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Where are you guys growing winter squash, and how successfully?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 69
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Oh yeah, and what variety, and what are your methods?

(Greenhouses don't count. Low tunnels kinda count.)

For context, I want to move north, just not so far north I can't grow winter squash, because I love them.

I've always assumed c. pepo would be the thing to grow because it has the shortest times to harvest. But I've also read in a few places that c. maxima deals with chilly weather and light frosts the best.  

The only other thread I've found on permies concerning squashes in frigid climates is someone saying they grew Nantucket long pie pumpkins in southern Alaska, but they had to pick them early and let them ripen off the vine. Which obviously isn't ideal.

But that's c. pepo AND it's got a long season so maybe that person didn't know what they were doing. Here's hoping one of you master gardeners has done better in a similar climate.

Oh yeah, and I'd like to grow a small field of them as a staple crop for myself and others, not just a couple plants for enjoyment. So direct sown > low tunnels > transplants in this case.  If you use low tunnels but keep them in the same field every year due to lack of disease pressure then that's great.

Thanks!
 
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I grew up in USDA zone 1b (eastern interior Alaska on the upper Yukon) and we grew no kind of winter squashes at all, not with a frost-free growing season of maximum 105 days in a lucky year (roughly May 15 to September 1).  We did however extend that with cloches and a greenhouse and starts inside the cabin to grow cucumbers.  We also grew copious summer squash without any protection which of course are plenty fast enough for that much season, and never saw powdery mildew, squash bugs, or vine borers, none of which existed in that place and climate zone.  

The reason I'm posting in your thread is the point out that if you get far enough north, you may find yourself in a situation where disease and bug pressure that exists further south drops away.  And also, even though your total number of frost-free days drops off, your day length gets ridiculously long; where I lived was less than 100 miles south of the arctic circle and though the sun dropped below the horizon for about an hour on the longest day of the year it basically never gets dark during the frost-free growing season.  Which is why there are routinely 100lb cabbages at the Alaska state fair and a very respectable giant pumpkin competition (although it doesn't reach the ton-plus sizes down south where they have a months-longer growing season).  

All of which is to say that, though I don't have experience or know varieties, I do suspect there's probably a small-fruited variety of winter squash that could be direct-seeded on the Arctic Circle on June 1 and harvested September 1 (in all but the freak years when it snows in July).
 
L. Tims
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Thanks Dan. Good to hear about the powdery mildew.  
 
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I'm not in the exact area you're asking for advice in, but i thought since I may have a similar climate, I would respond.
I live in zone 3 technically, but in a frost pocket, so closer to zone 2. My growing season is about June 1st to September 1st, if I'm lucky. I grow winter squash every year. I start them indoors and transplant them after all danger of frost has passed.
I do not use any protection for them. They just go in the ground and deal with the weather. I grow acorn squash, delicatas, buttercup, and red kuri with good success rates. I can't really grow big squash, like big pumpkins or big Hubbard squash, but small varieties do very well here.
Hopefully that's at least a little help!
Edit: I get powdery mildew, but not borers or really any other issues with them.
 
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I grow many of the same varieties that Dem mentioned above, as well as some varieties of pumpkins, hubbard squash, spaghetti squash, and a bunch of other varieties are able to be grown here.  Our farmers market is full of great squash varieties that I haven't tried.  I start plants indoors most of the time, but I also direct seed.  We can get a frost almost any time of the year here, because of the mountains draining cold air.  This happens on clear nights, especially if it clears up after a cool rainy day.  It also seems to happen around the full moon a lot.  When a frost is expected, everyone throwns sheets or plastic or something over top of their squash, pumpkins, and other tender plants.  Transplants do a lot worse than outdoor seeded plants when it comes to frost.  When I seed plants outdoors, I usually dig a hole and put manure in it, so that it has some ground heat under the mound, which is helpful to get them really ripping along with early growth.  Be sure if and when you do that that you put at least six inches of soil on top of the manure to keep the young roots from getting into the shit too fast.  Water the manure, bury it, and put the transplant on a mound to drain frost and cold air away from it.  There will be local gardeners almost everywhere who will be able to tell you when it is generally safe to put your transplants out.  This year I grew squash and pumpkins on the sunny side of my sun scoop hugulkultur.  7 plants produced 30 large storage fruit.  The unpruned plants went right up the hugul, over the top, down the other side, and up the spruce trees that are three feet past it.  I think they rather enjoyed the hugul!  That said, they did get powdery mildew, which I failed to notice in time to treat effectively (urine, diluted with 7 parts water, misted over the entire plant and any exposed soil--Recommended by Geoff Lawton... seems to work, most times).  I did do the treatment, and I think that this stopped some of the powder from spreading, but it was way too late to heal the plants fully.  You have to hit it, pretty early on... pretty much at first sign or near to. I don't have any borer issues.  Some people are very successful growing squash with breathable row covers.  They let rain and overhead irrigation water in, while (through a mild greenhouse effect) giving a few degrees of boost for frost protection.  These seem to be a worthwhile investment for growing tender plants in these types of climates.  
 
L. Tims
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Thanks Dem and Roberto. I sort of figured powdery mildew might not totally disappear short of the kind of climate Dan was talking about, lol.

Dem, you're a much better seed starter and transplanter than I am. I've had such bad luck with transplants (in friendlier climates than yours) I'd given up on the practice altogether. I was doing the dump and plant method though. Are biodegradable pots the way to go? I've been looking into them, and how to make them out of natural/recycled materials.

Glad to hear about the red kuri and buttercup,  they are small c. maximas, just what I thought would work best.

How can one tell if they're in a frost pocket by the way?

Roberto, that manure thing sounds pretty smart. I'd thought about using unfinished compost in a similar way. Seeds will grow right out of cow manure or my compost though so I figured I'd just use one of those for the mound and plant right into it. Your way sounds good too, I'll try both (your way for sure if I'm using horse or chicken manure).

The breathable row covers do sound like a good investment. I'm cheap though, I was hoping I could do triangular plastic row covers, and when the plants began outgrowing them and frost became unlikely, simply unburying the sides and letting the plants grow outwards. Might work?

Very useful information on telling when frosts are coming, I'll be sure to remember that. The full moon thing is interesting.

I've always heard milk for mildew. Urine IS cheaper than milk though, haha.
 
Dan Boone
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I should hasten to add that I don't know precisely why we never saw powdery mildew in that garden.  It might have had nothing to do with climate zone.  We hacked that garden out of virgin boreal forest and built soil using all local inputs, and there was no way to buy in started plants.  My mother always used seed from big seed companies that treated (in those days) their seed; there was no such thing as organic seed in those days, or if there was, she didn't order it.  So it could be that the powdery mildew organism simply never reached our garden.
 
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It seems to me, like squash are so sensitive to transplanting, that I'm better off seeding them directly into the ground.

My earliest varieties of moschata and maxima mature fruit in about 75 days. I have spent more than a decade selecting for short-season, and local adaptation. Pepo winter squash are earlier than that, but I don't like the flavor of them much, so I don't like to grow them, but I would if I lived in a shorter growing season.

Lagenaria, ficifolia, and argyrosperma are barely viable for me, but they do OK, if the garden remains frost-free for as much as 100 days.  I plant them every year, expecting that I might not get a harvest in extra short growing seasons.

I grow squash in the same field every year, because I want to encourage diseases and pests. Because I am a plant breeder, and I want to select for resistance to common pests and diseases. What also ends up happening, is that I am providing a fantastic habitat for squash specific beneficial insects such as squash bees, and the predators that feed on squash bugs and cucumber beetles.
 
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You said low tunnels might be okay, so here are ours. They are temporary. This picture is of putting them up in early February, with the melting ice rink in the back of the photo behind the trees. We seed leafy greens inside, and then later seed cucurbits among them. In about April, the greens are getting old and heat stressed, and the cucurbits are getting bigger so you can pull out the greens growing closest to them. In May we take the plastic off so the cucurbits can sprawl and not get roasted. In this culture we're used to squatting, so we scrunch inside, though it's not very comfortable, but is acceptable.

We've grown zucchini, which turn out to be a popular vegetable here though totally exotic and people can't pronounce it. I've brought butternut seeds and Lofthouse moschata seeds, which have done well, but now I've been reading about how maxima is better in certain respects, so I'm planning to have us use maxima seeds in 2019.
temporary-low-tunnel-greenhouses-at-secmol.JPG
[Thumbnail for temporary-low-tunnel-greenhouses-at-secmol.JPG]
 
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Hey there. This is probably off topic a bit, but I can't find any threads that speak to my question. Been trying to grow a small patch of pumpkins on new ground without much success. I'm working on doing this organically. At the place I used to work we'd us 19 19 19, but obviously not an option with my new organic tactics. Does anyone know of any organic fertilizers similar to 19 19 19? Or what do you use for your pumpkins? Last season I worked some composted cow manure into the field but it didn't do a whole lot. Thanks.
 
L. Tims
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Thanks Joseph. You've really bred Maxima down to 75 days? Is that with tiny fruits or good sized ones? I read your site a bit, and I agree with what you said about not getting why people would want to grow small squash. Bigger squash = more food per acre = better, as far as I'm concerned. I like your vow of poverty subsistence farmer mantra. It's sort of like what I want to do. Random suggestion, have you thought about developing a millet landrace that will grow in your area without irrigation? As a contingency plan for if you're not able to irrigate at some point in the future. Nine inches of rain isn't a lot, but they grow it in similarly arid places. Might save a lot of people from hunger one day.

Nice low tunnels Rebecca. I'm going to make mine triangular if I use them though, with buried sides that I can just unbury when it's time to do so. I'm not interested in living anywhere hot enough that plants would roast under them though, because if the plants are roasting under the tunnels then I'm probably roasting just being outside. Lol.

Zakk, nothing organic is chemically similar to 19-19-19. Do you think it worked better just because it made your plants greener and flush with new growth or did you actually measure your harvests both ways? Too much nitrogen and you get a lot of foliage but not so much fruit. I had this happen just from using diluted pee on my tomatoes once. It also makes them a hungry bug magnet. In the future I would topdress with the cow manure since the rain will dilute it and work it down into the soil anyways. If it's some other manure then compost it.

 
Dem Krebs
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I've never direct seeded winter squash, and my transplants always do well for me. I personally make little pots out of paper, like newspaper and the brown paper from packages. My neighbor taught me how to fold them so they're sturdy, and then when it is time to plant, I soak them really well and remove the paper.
A good indicator of living in a frost pocket is if foggy mist gathers and hovers over the land in the mornings and evenings, after and before the fog has cleared off in a lot of other places.
I could grow other squash, and do test at least one New variety a year, but I can only eat so many of them, and I have to grow varieties that other people like, too.
 
L. Tims
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You never direct plant the pots? I thought the whole point of newspaper was that it'd break down in time for the roots to grow through when planted in the ground.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I thought the whole point of newspaper was that it'd break down in time for the roots to grow through when planted in the ground.

I think the main point of the newspaper pots is to not use plastic pots.  The 'being able to plant the pot in the ground' aspect is kind of a bonus.  It potentially allows a person to have less transplant shock.  It might slow the interaction of the two soil systems, as it forms a barrier (which can partially remain in the soil), so removing it, has been recommended by some.  
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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If I grow the same variety of maxima in different fields, with different growing conditions, they can mature up to about ten days sooner in a field with low fertility and sparse moisture. Fruit size, and total yield are also lower in the quicker maturing field. My medium-sized maximas and moschatas are about 85 DTM. The first few years I grew moschata squash, I had an 88 day and an 85 day frost free growing season. Two of those close together really push the population in the direction of quicker maturity.

Smaller-fruited squash tend to mature quicker than larger-fruited. My maxima landrace with fruits of about 2 pounds matures about 10 days earlier than the population with fruits weighing about 5 to 10 pounds. The same with the moschatas. My quickest maturing population tends to have smaller fruits.

In my culture, millet is animal food, it is considered unsuitable for human consumption. I don't like eating millet. It is super fibrous. Perhaps there is a shell or something that is commonly removed before it is used as human food? If yes, I don't have suitable equipment or knowledge, so millet isn't on my list of things to grow. Though I grow millet for some of the research projects I help out with, I'm not considering it as a food source.

Rye grows easily in this area without irrigation. The wildlands here are filled with feral rye. If we need emergency food for non-irrigated scenario, it will be wheat, rye, or barley in this area. They can be planted in the fall, and grow during the rainy/snowy season.

 
L. Tims
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No harm in using plastic pots as long as they're not a throwaway item and something you use ad infinitum. They might even be something you've saved from the dumpster and repurposed.
 
L. Tims
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That's really interesting Joseph, strange that they'd mature sooner in the less fertile field. I guess it makes sense from the plant's perspective, though. Better to make seed quickly in a smaller fruit and get out of there and onto greener pastures. I wonder if this panic response could be recreated in a way that didn't significantly reduce yield.

I also didn't know rye could grow with that little precipitation, thought only millet could.
 
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I just moved to Northern Maine (zone 3b) so I haven't done it myself.  But my neighbor grew the biggest spaghetti squash I have ever seen this summer.  Granted this was an unusually warm summer here, but it was still impressive.
 
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