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Squash in trees?

 
                                
Posts: 15
Location: central NYS - USDA Zone 5a
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Thinking about what I might do differently next year...

This year, I've had a lot of squash bugs and striped cucumber beetles on my cukes and buttercup squash, plus I killed four squash borer moths (hopefully before they got to lay eggs). I did not use anything to kill or deter them, but I think they've caused some problems - I've lost one squash vine already and one cuke vine is looking very iffy.

I'm trying to figure out how I might grow my squash and cukes differently next year. I've always grown them in beds in the garden where they sort of run amok. I'm thinking if I could grow my squash under trees, so they'd be inclined to climb,  I might get some bug predation from birds who would be hanging out in the trees anyway.

Most likely candidates for squash trellises would be three 15'+ white spruce that have branches near the ground so the squash could get climbing immediately. Would the construction of planting beds on the south side of the spruce cause problems with the roots? I think the trees' feeder roots would extend beyond the beds but I'm not sure.

Anyway, has anyone grown squash in trees? Can the vines support the heavy fruit (I know cukes can 'cause I already grow them up a chicken wire panel)? Did you notice fewer pests? Is this idea feasible?
 
Brenda Groth
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Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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sure your squash will climb trees or fences..but also you should be putting bird feeders in your gardens, i have 3 in mine on metal stakes that i move around the garden, this will draw birds..I put in sunflower seeds and the birds will also dig around in the plants and on the ground to go after fallen sunflower seeds and they'll get the bugs that are on or under your plants this way.

i had a few potato bugs so i put a bird feeder over that plant and they are now gone, i saw only one bug and flipped it on the ground under a freshly filled bird feeder, birds love beetles.

then i had a crop of earwigs so i put 2 feeders over those two areas, the earwigs are gone (bird candy)..

then the other day i saw a few grey bugs, not sure what they were as i can't find them in the bug books or onlimne..but i moved one  of my bird feeders over that plant to clean up the little fellas..

i keep 3 sheherds hooks that are really easy to move and tube feeders..and i move them around wherever i might see a bug that i want eaten..i never smash the bugs.

my SIL put out a japanese beetle trap and when she went home after a weekend north..japanese beetles had cleaned out her entire garden, no leaves left..guess that wasn't too smart huh?
 
                                
Posts: 15
Location: central NYS - USDA Zone 5a
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Well now, why didn't I think of that? 

I guess I was thinking more of the permaculture ideal of minimizing inputs - taking the squash where the birds are. But I like the idea of "spot treatments" with bird feeders as bait.

Still I might try the squash up a tree to see what happens. I saw a video somewhere - maybe Midwest Permaculture? - of a butternut squash vine that had traveled across the lawn and up a big conifer. There were big squashes dangling among the branches.
 
                                
Posts: 148
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I wonder if just planting the squash vine in a container IN the tree would eliminate the SVB. They do hover near the ground a lot.
 
                                
Posts: 15
Location: central NYS - USDA Zone 5a
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An interesting observation - the last SVB moth I killed a couple days ago was hanging out on my patch of Greek oregano which is in full bloom and covered with honeybees (not mine, but I do have a bee tree in my woods behind the house). The squash was nearby but the moth was going from blossom to blossom on the oregano.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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Wouldn't a container with enough soil for a good curcubit be heavy enough to harm the tree?

Bird feeders don't have to be high-input. The dry, above-ground portion of last year's sunflower, cut at an angle to be its own stake, might be just as convenient as the shepherd's hook plus tube feeder. A whole sorghum or millet plant might also work this way, although storing any of these might be a  problem if space is limited.
 
Brenda Groth
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Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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absolutely Joel..as a matter of fact, by moving my sunflower seed feeders around the property like this, I now have a very lovely crop of sunny sunflowers blooming all over the place.

by the way..they strange grey bugs are all gone now..the only thinig on those leaves is remnants of sunflower seed hulls..

so it worked.

i have done this for potato bugs and for earwigs this year also..keep those sunflower feeders moving around my yard and gardens..the birds LOVE bugs..but they need to have their attention brought to the little devils.

by moving the feeder to the problem..the birds see me doing it..and by now they probably figure i'm bringing them not only a good sunflower meal but a good bug meal too.
 
Aljaz Plankl
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:Bird feeders don't have to be high-input. The dry, above-ground portion of last year's sunflower, cut at an angle to be its own stake, might be just as convenient as the shepherd's hook plus tube feeder.

This sounds interesting, but i don't fully get it. Can you please tell me more. You fill dry hollow sunflower stalks with bird feed? I don't also get the part with angle cut and stake... Thanks on answer.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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Plankl wrote:
This sounds interesting, but i don't fully get it. Can you please tell me more. You fill dry hollow sunflower stalks with bird feed? I don't also get the part with angle cut and stake... Thanks on answer.


If you are growing sunflowers, some can be harvested as cut flowers or for seed, but these flowers are not the ones I mean.

If the whole plant is allowed to dry out, with the seeds still in the flower head, it can be stored away.

The stalk will be stiff and hard, especially at the bottom. Sharpening the flower stalk might allow it to be driven into soft garden soil. This makes the seeds available to the birds, keeps them off the ground, looks natural, and is less work than threshing the seeds out of the flower head and then pouring them into a feeder.

Similarly, if a shatter-resistant variety of grain is chosen, the stem & seed head can be stored as a single unit, without threshing. Sorghum and some varieties of millet have very thick, woody stems, which might also be sharpened and remain strong enough to drive into garden soil.

If the soil is very hard, a thin wooden stake or steel rod can be driven into the soil, and the plant impaled on it if it is narrower than the pithy center portion of the stem.
 
Travis Philp
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Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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I've had a volunteer winter squash plant vine its way up a chainlink fence and then up a 20-ish foot tall eastern white cedar. The plant was a monster and grew almost right up to the top. The yield was great and there was no insect damage, which isn't to say that being up the tree was the reason for that. It was a small type squash, I forget the name but its round and black, and was a little bigger than a softball. Not sure how something as big as a butternut would do though. I'd love to see a hubbard squash growing up a tree....
 
                          
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I have a squash (more of a pumpkin) that grew up a 20' or so hemlock tree and deposited a squash right at the top.  For some reason the vine is dying back now, but the squash is a very good size.  Even though the vines themselves are easily crushed or folded, the tendrils that hold it are as strong as plastic and the connection-point (stem) to each squash is strong.  So I don't see any limits to growing squash vertically as long as what it's growing on can take the weight.

 
                            
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I love the idea of moving the bird feeder to the bugs. Thanks

It's one of those things that makes so much sense it should have been obvious.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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i have grown pumpkins, squash and cucumbers up over trellises and even picket fences quite often..they do really well up in the air.

here i just leave the sunflowers to grow where the seeds drop ..before they are totally ready to cut the birds have generally  already started removing the seeds.

a neighbor about 3/10 of a mile from us planted a huge field of corn and sunflowers so a lot of our birds and critters are paying them a visit right now..
 
                                
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I saw a huge squash hanging from a tree and powerline in brooklyn this year, wish i had my camera!

it can be done, how cool would it be to climb a tree and come down with a squash!?!?
 
                          
Posts: 62
Location: Bozeman, MT
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When I lived in San Antonio, there was a prominent master gardener that had a talk show on the local radio. I wish that I could remember the specific details but it had something to do with timing. He said that if you started your squash indoors, they would reach a certain stage before the svb were laying eggs and would avoid your squash when it got to a more mature stage. By starting it indoors earlier, it accomplishes this. I tried it and did not lose any squash that year and since I have done that every year, I have never had any svb problems.

Sorry that I do not know all the specific details, I was very young and not knowledgeable of the details he was mentioning, just tried what he directed and it worked.
 
Jennifer Smith
Posts: 714
Location: Zone 5
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Another thing that helps is to bury the vine as it grows with mulch, can't damage what they can't find, also the squash plant will sucker root and be more vigerous.  Something I learned in Alabama as I had so much trouble with svb and never did in MO.
 
Rob Sigg
Posts: 715
Location: PA-Zone 6
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Just my 2 cents...
You could try planting the sunflowers in the middle of the squash so the vine travels up the sunflower, do this and leave out heads from the prior year for bird feed, once everything dies it becomes alot of biomass to drop on the ground together.
 
Rick Valley
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I grew pie pumpkins on a Cherry Laurel hedge (Prunus laurocerasus for non-Cascadians) for a bunch of years. The dark shiny leaves may have helped the punks ripen. Wondered about how hedges might work with the Cali evergreen Prunus species. Y'all would want to grow small-size squash varieties, lest they zipper their protection and mulch a reclining designer beneath, no? I did have trouble with Hubbards, lost a few designers.
 
Paulo Bessa
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Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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I have grown cucumbers on a 3m high tree, in a partial shadow garden (about 3h only direct sun, the rest was hidden in buildings, in a urban setting). It grew very well, I had many cucumbers.
Never tried with a squash but should be possible.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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