Cricket Song Farm

Cricket Song Farm

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

plants or seeds?

if you are one of the lucky ones who has a longer growing season
just skip this, or read it and laugh with me for being idiotic enough to try

Every spring the nursery's and big box stores are full of 3 inch pots filled with squash plants.  I have even seen gallon sized pots with little mini zucchini's already growing on them.
Over the years I have discovered a few things about growing squash.
Not saying my way is the right or better way, just what has worked best for me in my short, unpredictable growing season.  A squash is a heat loving plant.  Every year I used to baby along plants that I had planted in a cold frame, opening and closing it when the weather dictates.  Getting up in the middle of the night and running out in my p.j.'s to throw a blanket over the frames because I forgot before bedtime. 
  Then one year I planted a section of summer squash way late (june 13th)--our usual last frost date is june 25th, but I generally plant all squash around june 6th. The plants germinate, but stay close enough to the ground that the heat coming from the ground keeps them warm enough they don't freeze.  If it is really cold I cover each plant with a small piece of cloth to prevent them from freezing.  Well the year I planted some of the squash late was a real eye-opener for me.  The early plants I had worked so hard (started indoors early) and planted out in cold frames trying to get an earlier harvest only produced 3 days sooner than the late planted ones........lesson learned , just direct seed when the soil is warm.  The squash just won't grow much until it's warm. 

I have however had good success  planting in a long, narrow rectangle  boxes made of straw bales laid end to end, and covered the middle growing area with double pane sliding glass door  windows.   The  direct seeded squash produced a couple of weeks earlier than the ones sown at the (my) proper outdoor seeding time.  The maintenance was simple I actually just left one end slightly opened,  this  allowed for watering and excess heat to escape.  If the nights were extremely cold I'd scoot the end bale closed and throw heavy blankets over-top of the glass.
This straw bale method works well for any crops you would like to extend the season of. 
There are only a few winter squash I can grow because of my unpredictable season

journal entry 2010
in the upper corner it says:  Frost until June 25th  didn't get the usual July 4th frost it was 36 degrees
but it got me on August 10th

this is typical every summer
 (we wear coats every morning)

 Sometimes I only have 31-33 days without a frost.  The straw bale method allows me to grow a few of the long day winter squash varieties.

My experience with winter squash that can grow in a shorter season are:
turks turban
sometimes sweet meat do well
These varieties seem to do better and are not as affected by frost

Oh, did I mention my first frost day in the fall is August 28th.  So, if I get a frost on July 4th (happens quite often) and then my first fall frost in August.....That means I get frost every month of the year!!!!  Will somebody please remind me why I live here.....

 Oh , I remember, I have the most beautiful sunsets EVERY night,
peace and quiet,

last summer our renters purchased some 3 inch spaghetti squash plants from a nursery store and planted
 (small plant in the foreground)  before we direct seeded the next row (center) about 2 weeks later

Lesson 2:  You can purchase those plants from the store if you want to pay the money, however seeds planted directly into the ground always outgrow the store bought ones.  Here again are the results I have experienced.  Maybe you have had great success buying plants and transplanting them. 
 I start my own vegetables to transplant, but over the years I quit starting all squash and pumpkins simply because they did so much better directly seeded after the soil was warm.
The picture above is an example of purchased spaghetti squash plants (the little ones in the left corner)  were set out early and covered nightly to prevent freezing.  About 2 weeks later,  seeds were planted  ( the center row).  The Spaghetti Squash, directly seeded when the soil was warm, easily out grew the store bought plants, and my harvest yielded a greater number of squash per plant, with the weight and size almost double.

One of the many winter squash patches at the farm
I plant banana squash (cause I looooove it) every year,
 but only get a harvest about once every 5 or 6 years
I totally gave up growing butternut

the zucchini patch
A comfy chair placed in the shade to day dream or read in
 while I am waiting to change the water.........well, you know me
I can't sit and wait for water so I'm off doing a kazillion other things

Sometimes I get a good variety and harvest, sometimes the chipmunks dig out all my seed after it germinates ruining my whole season because I don't have a long enough season to replant, sometime the frost wipes everything out and sometimes I just shake my head and wonder why I try,
but any way you look at it growing squash is worth the trouble.

Ate spaghetti squash just the other day and had roasted Hubbard squash with potatoes, carrots, and onions all winter. Roasted Squash Bisque Soup.  Made lots of squash pies for breakfast,
 empanadas, tarts,
 etc. etc.

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