been decided will become a "naturalized" flower bed for my wife. The bed will kind of hide the squash vines running up and over the trellising from the street view. So, I don't want to actually have the plants running on the ground in there... kind of defeats the purpose.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 1:17PM
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mrs.b_in_wy(5a WY)

That does sound creative! I like the "E" with paths between the spokes idea. It sounds like an efficient use of space, too.

I used black plastic in the garden this year for the first time. I'm so pleased with how the warm-weather-loving crops did and how poorly the weeds did. They didn't stand a chance :) I know black plastic isn't for everyone, though. Sheets of cardboard work nicely for smothering weeds and retaining moisture, too. Overlapping the edges keeps the weeds from gaining a foothold at the seams. I told my cousin that was what I was going to do to her garden. It's enormous, and I've always had a terrible time keeping up with the weeds. She did me one better and put down landscape fabric AND cardboard before she left. What a difference that made!

Some of the moschatas look similar to what we typically call pumpkins in case you'd want to go that route. Long Island Cheese and Musquee de Provence are a couple. I believe Warsaw Buff Pie might be another one, but macmex would be the one to ask. I linked to one of the threads about it in case you haven't seen it before.

BTW - If you're a fan of acorn squash, I've read that Scarchuck's Supreme is quite a bit more resistant to SVB than other types. I would think it would be good as a climber. It looks like Sand Hill sold out in 2010. Maybe it will be available for 2011.

HTH and happy gardening!

Here is a link that might be useful: Warsaw Round

    Bookmark   December 4, 2010 at 12:13AM
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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)

I purchased landscape fabric last fall (and have plenty of cardboard - I've been stockpiling for about 6 months). I was planning to use it this year to combat the weeds that won last year! This year, I WILL WIN!!!

How did she lay down the fabric and cardboard? Cardboard on the bottom, I would assume.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2010 at 10:47AM
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mrs.b_in_wy(5a WY)

Actually, she put the cardboard on the top. I don't know if she had a particular reason for doing it that way. I don't know if cardboard and landscape fabric were both necessary. I DO know the weeds never saw the light of day. Hah!

Yes, you WILL win :) Have fun!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2010 at 12:41PM
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