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Growing Squash Naturally

 
steward
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I wanted to make this thread to help me keep track of and document growing squash naturally, with minimal work and hopefully maximum harvests!

Hopefully it can be helpful to others also!
 
Steve Thorn
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Big little baby squash plant!

These squash were planted by simply scattering the seed on the soil and doing a light mixing of the seeds into a thin mulch layer on top.

They won't be watered at all this year except by the rain.

I time the planting of the seeds right before a rain, so that they get watered in naturally soon after being planted.
Big-little-baby-squash-plant-.jpg
Big little baby squash plant!
Big little baby squash plant!
 
pollinator
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Looks like a baby Seminole type with the white veins.
 
Steve Thorn
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Dan Allen wrote:Looks like a baby Seminole type with the white veins.



Yeah, I think it's some type of c. Moschata, but not sure what type.
 
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The first time I ever grew squash it was by accident.

I had just made my first hugelbeet, and my second-last layer (right under the woodchip mulch) was "finished" compost.

So one day I went out to check on the progress of the cucumbers I planted along the fence. I had been watching them, picking and pickling them as they got to finger-size. I noticed a cucumber vine without any cucumbers on it, with leaves closer to the size of healthy rhubarb than plantain, and whose flowers weren't tiny, but enormous.

It turns out it was a volunteer Butternut squash from the compost. The first, and not the last, that I found off that single plant, held cupped in one hand, comfortably reached halfway up my bicep. I think I got almost thirty more or less the same size off that single squash plant.

-CK
 
Steve Thorn
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That's awesome Chris!

It seems like a lot of plant volunteers can be vigorous growers and really productive a lot of the time!
 
Steve Thorn
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I planted this group of squash really thickly with some cucumbers and some lettuce if I remember right.

I haven't planted squash in a while so I planted a lot together here. Usually I like to spread out the plants more, but if it's something new or haven't planted in a while, I try to grow a group together so I can monitor it easier.

Do you grow a new variety or plant differently or in another spot than ones you are more familiar with?
Little-squash-coming-up-with-a-few-other-plants.jpg
Little squash coming up with a few other plants
Little squash coming up with a few other plants
 
Steve Thorn
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The squash plants are really growing fast this year, and the flower buds are starting to form near the base of the plant.

We've had two weeks in the 90s with only one super quick rain shower, and these squash are chugging right along!

They have a very small amount of mulch, but they are growing extremely close together which provides a little shade which I think helps a lot!
The-squash-are-growing-quickly.jpg
The squash are growing quickly
The squash are growing quickly
 
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Thanks so much for posting these, Steve. It's astounding to see the progress from the may shot of the fledgling plants making first true leaves. Your growth rate is incredible. A testament to your soil and how happy they are shading/helping each other. Looking forward to trying this intensive method!
 
Steve Thorn
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Cj Jones wrote:Thanks so much for posting these, Steve. It's astounding to see the progress from the may shot of the fledgling plants making first true leaves. Your growth rate is incredible. A testament to your soil and how happy they are shading/helping each other. Looking forward to trying this intensive method!



Thanks Cj, it's worked really well for me so far. No watering, weeding, or major pest or disease problems so far, just planting, observing, and harvesting. It makes gardening so much more enjoyable to me!

Wish you the best!
 
Steve Thorn
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Lots of baby summer squash showing up!
Baby-squash-and-yellow-flower.jpg
Baby squash and yellow flower
Baby squash and yellow flower
Close-up-of-baby-squash.jpg
Close up of baby squash
Close up of baby squash
 
Steve Thorn
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This is one productive summer squash plant!
Productive-squash-plant-with-lots-of-baby-squash.jpg
Productive squash plant with lots of baby squash
Productive squash plant with lots of baby squash
Lots-of-yellow-flowers-on-squash-plant.jpg
Lots of yellow flowers on squash plant
Lots of yellow flowers on squash plant
 
Steve Thorn
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All I've done for these squash was scatter their seeds in the food forest.

They're looking healthy and some are starting to make flowers!
Squash-inside-fence.jpg
Squash inside fence
Squash inside fence
20200613_113111.jpg
young squash
20200613_112923.jpg
young squash
 
Steve Thorn
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These are pepo yellow straightneck squash from seeds that I saved last year. The first photos are from May 1st, and the next ones are them on May 7th.
Newly-sprouted-yellow-straightneck-squash.jpg
Newly sprouted yellow straightneck squash
Newly sprouted yellow straightneck squash
Newly-sprouted-yellow-straightneck-squash.jpg
Newly sprouted yellow straightneck squash
Newly sprouted yellow straightneck squash
Week-old-yellow-straightneck-squash.jpg
Week old yellow straightneck squash
Week old yellow straightneck squash
Week-old-yellow-straightneck-squash.jpg
Week old yellow straightneck squash
Week old yellow straightneck squash
 
pollinator
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Beautiful squash photos! The squash that came up on its own around my compost piles is already flowering and starting to set fruit. The ones I prepared beds for and planted when it was "safe" are still wee seedlings, but I am hoping they take off soon. I have no doubt that the ones on the edges of the compost piles will outproduce the ones in my prepared beds. I just hope they are something yummy, and not the fairly useless little ornamental squash we bought in the fall for my kids to play with. It'll be fun to watch and see either way.
 
Steve Thorn
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Thanks Lila!!

Interested to hear how your squash turns out and hoping it's tasty!
 
Steve Thorn
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The baby vining pepo squash as of May 7th
Baby-pepo-squash-sprouting.jpg
Baby pepo squash sprouting
Baby vining pepo squash sprouting
 
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I enjoy your posts Steve.  I'm doing a little experiment this year too. The squash I'm growing in my hugel beet raised beds I will stake and prune a technique I learned of on Permies. You train the squash up a stake, and remove all the leaves under the squash. I tried it last year about 2/3 through the season. It helped keep the aphids down, and made more room for other plants.  I will grow squash on my hugelkultur the traditional way.  It's not a fair experiment, because the beds are different, but it will still be interesting.
IMG_20210720_200205205.jpg
Last year's squash
Last year's squash
 
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Any suggestions for squash borer? Last year our cucumbers and zucchini were hit hard. We're thinking of covering the plants with gauze or wrapping the stems in tinfoil. I know someone suggested coating the stems with snuff works, but that sounds like it could be expensive.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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I hope someone can help you Caitlin.  I hate to tempt fate, but have never had any problem with borers.  I just try to help keep the soil as healthy as I can, and I plant as much as I can get in a space, veggies, herbs, and flowers. It looks like a messy jungle, but I have very little pest problems and get amazing production, at least the last couple of years.
Mint, basil, parsley, and radish are said to deter squash vine borer.  Make sure if you decide to try this method, to plant your mint in a pot. I put mint in a pot and plant the pot in the garden, it's easier to keep under control that way.
Good luck to you.
 
Steve Thorn
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Jen Fulkerson wrote:  I just try to help keep the soil as healthy as I can, and I plant as much as I can get in a space, veggies, herbs, and flowers. It looks like a messy jungle, but I have very little pest problems and get amazing production, at least the last couple of years.



I've not had much trouble at all either since doing these two things. Having healthy plants, by having healthy soil and areas for predators to hide, has cut down my squash bug problem to almost nothing.

Another thing I think is important is saving seed from the most resistant plants. Some seem to have thicker skin which seems to really help next year's crop be more resistant.

Good luck Cailin!

Steve
 
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The squash vine borer has already arrived at our garden this year.   We're actually planted a little denser than is usually recommended because I am sure we'll lose some plants.  Problem with protecting by covering is then you don't get pollinators either.  When we're lucky (which has been so far)  they focus on the leaf stems instead of the main trunk.

I don't think they've ever been interested in any melon we've planted Snake melons make a decent substitute and get huge.  Tatume is a popular zucchini substitute.  It forms small round squash but is generally accepted as just a round cucumber.  If you forget to harvest it eventually turns into a white fleshed winter squash. Ours weren't much bigger than a soft ball.
 
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I found out about tatum this spring, so the seeds just got here yesterday.
I will still try for a crop this year.
Did you direct seed or use starts?
 
Casie Becker
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We aren't growing it this year, but I direct seeded when we did.  We have a very long growing season so the only spring crop worth it to me to prestart seedlings for are tomatoes and that's just to take advantage of deep burying the plant to encourage a stronger root system.   I am not even sure it's an improvement over a seed started tomato but it's what my family has always done.
 
Casie Becker
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Sorry, I was exhausted yesterday, tatume is a round zucchini not cucumber. It's the snake melon is the one that resembles cucumber.  
 
Casie Becker
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For those of you dealing with unusual heat for your squash, don't panic when the leaves all suddenly wilt in the middle of the day. Don't panic, those big leaves lose water fast but they will recover once the day cools off a little. This is a regular phenomenon in the south and we still produce a ton of squash. Just keep a regular watering schedule and worry about the usual squash pests.  

In Central Texas that watering schedule is usually late afternoon because we have enough heat for everything to dry even as the sun goes down.  If your humidity is low you might consider this in the summer also. It helps the plant soak up the maximum amount of water while they're not simultaneously fighting of the blistering heat.

These plants are in the same garden and the soil is equally moist but one end has tree shade.  I wouldn't be surprised if it were 15 degrees cooler in the shade. If I can I will post a picture of those wilted plants tomorrow morning.  They will not be watered today but they will all look healthy until it heats up again.  If it were squash vine borer damage you would see a mix of healthy and wilted.

Unrelated, but see how well full sun plants grow in part shade in lower latitudes. I grow lots of leafy vegetables in the shade every year.
20220517_114808.jpg
Yellow summer squash growing in the shade
Yellow summer squash growing in the shade
20220517_114752.jpg
Zucchini and melons enduring the hot sun
Zucchini and melons enduring the hot sun
 
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Steve Thorn wrote:Big little baby squash plant!

These squash were planted by simply scattering the seed on the soil and doing a light mixing of the seeds into a thin mulch layer on top.

They won't be watered at all this year except by the rain.

I time the planting of the seeds right before a rain, so that they get watered in naturally soon after being planted.



I plan to do this over the next two days. Interested to see how it works out. Attempting to start a moschata landrace this season.
 
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Has anyone here had luck growing squash and. a small variety of orange pumpkin together?
 
Steve Thorn
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I haven't done it before, but I think I planted a few small orange pumpkin varieties this year, and they are mixed in with the others. I'm interested to see how they do.
 
Casie Becker
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Took me while, but here's a morning picture of the garden.   You can see that the squash vine borer has taken out some of the plants.  It's photographed from the opposite end of the garden, so take note that the thriving plants are the same ones that were most wilted in the first photo.  

Our squash this year were a combination of starter plants my sister picked up at the store and direct seeded varieties I had selected for insect resistance.   One of the traits that helps resist the borer is a stem too small for a larvae to develop in.  I am guessing that smaller stem causes the more extreme wilting.  They are just starting to develop squash right now. On the list for the rest of the month is to plant more seed where we've lost a plant.  

Oops... let's add that photo now
20220529_075718.jpg
The squash vine borer h
The squash vine borer h
 
William Bronson
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I have some squash growing...
At least it might be squash, it's growing from the homemade compost, so it might be anything in the family!
I am not schooled enough to determine a cantaloupe from a zucchini from the vine alone.
 
Casie Becker
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In the varieties I've grown, squash have big blooms and anything in the melon group (including cucumber) has small blooms, watermelon has lobes in the leaves.  Once the female flowers appear you can usually get a good idea of what kind of fruit will form.
 
Travis Davis
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So I’ve got 4 seeds planted in mounds that are approximately 1 ft in diameter. At what point would you thin and down to how many per mound and why?
 
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if they have plenty room in all directions to grow and enough nitrogen to propel them all, i wouldn’t thin in your situation. five-ish plants per ‘hill’ is about right for my growing style. the hills are spaced 4-6 feet apart/away from other things. they regularly send vines past those things but most of the growth is concentrated in the ‘alleys’ of hills.
 
Steve Thorn
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I also wouldn't thin them either as long as there is enough room.

Even if there wasn't enough room I'd still probably let them grow, I admit I'm a plant genetics hoarder, and want their to be as many opportunities for genetic diversity as possible to hopefully strengthen the next generation.

I usually let my plants go and the strongest survive on their own. Sometimes the late starters will catch up to the first plants and be even better so I always hate to cull them until I get a better idea of how they will do. My thinking too as far as developing squash landraces, is that it's better to have a lot of seedlings with a few squash on each one than to have a few plants with a lot of squash on each plant. If the plant is able to produce a crop the first year I want to let it, that way I have more options to select for when creating the landrace for the future!
 
Travis Davis
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Steve Thorn wrote:I also wouldn't thin them either as long as there is enough room.

Even if there wasn't enough room I'd still probably let them grow, I admit I'm a plant genetics hoarder, and want their to be as many opportunities for genetic diversity as possible to hopefully strengthen the next generation.

I usually let my plants go and the strongest survive on their own. Sometimes the late starters will catch up to the first plants and be even better so I always hate to cull them until I get a better idea of how they will do. My thinking too as far as developing squash landraces, is that it's better to have a lot of seedlings with a few squash on each one than to have a few plants with a lot of squash on each plant. If the plant is able to produce a crop the first year I want to let it, that way I have more options to select for when creating the landrace for the future!



This is great info Steve. Unfortunately I had already culled to 50% on 3 of the 4 mounds. Oh well. I guess I will know for the future! Thank you.
 
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