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How do you fertilize your squash plants?  RSS feed

 
chip sanft
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Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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Cucurbits are often described as being "heavy feeders," but they also don't do well with too much nitrogen. Or so they say.

My best squash results this year have come from some seed I sowed directly in a pile of newly received manure+stable scrapings as part of a crude testing regime before putting it on the garden. A couple of those plants have grown long and produced many flowers and multiple very nice fruit. This seed was from my own saved stuff so I guess there's a fair amount of variation between plants, but still, it's not expected.

Anyway, I wonder about your experience and, especially, what you do using organic+ and permaculture methods beyond manuring and compost of various sorts.
 
raven ranson
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I'm still new at squash but so far I've had the best luck by piling the animal manure, mixed with their bedding and any leftover hay they didn't eat, make a pile as tall as I am, and as long as it will go.  Build it up all winter.  It steams and gets lovely and hot.  A month before the rainy season ends (about three weeks before the last frost date) I stick the seeds in the top of the manure pile and watch the squash grow.  This year, I haven't had to water that squash patch yet.  This is pretty amazing as we don't normally get rain in the summer, but this year we did get some showers in May, so really, it's only been about three months without watering the squash.  These have produced some of the most delicious squash I've had in my life.

Another squash patch include a strip just outside the chicken yard.  These have drip irrigation and get water about once a week.  They aren't doing as well, but I suspect that's more because of lack of water than soil nutrients. 

The third patch is from the biggest squash we had last year.  I left it outside to rot in a not-so-fertile part of the garden.  No water, no mulch, no soil fertility to speak of.  Yet, it's growing the best of all.
 
David Livingston
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I basically plant the seeds or plants with four real leaves on compost made from hay or lawn clippings and water them lots .
Works for me
David
 
chip sanft
Posts: 380
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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Interesting! So I'm not the only one who has good luck with higher nitrogen levels and growing squash. I wonder if there are different cultivars or something?
 
Shawn Harper
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Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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I grow mine in the 3 sisters. The only fertilizer that they get is rare kitchen scraps and the chop and drop of the same location. Most years the squash does about the same as everyone else or better. Some years (like this year) suck and the squash fairs poorly.
 
raven ranson
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It could be the kind of squash.  I'm growing mostly Maxima squash.  This is my second year of creating a landrace squash and it's been amazing.  To start the mix, I chose my favourite which is buttercup.  Added in an orange cinderella squash because it grows like stink with very little water, and Carol Deppe's sweet meat organ homestead squash because it has such a large flesh to seed ratio.  This year, I have a whole range of squash types and am heavily selecting for drought tolerance.  Like I said, two of my squash patches have had zero water since May - no rain, no irrigation, nothing!  They also all germinated from being direct sewn before our last frost date and survived a few light frosts. 

As for nitrogen.  I never really thought about it.  I guess the stuff next to the chickens would be pretty N rich. 

I don't know the chemistry, but maybe the compost/manure is more balanced than artificial Nitrogen would be?
 
K Putnam
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Location: Unincorporated Pierce County, WA Zone 7b
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I've been growing squash in a really nutrient-poor part of the garden, so I feel like they need some help beyond what the soil offers.  When I plant seeds, I dig down a few inches and blend in a handful of complete organic fertilizer a la Steve Solomon, top back with dirt, then plant.  By the time the seedlings are up and running, the fertilizer has started to break down and they just take off.   I haven't had too much nitrogen be an issue, probably because the soil I am working with is currently very nitrogen-poor to start.
 
Shawn Harper
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R Ranson wrote:It could be the kind of squash.  I'm growing mostly Maxima squash.  This is my second year of creating a landrace squash and it's been amazing.  To start the mix, I chose my favourite which is buttercup.  Added in an orange cinderella squash because it grows like stink with very little water, and Carol Deppe's sweet meat organ homestead squash because it has such a large flesh to seed ratio.  This year, I have a whole range of squash types and am heavily selecting for drought tolerance.  Like I said, two of my squash patches have had zero water since May - no rain, no irrigation, nothing!  They also all germinated from being direct sewn before our last frost date and survived a few light frosts. 

As for nitrogen.  I never really thought about it.  I guess the stuff next to the chickens would be pretty N rich. 

I don't know the chemistry, but maybe the compost/manure is more balanced than artificial Nitrogen would be?


Interesting, this is my first year converting to landrace, but it was a bad year for squash. Mine I heavily favored kakai pumpkin since I love the hulless seeds that do not require deshelling. I did however have 5 other squash of kinds I've already forgotten the names to within pollination range.

K Putnam wrote:I've been growing squash in a really nutrient-poor part of the garden, so I feel like they need some help beyond what the soil offers.  When I plant seeds, I dig down a few inches and blend in a handful of complete organic fertilizer a la Steve Solomon, top back with dirt, then plant.  By the time the seedlings are up and running, the fertilizer has started to break down and they just take off.   I haven't had too much nitrogen be an issue, probably because the soil I am working with is currently very nitrogen-poor to start.


Do you grow anything there in the off season? If not then you could try growing a mulch crop like early spring beans that double as food and fertilizer?
 
K Putnam
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Location: Unincorporated Pierce County, WA Zone 7b
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Yes, I've been working on improving the soil there for three years, but it was covered in landscaping fabric and rocks for several years before that.  It was essentially red dust and rocks. So, getting vegetables to grow successfully there has been great, but I think they still need a bit of help, for both their health and for mine.  There is a strawberry patch that has suddenly started to take over that area, which I think is a sign that the fertility is starting to improve!
 
Marco Banks
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I pee around the base of them.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I don't use fertilizer on my farm, and therefore not on the squash either. I'm noticing this year that my squash field is getting a bit low on nutrients. So I'm intending to grow a mixed-species cover crop this winter. I'm intending to introduce some leguminous weeds into that field: I grew a patch of black medic seed this summer so I'll start with that as a suitable weed.
 
chip sanft
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I don't use fertilizer on my farm, and therefore not on the squash either. I'm noticing this year that my squash field is getting a bit low on nutrients. So I'm intending to grow a mixed-species cover crop this winter. I'm intending to introduce some leguminous weeds into that field: I grew a patch of black medic seed this summer so I'll start with that as a suitable weed.


Thanks, Joseph! Just so I understand clearly: Are green manures the only way you add nutrients to your soil (i.e., no animal manures etc.)?
 
Nick Blonigen
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I planted butternut squash into my yard this spring, just dug out some holes in the sod, mounded the soil up into a low hill, and added seeds.  I noticed by early June that the plants weren't growing as well as I'd hoped, and their leaves had a yellowish hue to them.  So I tried two things.

One, I went fishing in a lake I knew was filled with large bullhead catfish.  I buried a dead bullhead one foot deep and one foot away from each hill in Mid-June.

I then went into the run of my chicken coop, dug out a wheelbarrow of manure-infused soil, and added one shovelful of it to every hill.

The plants exploded in growth by July, and are now laden with squash.

I was so impressed, I've started burying fish and using chicken soil all around my garden.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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chip sanft wrote:Thanks, Joseph! Just so I understand clearly: Are green manures the only way you add nutrients to your soil (i.e., no animal manures etc.)?


I grow a tremendous amount of weeds. The weeds and crop residues get returned to the soil exactly where they grew. Because of concerns about poisons, herbicides, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, and weed seeds I do not bring any outside organic matter onto my farm: No compost. No manure. No wood

However, that isn't exactly the same as saying that my farm is devoid of animal manures... I put posts in the garden for the birds to rest on. They leave manure around the posts. The raccoons and skunks leave manure. The insects leave manure. Lots of insects die in my garden every fall. They contribute their bodies to the soil. Sometimes a bird or a mammal donates it's body to the farm.

I think of the fertility of my garden as a flow. Nutrients are coming in, and nutrients are leaving. As long as the inflow is about the same as the outflow, then fertility stays high. For example, I do not allow corn-stalks to leave my garden unless I am well paid for them. Because they represent next year's fertility.

To really do farming right. I should be living on my farm with a bunch of animals. Oh well, I make choices and live with the consequences, and make do as best as can be.

 
chip sanft
Posts: 380
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
chip sanft wrote:Thanks, Joseph! Just so I understand clearly: Are green manures the only way you add nutrients to your soil (i.e., no animal manures etc.)?

I grow a tremendous amount of weeds. The weeds and crop residues get returned to the soil exactly where they grew. Because of concerns about poisons, herbicides, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, and weed seeds I do not bring any outside organic matter onto my farm: No compost. No manure. No wood. 


Awesome! Thinking about this and seeing the pics of your garden is amazing.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
To really do farming right. I should be living on my farm with a bunch of animals. Oh well, I make choices and live with the consequences, and make do as best as can be.


I don't completely agree about "right."  I'm not disagreeing with your personal idea of what you think would be "right" for you, but what I want to say is I think it is quite possible to "do farming right" without domestic animals.  Biointensive is a gardening/farming method that doesn't include domestic animals or bringing in outside materials, and it seems to work very well.  http://www.growbiointensive.org/

Some people don't want or can't have domestic animals, and some people feel that bringing in outside materials isn't sustainable, so I think it's important that people (including you) are modeling ways of growing food that don't demand those things.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I believe that my farm would be better if it included animals for the following reasons:

Pigs would eat the sunroots, rhizomous grasses, and thistles that have made about 20% of my farm unproductive because the weeds smother the crops.
Chickens would eat fruit-maggots and earwigs disrupting their life cycle so that I could grow non-buggy organic apples and apricots. Chickens could also weed problem areas.
Goats could prune back the lilac trees that are slowly taking over the yard, and that negatively impact anything growing near them.
It seems to me that a farm that includes domestic animals is more like a natural ecosystem, and less like an artificial theme park.

Then there is the kinship factor. I thrive when beautiful beings are sharing my space with me, and are depending on me to be their guardian and protector. I was born to nurture. Alas, I can't properly protect unless I am living with them, so for now I live alone with humans, and feel morose about it.



 
Tyler Ludens
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I agree that animals will happily do work  - which to them is just living and eating - which may be difficult for humans.  And I empathize with your feelings of wanting to nurture.  I wish you could be in a place to be able to do so.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I felt like this thread needed a photo of squash...

 
Charli Wilson
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I grow my best squash from the plants on the 'cooking' compost heap- mostly built from sawdust and chicken poop. Have to be a bit careful as the pile settles around the plants, but they grow loads of fruit.
 
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