So I am planning on planting some winter squash this year in my new mushroom/wood chip bed. Just a couple of days ago I put up a raised bed made of 2x10 lumber (painted with a masonry sealer to keep the mushrooms out). This was an experimental bed that I inoculated with wine caps last spring. The experimental chips mostly inoculated well. After I put up my bed edges I added more wood chips. The bed is nicely topped off.
So all of the preceding was for a specific question about pumpkins and other winter squash. In the past I have tried to grow pumpkins. The plants would get off to a great start, set fruits then turn yellow, shrivel up and die with the pumpkins no bigger than a grapefruit. There were always an abundance of squash bugs.
I have hopes that my new fungal infused garden bedding will keep my crop of winter squash (blue Hubbard and acorn) from the same fate of my previous pumpkins.
Does anyone have any helpful suggestions, experience, knowledge etc. as to why my pumpkins shriveled and died and do my current winter squash stand a chance?
I'm pretty certain you are describing a pollination problem. Even with lots of pollinators in the area, if the correct pollinator isn't there, the pumpkins and squash won't get pollinated. Temperature also affect the predominance of male vs female flowers, adding to the complexity of the dance. In the past two years we have had a significant drop in appropriate pumpkin/squash pollinators in my area, despite having lot of bees and flies. I had to hand pollinate essentially all of my pumpkins and squashes last year in order to get any fruit.
I do actually get pumpkins, but they never get much larger than my first before the vines die. One year we harvested about 20 grapefruit sized pumpkins and invited the kids in the local area to come over and paint them for Halloween. We deliberately picked early as the vines were starting to die.
I think a pumpkin plant's favorite environment is a compost pile. So if you can put some partially composted (hot) compost into those dirt holes, I'd think it would help.
I have a field of sandy soil with wood chip mulch around berry bushes. This year I'm going to try to dig out a 5 gallon bucket's worth of dirt in a bunch of places and replace that dirt with chicken run compost and a couple squash seeds. We'll see.
When I just stuck seeds out there under the 2" of chips, they rarely sprouted and the best ones only put on a foot of growth all year.
"Hundreds of years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or the type of car I drove... But the world may be different because I did something so bafflingly crazy that it becomes a tourist destination"
It will be interesting to see how the WS start out. Since the bed itself consists of fresh chips on top of chips thoroughly inoculated with wine caps the WS at least have a fighting chance at survival, what with the inoculated chips acting much like a compost heap.
I do plan to dig fertile holes to start the squash off. I might make use of some bagged manure, though I will almost certainly make use of a large pile of rabbit litter. I know that I cannot just stick seeds in fresh chips and expect them to work. I will probably even use my own urine just to get things going.
I certainly hope that I can find some resistant varieties. If this is the simple answer then I can see how a pumpkin’s hollow stem makes for a vulnerability.
The best pumpkins I've seen grown was in a subtropical environment on ground fallowed after sugar cane growing - moist well drained river flood plain.
They hate wet soil, like full sun. High humidity causes mould on leaves, but ensuring there's habitat for ladybirds is essential - some species eat it and therefore keep it in check - biological control.
'Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain.'
adding to what others have said. they like heat, and you have a shortish growing season there, so whatever start you can give them helps. They love a warm compost pile but also, mounds where the earth can warm up and stay a bit dryer are also classic for winter squash and pumpkins. I know you mention raised beds but maybe try making mounds/hills in the beds where they can just have a bit more advantage (also better airflow to avoid mold).
Some years I have better luck than others with squash. Pumpkins I don't know if I have ever gotten one big enough to eat-- there may be a reason they don't really grow here. As for winter squash, the key seems to be getting them started early in the season, even though my squash season can theoretically be about 10 months, sometimes waiting a few weeks makes a huge difference. I have some kabocha squash I started a few months after the very start of the season and they're just sitting around doing nothing.
While I am certain that my growing season is definitely shorter than yours, I am actually considered to be in the warmer/more humid part of the country. Just to be clear, while I am growing in raised beds, the squash itself will be planted in a fertile hole in the chips, much as you suggested.
In the past, it was not the growing season that got me. I can typically start winter squash by late May and by mid June it would be dead after a fast and furious growth followed by yellow and then dead vines. It never died from cold.
We do get the heat in the summer so that was why it was so strange that the pumpkins would die when they had heat, nutrients, ample but not excessive water and plenty of sunlight. They appeared to die of a whitish mildew on the otherwise green leaves and countless squash bugs. Oddly, Squash bugs would appear on but not seem to care about nearby zucchini which grew abundant and healthy.
that, unfortunately, is the fate of all my summer squash- looking great one day, pile of rotten mush the next day. I assume it is fungal issues, so I try to be really good about making sure they are ventilated. I've seen people doing things to try to change the leaf PH to make it unhospitable to fungus (spraying milk, baking soda solution, etc) but usually that is the season here where it rains every day, and I just can't get out and do that sort of things every single day).
Win some, lose some, plant some more is how I see it.
Good luck, Eric!
Location: Berkshire County, Ma. 6b/4a. Approx. 50" rain
posted 8 months ago
Eric I struggle with squash and pumpkins too. For pretty much the same reasons. And can grow summer squash that fruit as large as my thigh.
That's usually true, but not always, and when it isn't true I think there are a couple of complicating factors like location, plant genetics, pest-predator cycles, luck, etc.
Butternut and acorn have been vigorous and productive and still eventually succumb to the yellowing, mushy vine. Usually late enough in the season I consider it a win, and sometimes can even blame the cold.
The huge but is that I'm not sure the yellowing, mushy vine is caused by those grey squash bugs. Their population is easy enough to control. You can find their eggs before they hatch. Luckily those eggs are easy to spot. Coppery colored with a metallic sheen that pop when squished. Almost always located on the underside of leaves in a cruck of the veins, rarely on the vine stem too.
I'm told it's also possible to control population with later planting dates--after they emerge in the spring. A local market melon grower uses later planting dates to stymie these. (He plants later--up until the 2nd week of July-mostly to hamper his bane, cucumber beetles. Muskmelons are significantly more vulnerable than squashes.)
They're sap suckers those squash bugs, not vine borers.
There is such a thing as a squash vine borer. Melittia cucurbitae is the scientific name. I think they're the yellowing, mushy vine culprits. I can't speak to population control but there are a couple cultural practices that may help.
Squash can root from the leaf nodes on vines. Cover those nodes with inoculated chips/dirt as the plant expands. Honestly I never think the roots get large enough to support a single squash, but it probably helps? I can't say this is definitively the reason I get squash, I can't disqualify it either.
Another suggestion is to use aluminium foil (or another physical barrier) to cover the main stem where it meets the soil. Can't speak to this effective as I haven't tried it. I would do it as I transplant, cover a couple inches of above ground vine and an inch of two of vine below the soil.
The white powdery stuff on the leaves is likely powdery mildew. I do use milk to knock it back, like 1 part milk to 9 parts water. The milk mixture is really effective to limit it's spread, especially if you catch it early. Spray every part of the plant you can. It might work as a preventative, I have never been that on top of my squash game though.