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Thorniest cucurbits?

 
Posts: 72
Location: Western Oregon, Zone 8b
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I have some beds outside of our deer-fencing that I'd like to try growing some cucurbits in. Particularly winter and summer squash, though cukes and melons would be good too. Most modern cultivars have been bred to reduce thorns, spines, and general prickliness for ease of harvesting. Can anyone recommend some cultivars that are still fairly pokey?

Last year I planted some leftover seeds from a mini pumpkin mix and the deer ate all the leaves and flowers off of them early in the season. They must not have been too yummy because they only ate them once. Of the 6 plants, only 2 recovered, yielding 1 mini pumpkin.
 
steward
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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At my place, deer don't eat the leaves of any of the cucurbits.

They eat the fruits of muskmelon, watermelon, and cushaw. They might bite the fruits of other species (particularly pepo) but don't typically consume the whole thing.

 
pollinator
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When I lived in New Jersey, we had deer eat holes in the sides of all our watermelons and cantaloupes. But they never ate the leaves or vines.  Back then, I didn't put much effort into gardening, so I never worked up a solution. I simply bought melons at the farm market down the road.

I wonder if you slipped a stocking from panty hose over the young fruit if it would deter the deer. It might be stretchy enough to expand with the growing fruit. Just a thought.
 
gardener
Posts: 1977
Location: Maine, zone 5
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Hi Katie.  I've seen some spikey leaves and stems on C. pepo, though I'm not sure which cultivars are best for that trait.  I did a quick search and found this lovely creature:


Seems like a tough one though I know nothing about it.  Might be a good one to add to a breeding program if anyone can get seeds.
zapallo de angola
 
Greg Martin
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Doing a bit more reading it looks like breeders avoid the large prickly trichome trait as it scratches the squash skin when it's windy and it also irritates the skin of people harvesting the summer squash.  But if it helps keep insects and mammal damage down I'd be all for putting on a pair of gloves.  I'm not a big fan of breeding out plant defenses and would love to breed them back in.
 
Katie Green
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Location: Western Oregon, Zone 8b
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Joseph - We have a lot of fawns that seem to be more willing to sample plants than the adults. I think that if I'd planted a lot more then they would have lost interest and left more of the plants alone.

Su - That might work. However, I've never been able to get any melons to set fruit so it's a problem that I currently don't have!

Greg - I'm not finding any seeds for that particular cultivar, only a C. maxima called Zapallo del Tronco. It doesn't look as thorny though.
zapallodeltronco.jpeg
Zapallo del Tronco summer squash
Zapallo del Tronco summer squash
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Katie: I plant like 700 row-feet of squash in that field, cause it's about the only crop that the deer will leave alone.

 
Katie Green
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Joseph - I think if I were to plant that many I'd be able to spare a few plants for the deer. :D

Last year may have been a rough summer for the deer. They even stripped the leaves off of tomato plants, which they don't normally bother.
gift
 
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