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Direct Seeding Winter Squash in Cascadia?  RSS feed

 
Nicole Alderman
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We have a small house, and so we really don't have room to do more than have 6-8 2x2 inch pots. We also have a pretty short season due to being on a north-facing slope (before spring equinox and after fall equinox, we only have at most 4 hours of sunlight). It's also pretty damp and rainy outside of Late June-Early September. We have no green house, nor time/money to make one any time soon.

I'd like to grow winter squash, though!

But, are there any varieties I can direct seed and get a harvest out of? I've successfully grown yellow crookneck summer squash and pickling cucumbers. But, their season is around 50-65 days, rather than the 75-110 days I'm seeing for winter squash.

Any ideas? Any one direct seed winter squash successfully here?

Thanks!
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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I've heard good things about Sunshine the hybrid squash for short season areas.

There is an effort to dehybridize it but I'm not sure the name of that project or what its results are.
 
Tracy Wandling
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Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
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You'll probably have to do what Joseph Lofthouse does and create your own!

Fertile Valley Seeds (Carol Deppe http://www.caroldeppe.com/FVS%202016%20Seed%20Catalog%20&%20Order%20Form-160113.pdf ) has an OP variety that was created by dehybridizing Sunshine F1. It says 'very early' but doesn't say exactly how early. If you plant that and select for earliness, you can probably get an early variety that grows in your conditions in a few years. Maybe find another one that is also early, and plant them both. I just bought Carol's Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties, so I'm all hopped up on genetics and alleles! It's pretty exciting stuff, and so within the reach of the average gardener. Eventually I hope to have all of my veggies acclimated to my area, and bred to grow in my conditions.

She's got hiiiiiigh hopes, she's got hiiiiiigh hopes!
 
Tracy Wandling
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Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
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Oh, AND! Carol says that direct planting squash is better than transplanting because transplanting generally breaks the taproot. So direct seeding will give stronger plants, which might help in your situation. And maybe set up some mirrors to get some more light on them . . .
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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June 5th to Sept 13th = 100 days.

In the summer, the sun comes up in the north-north-east, and sets in the north-north-west, fully illuminating north facing slopes.

In my experience, squash grow better when direct seeded than when transplanted.

Carol Deppe (rhymes with peppy) grows winter squash seed in Corvallis, Oregon. There are lots of seed companies in the Willamette Valley that are growing squash seed. That takes a longer growing season than growing for food.

 
Nicole Alderman
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This is very reassuring! Everything I was reading was saying to start seeds indoors 3-4 weeks before planting out, and I was really getting worried about not being able to grow any (especially since when I planted normal season-length carrots, all I got were carrots smaller than my pinkie finger...but that might just be due to our soil quality. This year I added some compost to that bed and planted short season Mokum carrots March 29th and they grew to 2x0.5 inch carrots that we harvested today. In the garden bed that was full of amendments, the carrots actually grew to be full-size, and that was when I harvested them a little over a month ago! I obviously still have a lot to learn about soil quality, as how my microclimate affects my plants)

And, yes, we do get lots of good light between the equinoxes. Since our property is surrounded by trees, the sun doesn't rise above the trees until about 8:00-9:00am, and it sets behind the trees around 6:00pm. And, of course, not everywhere gets light during that whole time, but we definitely get "full sun" in our garden areas.

I will definitely try out the Sunshine F1 variety, since that seems to be successful here!

Has anyone had experience with growing "spaghetti" squash or acorn squash here? My husband just got diagnosed with Crohn's and is on the GAPS/SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet), which has meant that squash has become one of the big staples of his/our diet, so we're suddenly learning about various types of squash and their flavors. Before this, the only winter squash either of us ever really ate was pumpkin!

I hope a few years down the road I'll be able to tackle breeding my own varieties of plants. But, right now I still have so much to learn about just growing plants in general, and more garden beds to build and amend. And, I have to be realistic with my expectations of my stage in life, having a three year old and a baby that's due in two weeks!
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1428
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
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Babies! Oh how I love babies. Growing babies takes special skill, too. I miss my babies . . . they live too far away.

ANYway, I don't know if you've read Carol Deppe's The Resilient Gardener yet, (yes, I'm a HUGE fan of Carol's). She has a LOT of food intolerances and various intenstinal problems which she discusses in that book. That's what got her growing her own food in the first place, I think. And since she's a PNW gardener I'm going to be getting a bunch of her seeds for next year's growing season. I'm really looking forward to seeing how well her stuff does up here in the Pacific North-er West. I think that it won't take much to select for earliness in my growing season. If I was you - which I'm not, but if I WAS - I'd get her OP version of Sunshine F1, so that you can save seeds and not have to buy more. Squash seeds are the easiest seeds to save. Just a suggestion . . .

Happy Babying!
 
Nicole Alderman
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I have read her book, and really enjoyed it! Her and Lofthouse (and the thread here on staple foods) were how I first found out about squashes as a staple food. I should pull out that book and re-read the chapter on squashes, since at the time I was thinking, "Oh, we don't eat squashes, and I don't want to plant things we won't eat, so I'll just skim through this chapter." That chapter is a whole lot more relevant now--thank you for reminding me of it!

And, I probably will order from her! Hopefully the squashes will be able to mature enough that I can save seed from them (I won't hold my breath on that, especially at my skill level!), so I might just have to buy again next year. But, I also might just try various different varieties, too, to see which grows best here, and get more of those for the upcoming year. We'll see!

And, now, my baby belly is telling me I should go get sleep while I can...because soon enough there will be very little sleep to be had!
 
Tobias Ber
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Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
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nicole, have you thought about starting them outdoors with protection?

i think, these things are called "cloche". they re kinda pots placed over the seeds in the ground. i think, you can make them from milk jugs.


 
Shawn Harper
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Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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What makes you think we have trouble with winter squash here in cascadia? I am not sure of your micro climate, but in my area I almost have enough for 2 seasons.  I personally like the kakai hulless squash. They look and taste like mini pumpkins.  If you are worried about not enough time here is what I suggest. Plant 1 month early and cover seed mounds with a milk jug that has the bottom cut out. Most years winter squash does better in my yard that everything else. Last year sucked though.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Shawn Harper wrote:What makes you think we have trouble with winter squash here in cascadia? I am not sure of your micro climate, but in my area I almost have enough for 2 seasons.  I personally like the kakai hulless squash. They look and taste like mini pumpkins.  If you are worried about not enough time here is what I suggest. Plant 1 month early and cover seed mounds with a milk jug that has the bottom cut out. Most years winter squash does better in my yard that everything else. Last year sucked though.


I remember when I was little my mom tried to grow pumpkins, and they never matured in time. I have no idea why that is, but I guess I always figured that if my mom couldn't grow them, I probably wouldn't have any success, either (especially as I'm newer to gardening and my property is less ideal than hers. Her property is only 30 minutes away from me, and it has better light and lower humidity)
 
R Ranson
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We had a warm spring, so I took a chance and direct seeded my squash early March.  About half died, the rest grew great with ZERO IRRIGATION.  Our spring rains lasted a few weeks later than normal, but the summer was rain-less.  I didn't get as many squash per plant as I do with irrigating, but it was a lot less work and the ones I did get were some of the best tasting squash ever!  I harvested my first winter squash in June - it was fully mature. 

This is my second year creating a landrace squash.  I started with a cinderella pumpkin that volunteered (from a store-bought squash) and grew without water for a few years in our garden (we get up to 7 months without rain in the summer), Carol Deppe's sweet meat squash, and some buttercup (because that's the flavour and size we like).  I let them promiscuously pollinate and keep seeds from any delicious squash.  In a year or two, I'll start selecting for size as well as taste.

My eventual goal is to have delicious squash that can withstand a light frost early in life - so they can be direct seeded by April 1st.  Commercial squash seeds seem to need to be transplanted in our clime - but more and more, I'm having good luck with direct seeding.  I think saving my own seeds is a huge part of that.
 
John Polk
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I didn't get as many squash per plant as I do with irrigating, but it was a lot less work and the ones I did get were some of the best tasting squash ever! 

That is often the case with any fruiting veggie.
'Over watering' dilutes the flavor, displacing 'fruit flavor' with plain old water.
If the plants are stressed for water, they will still produce, but minimally.

I have found that once the plants begin fruiting, watering should be no more than needed to keep the plant alive.
A friend once gave me a gigantic tomato.  Didn't have a gram of flavor.  He said that because of the hot summer, he was soaking the plants every day.  That's how his tomatoes got so huge (and bland).


 
R Ranson
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I agree.  I would take flavour over volume any day.

I managed to get two harvests of two fruit per plant, so four total.  Not bad.  There may have been a third harvest, but I wanted to prepare that place before the rains came, so most of the squash got pulled up before the fruit was mature.  The plants that are left are re-growing from the root and flowering.  I haven't checked to see if they made any fruit yet, but they have survived two light frosts and are still green, growing and flowering. 
 
Shawn Harper
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Nicole Alderman wrote:
Shawn Harper wrote:What makes you think we have trouble with winter squash here in cascadia? I am not sure of your micro climate, but in my area I almost have enough for 2 seasons.  I personally like the kakai hulless squash. They look and taste like mini pumpkins.  If you are worried about not enough time here is what I suggest. Plant 1 month early and cover seed mounds with a milk jug that has the bottom cut out. Most years winter squash does better in my yard that everything else. Last year sucked though.


I remember when I was little my mom tried to grow pumpkins, and they never matured in time. I have no idea why that is, but I guess I always figured that if my mom couldn't grow them, I probably wouldn't have any success, either (especially as I'm newer to gardening and my property is less ideal than hers. Her property is only 30 minutes away from me, and it has better light and lower humidity)


I have some trouble with large fruit varieties I've trialed. However pretty much any small fruiting type does great. I do grow in three sisters FYI.
 
George Tyler
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Location: West of Cascades (600' elevation; 44°N. Lat.) Sandy Soil
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I direct-seed almost all my winter squash (summer squash too).  I cut the bottoms off of translucent gallon-milk-jugs to use as individual bell-jars.  I lift them up to check and cull.  I keep them covered thusly until they have sizable leaves that won't fit any longer.  Though the north-slope isn't an issue for me, I have found this method to do well at protecting earlier plantings of Squash.  I do grow a few backups in pots just in case I get a miss.
Varieties I like: OR Homestead Sweetmeat (Carole Deppe's> emerges in cool, wet soil); Early Butternut Remix (from Adaptive); Delicatas ('Zeppelin', 'Candystick', 'Honeyboat').  The summer squash 'Costata Romanesco' that Deppe recommends for drying is also awesome.
A side note: This year symphylins wiped out two of my early rows, so I had to replace with potted squash babies.
 
Kirk Schonfeldt
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Nicole Alderman wrote:I hope a few years down the road I'll be able to tackle breeding my own varieties of plants. But, right now I still have so much to learn about just growing plants in general, and more garden beds to build and amend. And, I have to be realistic with my expectations of my stage in life, having a three year old and a baby that's due in two weeks!


Seed-saving is breeding! You can select and save seeds and even if you're not doing selected crosses just "maintaining" a variety involves selection. Squash is super easy to save seed from and is not prone to inbreeding depression. One of my favorite crops to grow. They're beautiful, storable, delicious, nutritious, and diverse. They do appreciate fertility, but are forgiving. People are successfully growing winter squash at 8000'+ in NM and CO, so you can too! Good luck!
 
darien payne
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We garden on a north facing slope in Western WA, on glacial till soil of low fertility. Slow to warm up in the spring too, as it is so wet here and the north slope doesn't help. The first year we planted various winter squash varieties, and the only one to give much of a harvest was Bitterroot Buttercup, from http://irisheyesgardenseeds.com (a NW seed company). They were delicious too. Since that first year we've improved our soil and have more experience in this cool wet climate. What I've learned about growing winter squash here: we can't plant before mid to late May, if we do the seed rots or the plants languish. So I "chit" or pre-sprout the seeds inside, as Steve Solomon recommends, about a week before planting outside. We've planted as late as early June but then we risk not having a long enough season. I do have to protect the seeds and seedlings from birds, slugs, and rabbits. Soil fertility is important to give the young plants lots of help, but if it is too cold and wet the plants can't seem to make good use of the nitrogen. The right varieties are really important. We need early maturing varieties. The varieties I've had the best luck with are Deppe's Candystick Dessert Delicata (other delicatas would probably be fine too), Bitterroot Buttercup, Mooregold, Lower Salmon River (the last three are cucurbits maxima). Only in the last two years have I grown butternut, Adaptive Seeds' Butternut Remix. It takes a bit longer than the other squash but seems to cure well inside if left for a few months. The maximas I've let cross and the seed saved gives a variety of shapes and sizes but all have had great flavor. We now grow the squash in a low spot where the soil stays wetter longer in the season. They may need irrigation when young but once the plants are good size (mid to late June) they don't need water. There may be no blooms until July. They aren't ready to harvest before mid to late October, and then I let them cure inside for several weeks or months before eating. In 2015 we grew 200 pounds of mixed winter squash which mostly stored well inside. This year we planted a lot less because it was such a challenge to eat that much squash. The last three years we've had a yield of about 100 pounds per 100 sq ft of bed space. The maxima squashes take up lots more space though as they have very vigorous vines and invade the paths around the squash beds and into the adjacent corn beds. We had butternut squash last nearly a year although the flavor wasn't as good by then. Carol Deppe has really good information on growing squash in the PNW in her book The Resilient Gardener. This year I tried transplanting alsike clover into the squash bed in July so that we'd have a cover crop already up when the squash was harvested. So far the clover looks good.
 
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