Squash Trial

nwl_meSeptember 13, 2006

Hi all.

I'm located in western Maine (zone 4, Oxford County) and I don't usually have much luck growing squash without giving it a lot of care, and then still not having a high rate of success. Short growing seasons with very variable weather doesn't seem to be all that good for growing squash in my little neck of the woods.

I cunducted a trial this past 2006 season with 20 cultivars (all "supposedly" easy to grow) to see which, if any, would survive and produce fruit without any care or human intervention whatsoever, planted in regular unamended dirt in an overgrown field. I figured that if any grew well there, then they should also grow well in my garden.

Anyway, there were 3 cultivars that passed: Connecticut Field Pumpkin, New England Pie Pumpkin, & Sweet Dumpling.

The 17 that failed were Autumn Gold, Baby Pam, Benning's Green Tint, Black Zucchini, Bush Delicata, Cocozelle, Costata Romanesca, Early Summer Yellow Crookneck, Golden Zucchini, Howden, Long Pie Pumpkin, Table Queen, Vegetable Spaghetti, White Bush Cousa, Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin, Young's Beauty, & Zeppelin Delicata.

Hopefully this trial helps others in a similar situation.

I'd like to try this again next year to find more cultivars. Would anyone in Maine have any experience with very easy to grow squashes (summer & winter) that aren't listed above?

-Nick

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maineman(z5a ME)

Nick,

That's an interesting test you did. Only three pumpkins passed and no summer squash.

I think your test may be unnecessarily severe. For example, I didn't grow any summer squash this year, but last year I grew a single Costata Romanesco (from Johnny's) quite successfully. The plant became huge, with really big leaves. It had long vines which I trained up onto a concrete re-mesh support to conserve garden space. It had very good tasting zucchini squash and an abundance of male blossoms for squash blossom recipes. Deep fat fried in a batter is my favorite, but some people like to "stuff" them. Squash blossoms are considered a delicacy in restaurants.

I haven't grown any winter squash yet, but in past years I have grown at least a dozen other varieties of summer squash successfully, with some special care, but not an awful lot. I feed them liquid fertilizer using a soluble formula like Miracle-Gro Tomato Food and I hand-pick any squash bugs that appear. Fortunately I haven't had problems with Squash Vine Borers, but if I do, I will probably split the vine to kill the borers and toss the vines on the compost pile.

I start an early crop indoors under overdriven fluorescent lights and set them out in a fairly advanced stage about the first of June. Some people have reported success with successive plantings, and I plan to try that next year. That worked well with our pole beans and pole peas this year.

As fall approaches, powdery mildew inevitably becomes a serious problem and if frost doesn't kill your plants the powdery mildew will. Next year I will probably spray a lot of a product called GreenCure® to fight the powdery mildew. This year it is working fairly well on our tomatoes, eggplants, and zinnias.

As that link shows, GreenCure is effective against powdery mildew and a bunch of other diseases as well. It is completely non-toxic and safe. I use about 1½ tablespoons of GreenCure in a gallon of water. I need to get a better sprayer, to do a better job of covering the bottom sides of the leaves. With GreenCure, hopefully my squash will survive the powdery mildew a little better next year.

MM

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 10:12AM
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nwl_me

MM,
Thanks for the info.

And yes, the test was severe, but that was the point. I was looking for varieties that would survive to fruition all on their own. Varieties that could adapt and succede in harsh growing conditions. Varieties with the potential to grow like weeds, not that I'd necessarily want them to become weeds, but I wouldn't mind it.

The Connecticut Field Pumpkin, New England Pie Pumpkin, & Sweet Dumpling all developed and ripened fruit quite a bit smaller than they were "supposed" to, but the fact that they fruited at all, I find impressive. All 3 of these varieties are new to me this past year, and I hope that they will thrive that much more so next year when planted in composted rabbit and chicken manure.

-Nick

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 10:51PM
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maineman(z5a ME)

Nick,

Good luck next year with your pumpkins in Maine.

MM

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 11:11AM
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