Please help with planting dates

Whit301June 18, 2014

Hello, is it too late for me to get my popcorn seed in the ground for a harvest? Also I'm planting pumpkins for the first time and am going to row sow them. When should I plant them and should I start them inside first and if yes, when should I start them? I have heard sometime if you plant radishes next to pumpkins it would help with squash bugs. Is this correct or is it another vegetable? And finally when should I plant my garlic? I live south of Tulsa. Thank you in advance and I'm glad to have found Garden Web!

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Hiya, Whit!

I'm going to leave the expert explanations to the... experts who are likely to follow. But I'm going to attach the OSU Fall Planning guide that is so very helpful. I know that you can plant those pumpkins in the ground, right now. And the planting dates (for seeds and some plants) show July 15. So, next month.

Just for grins, I am going to plant some strawberry popcorn for fall. I have no idea if it'll fly, but I have the space. From what I've read fall corn harvests can be difficult to obtain.
OSU Fall Planting Guide

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 7:01PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Right now we are in the awkward stage where it is too late to plant much of anything for the spring/summer garden except for a few succession sowings of things like cucumbers and southern peas, but a tiny bit too early to plant anything yet for the summer/autumn garden.

For both popcorn and pumpkins, the recommended planting date for these items for the fall garden in your part of the state is mid-July. Seeds of both can be sown directly in the garden.

I'm going to link the OSU Fact Sheet on Fall Gardening for you. On page 3 there is a list of planting dates for warm-season crops for the fall garden and on page 4 there is a list of planting dates for cool-season crops. Because you're in northeastern OK, when there is a range of dates shown, you'd want to choose a date from the earlier part of that range of dates whereas a person who is in southern OK would choose a date from the latter part of that range of dates. That's because northern OK generally is expected to cool down earlier in the fall so gardeners there need to plant early enough to get a harvest before the first frost or freeze. People in southern OK, where it normally cools down a couple of weeks later in fall, can choose a date a couple of weeks later for that reason.

The types of radishes used as companion plants for squash and pumpkin plants usually are one of two kinds---rattail radishes, grown for their flowers and edible seed pods, and icicle radishes, also grown for their flowers. The reason they are companion-planted with squash is that the flowers, while blooming, often attract beneficial insects that help control squash vine borers. Squash vine borers are very difficult to combat, particularly when you are growing Cucurbita maxima and Cucurbita pepo varieties.

Whether you will have trouble with squash vine borers your very first year growing squash/pumpkins is unknown. Much depends on how far away your garden is from any existing squash plants, including native ones, that the SVBs already feed upon. You might be able to grow for several years before SVBs find your garden. Or, they might find it your first year....or even your first week. Squash Vine Borers are very hard to combat, and the first generation already has laid eggs and those little larvae already are causing problems in some parts of OK. Those little larvae will grow up and lay eggs of their own in a month or two, and the second generation of SVBs then will attack the fall plantings or any spring/summer plantings that survived the first round of them in June.

Notice I've focused on squash vine borers because they are much more of a threat to your pumpkins than squash bugs, but that does not mean that squash bugs are not also a threat. They are, but they're easier to control.

With both squash vine borers and squash bugs, the most sure-fire method to prevent problems with them is to grow them underneath floating row covers tacked down tightly to the ground. You can leave the row covers over them until they start to bloom, when you'd need to remove the row covers so pollination of the flowers can be accomplished by insects, or you can temporarily lift the row covers, hand-pollinate the flowers yourself, and then replace the row covers.

In this part of the country, happily planting pumpkins with no protection from the squash vine borers greatly increases the chance you'll never get a single pumpkin. The SVBs are very aggressive and in order to combat them, you need to be very vigilant from day one. There are many methods used to combat them, and you need to use as many of them as possible. If you need to know what they are, let me know and I'll link an excellent article on IPM for squash pests.

Squash bugs can be hand-picked and dropped to the ground, squished between your foot and the ground, or flicked off the plants into a bowl or bucket of soapy water where they will drown. You also should check the backs of the leaves every day or squash bug eggs and remove and destroy them. The problem with them is that as they feed on the foliage of the plants, they spread diseases that kill the plants, and those diseases can wipe out an entire planting quickly.

Both of the major squash pests are very persistent and can quickly ruin a crop. However, sometimes you get lucky and they just don't find you. After we moved to southern Oklahoma in the late 1990s, I was able to successfully grow pumpkins and squash of all kinds for 6 or 7 years before either the squash bugs or SVBs found us. I knew they'd eventually find our garden, so I planted huge numbers of pumpkin and squash varieties--often 20 to 30 varieties a year. I figured I should enjoy being able to grow them while it lasted. Since they found us, I have cut back to only 4 to 8 varieties a year, and for winter squash, I only grow types from the Cucurbita moschata family because they have solid stems that make it difficult for the squash vine borer larvae (which are white grubs) to tunnel through the stems, which is how they destroy the crops to begin with---they tunnel through the hollow stems of other varieties and kill the plants from the inside out, so to speak.

Garlic should be planted in the fall, with the ideal planting time in most of Oklahoma being the September-October time frame. However, you can plant it pretty much any day of the year. In order to get a great harvest next summer, though, you really want to aim for the Sept-Oct time frame. Most places that sell garlic for planting only have it available in the fall and only ship in the fall, although if you order online, you can order now and they will ship at fall planting time. If you wait until fall to order garlic, some of the most popular varieties are likely to be sold out.

Hope this helps, and I'm glad you found Garden Web too. There's a great bunch of people here on this forum with a huge wealth of knowledge and experience.


Here is a link that might be useful: Fall Gardening Guide

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 7:24PM
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Thank you all for such wonderful and detailed information! It all will be a ton of help for many years to come! Just curious, is anyone experiencing almost a complete drop off on the new squash and zucchini production? It seemed like my plants were just hitting the high production faze and all of a sudden they just stopped. Is this heat related and will they pick back up or is this sign that they are about spent? Also, I have one yellow squash plant that is notorious for the young squash rotting on the vine. It only for the most part only happens with this one plant. Any thoughts or suggestions?
Thanks again for the awesome replies!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 2:17PM
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I'm sorry I forgot, thank you Dawn on all of the info on the SVB! I would be thank full on any info you would attach on preventing them and on planting the pumpkins under the floating row covers. Do I find these online? Also, do I preform a search for pumpkin varieties in the Cucurbita Moschata family?
I like you ChickenCoupe was thinking of trying the strawberry popcorn since id like to get a decorative popcorn. Have anyone had good luck with a particular decorative popcorn variety?
Thank you so much! I feel much better now having an idea on where to go from here!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 2:43PM
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You're getting me all excited. AND it's raining which just ramps up my happiness for fall crops.

I changed my mind on the strawberry and will grow it in spring. I don't have too much of that seed. Don't want to risk it. Family wants more eatin' corn so I'm going to try out Reid's Yellow Dent. It's 120 day variety so I'm pushing it! Just a few plants

Boy, I'm excited for some brussels and broccoli ...cold crops.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 3:19PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

You're welcome, Whit.

I'll link a document that contains a great deal of info on combatting both squash bugs and squash vine borers.

Many folks who grow under floating row cover prefer to suspend it over hoops that hold it slightly higher than the plants. Floating row cover material is very lightweight and is designed to float freely over the plants, but as a practical matter, many of us who use it have found the Oklahoma wind is very hard on it when it floats freely, and it doesn't get torn up as easily if it is placed over hoops. You can make hoops from electrical conduit with a Quick Hoops hoop bender or from PVC pipe. For our hoops, we hammered rebar into the ground and then use the rebar to anchor the PVC that is bent in a U-shape over a bed that is 4' wide and 30-40' long, depending on which bed the squash plants are in that year. If you Google floating row cover you'll find many kinds available. Reemay is one of the major brands and Agribon is another. If you go to the website of Johnny's Selected Seeds, you can see lots of photos on their websites of plants growing under low tunnels made from the various weights and thicknesses of agricultural fabric.

A search for C. moschata varieties will pull up all kinds of them. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange carries several of them and so does Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Some of the C. moschata types most commonly grown include Seminole Pumpkin (all pumpkins are squashes but not all squashes are pumpkins), Musquee de Provence, Long Island Cheese, Dickinson, Tan Cheese Pumpkin, Waltham Butternut (all butternuts are moschatas), Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck, Trombocino, Tahitian Melon, Zucchino Rampicante (also called Zuchetta), Long of Naples, Sucrine du Berry, and Black Futsu.

I should have mentioned that sometimes I can plant Green-striped Cushaw, which is C. mixta, and the SVBs won't get it.

Sometimes you will see a drop-off in squash/zucchini production. Often it occurs because you're leaving the existing fruit on the plant too long. Here is where you have to think like a plant. Imagine you are the squash plant and you have a biological imperative to produce seeds so that your species will survive. Once you have produced a lot of seeds that are inside the fruit attached to you, you can slack off if you wish because you know those seeds are there. So, you slow down production. Then, along comes a gardener who harvests the squash and takes away all your seeds. Uh oh, you say to yourself, and you begin setting fruit again because you know you have to produce more seeds. So, maybe that is your plants' problem.

Other things can be responsible for a drop in production. It could be a lack of bees, and if you're having a lot of rainy days and clouds, there usually is less bee activity and sometimes the squash flowers aren't getting pollinated. In most of OK, it really hasn't been hot enough for the high temperatures to interfere in squash production yet. It seems more likely the pollinators have been less active because of the rainy days. And, I am assuming you are not spraying any pesticides that are killing your pollinators because, if you are, it is going to be hard to get fruitset unless you hand-pollinate the plants.

With the one plant that has fruit rot problems, it could be that they are not getting pollinated for whatever reason. When they aren't pollinated, the fruit enlarge only a small bit and then drop off the plant. It also could be Choanephora Fruit Rot, aka blossom end rot or wet rot. It is a fungal disease common in hot, rainy weather where the soil and plants stay persistently wet. Usually, as soon as the rain stops and everything dries out, the fruit stop dropping off and rotting.

Here is a link that might be useful: Squash Pest Control

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 5:09PM
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Thank you all for all of the help and advice! I preparing for my pumpkins and popcorn now and have a question. I have read people getting large crops by planting the pumpkins closer in the row but wider space between rows. This is my thought and please correct anything you see would not be good.
I plan on planting the pumpkin rows 6' from the other and 24" apart in the row. Then I would plant the strawberry popcorn in between the pumphins. So there will be a pumpkin, 1' later a popcorn, 1foot later another pumpkin and so on. Then have a complete row of popcorn every foot until I get to 6' from my first pumpkin row and repeat what I did there. In the rows between the pumpkins I will plant my strawberry popcorn every 12" in those rows. Does this sound viable and would allow enough room for the pumpkins and the corn to grow properly or would it be to thick for the pumpkins to spread. Thank you so very much!!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 5:46PM
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I'm sorry, I forgot one more thing. Do all of you plant two corn seeds per hole and if you do, if they both come up do u just leave them or always cull one out? The strawberry popcorn stocks are smaller so I'm wondering if I should do on seed or the above. Or do u just do one seed and re sow the one that doesn't come up? Thanks a million!!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 5:57PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I sow two per hole. If they both come up, I wait a few days to make sure a cutworm doesn't get one, and then I remove the smaller, weaker one and leave only one plant per hole. I remove it by cutting the plant off at the soil line with scissors. If you pull out the unwanted plant you generally disturb the remaining plant and sometimes if you try to pull up one, you accidentally pull up both of them. If you leave two per hole, the plants will compete with one another for sunlight, moisture and nutrition and you'll get fewer ears or smaller ears or, sometimes, both.

You can do it the other way where you sow only one seed and go back and sow new seeds in the spots where nothing came up, but then the ones you've sown later are a week or two behind the others, depending on when you resowed them and on how long it took them to sprout. Since the corn plants pollinate one another, I'd rather have all of them the same age/size so that they all are silking and tasseling at about the same time to ensure good pollination and good tip fill on the ears.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 8:56PM
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Thanks okie, what is you opinion on the spacing with and without the pumpkins mentioned above? Since you plant two seeds at a time do you do them by hand or do you have a seeder that will drop two at once? Thank you!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 9:50PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I sow pumpkin seeds by hand because I don't space them very close together. How close you can space them depends on the variety and the vine's ultimate size, how fertile your soil is, how much moisture you have, etc. I actually get away with planting Seminole more closely than other varieties because I let them climb the garden fence, which is 8' tall. For me, Seminole is an end-of-the-season space filler that I often plant at mid-summer as other crops are coming out, so the spacing depends on what space is available. One Seminole pumpkin, for example, can put out vines that run 15-30' in all directions when there is fairly fertile soil and adequate moisture available. If you plant too many pumpkins they will climb all over each other and every other plant you are growing, so take it easy with the pumpkin spacing. You can crowd some plants and get away with it (I plant tomato plants closer than I should in order to get huge harvests all at one time for a very intense/heavy canning period of 1-2 months, for example) but with rampant vining plants, too many plants in too small of a space can backfire on you by burying everything else you're growing underneath their foliage.

Unless I am planting pumpkins to trellis up a fence (my Seminoles usually climb the fence and then, if I have planted them near a fence line that has trees beyond it, they'll climb the trees), I space them 6-8' apart. If I am letting them climb the fence I space them as closely as 1' apart along the fence, but that is because their growth will be mostly vertical, and when the vines try to head off in multiple directions on the ground, I train them to climb the fence. You cannot grow big huge pumpkin varieties on fences or trellises, but Seminole grows just fine that way. With varieties that produce larger pumpkins, the vines have got to have enough ground and water to supply the rapidly enlarging vines and pumpkins with adequate nutrients and water. Otherwise, you'll end up with a lot of vines but with a poor harvest because all of them are fighting each other for the available nutrients and moisture. A pumpkin variety like Small Sugar Pumpkin can produce well, as Seminole does, with somewhat closer spacing but a pumpkin variety that produces larger pumpkins needs larger spacing. Read the variety description for whatever variety you're going to grow and base your spacing on what is recommended for that variety. If you plant too many vines too close together, poor air flow also can aid in the development of foliar diseases that can kill your plants before you get a single pumpkin. You have to think about your spacing in terms of what gives you a healthy, happy plant and not in terms of what will give you the most pumpkins. Planting too many plants too close together will backfire and will give you a poor harvest, especially here with our heat and humidity but often low rainfall in the summer months. Pumpkin vines (and all vining winter squash varieties) need a lot of water to maintain the rapid growth of the large leaves. That water does not necessarily fall from the skies here in July and August at a high enough rate for the pumpkins/winter squash to get the kind of growth they need, so be prepared to irrigate. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are both because they put the moisture in the ground for the plant roots and not up on the foliage where fungal diseases then will grow.

In 2011, which was a painfully hot and dry year, I planted Seminole pumpkins in two different areas, where they were interplanted with sweet corn. With very little rainfall (about 12" total from January through late August), the plants had to fight for survival. I watered them as well as I could, but the extreme heat (high temps above 100 for about 90 days and often above 110 for a shockingly long period of time in July and August) kept their growth limited. When rainfall returned near the end of August and we then had good autumn rainfall in Sept and Oct, the vines took over about 1000 square feet of space and produced a very bountiful harvest just before frost. I think I had 4 to 6 Seminole plants that survived the drought and heat long enough to fill up that 1000 s.f. area. They climbed their trellis, they climbed all the corn plants, they climbed the fence, they ran out into the dry pastures of dead or dormant grasses beyond the fence, they filled up the dry retention pond bottom, they climbed about 100 tomato cages whose plants had long since perished in the drought. Get the picture? Those plants were spaced 8' apart that year. In a dry year, I space them further apart so they don't have to fight each other as much for moisture. I watered very heavily in June, July and August just to keep them alive. It was so hot for most of the summer that a person driving by and looking at the stunted plants likely would have thought I wasn't watering them at all, but I was watering very heavily about 3 times a week. The abnormal heat was just sucking all the moisture out of the ground and the plants struggled to survive. If you plant too many of a vigorously vining C. moschata type, it will bury everything underneath it on its rush to world domination when it has adequate moisture, but some years it is very hard to give them adequate moisture. With any variety that is not C . moschata, in our climate that sort of crazy, rampant growth is rare because usually the squash vine borers kill it before it can get big enough to spread out and really grow (or produce a single pumpkin). However, I grew many varieties of C. pepo and C. maxima for 6 or 7 years before the squash vine borers discovered we had moved here and planted a garden. It was great while it lasted, but once the SVBs found us, I switched mostly to C moschatas. Every now and then I'll grow green-striped cushaw, which has some tolerance of SVBs, or one of the warted pumpkins like Knucklehead, but I have to fight the SVBs hard just to get a pumpkin or two from Knucklehead.

So, if it sounds like I am encouraging you to use wider spacing, I am. Planting too many of these monster pumpkin vines will give you fewer, smaller pumpkins, not more of them. If you have too many pumpkins on too many vines fighting for too little moisture, you run the risk of losing the whole crop unless you have an endless supply of water.

It is always better to start small with just a couple of pumpkin vines, and see how that goes your first year or two. Once you learn how much space they need to grow and produce, then in another year you can plant more. Planting too many in your first attempt at growing them almost always ends in disappointment. I had been gardening for 15 years as an adult (and even longer as a child in a gardening family) before I ever planted a single pumpkin plant in my own garden because my city garden before we moved here was too shady for them and too small. Because I was a very experienced gardener, I understood what kind of spacing to use. I had grown some of the mini-pumpkins, like Jack-B-Little, back in Fort Worth, but those are tiny pumpkins that are easy to trellis. I am worried you're going to plant way too many plants and ruin your own chance of getting a nice harvest.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 6:05AM
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