Wednesday, October 27, 2010

To The Victor Goes The Squash

I've grown winter and summer squash for the past several years and never had much trouble cultivating them, until this season. For the first time, squash bugs showed up. I found their tiny, bronze colored, spherical eggs clustered on the underside of the leaves of a number of plants soon after the first squash started forming.

The adult bugs literally suck the life out the plants and then lay eggs to produce offspring that will do more of the same. I knew I had a long, hard struggle ahead. Well, with the help of modern science and more than a little sweat, I managed to keep my plants alive and well long enough to allow the squash to reach maturity. It also helped that I had plants in reserve that allowed me to replace the casualties of this war. The photo shows some of the squash that resulted from my victory.

In the foreground you can see Thelma Sanders' Sweet Potato Squash, an acorn variation that has great flavor and the ability to last all winter without refrigeration if kept in a cool, dry, dark place. Behind them are Carnival Dumpling Squash, a variety which also has excellent flavor and keeps quite well. So mankind- 1, squash bugs - 0, but I'm sure the bugs are thinking, wait until next year.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Food Fit For The Gods

Isis was a goddess in ancient Egyptian beliefs worshiped as the matron of motherhood, magic and fertility. These Isis Candy cherry tomatoes certainly live up to the traits attributed to their Egyptian namesake. The plants have magically survived the first frost of the season and have been quite fertile, bearing plenty of sweet fruit for guilt free snacking. I only wish there was some long lost Egyptian magic that would allow the harvest to last all winter long!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Midgets In My Garden

Before some of you out there get too worked up over the politically incorrect use of the word midget, I have two confessions to make. First of all, I have an addiction and I have had it for as long as I can remember. I love fresh fruit, particularly melons. If I lived in the proper climate or had a greenhouse sophisticated enough in which to grow them, I would have them fresh and close at hand all year round. And if you haven't guessed it by now,the second confession is that the title of this entry refers not to little people, but to melons; specifically, those of the Minnesota Midget variety. I have grown these with mixed success for about three years and I finally figured out why I wasn't getting more than one melon per plant. Despite the fact that they were advertised as a container plant, it turns out that they grow far better in the ground.

The midget part of their nature is that the vines sent out by the plant are generally only three to four feet long. And the fruits are about the size of a softball and provide a good serving for only one person. They taste almost exactly like cantaloupe and when properly planted they produce four to six melons per plant. I suppose it might be possible for them to do well in a planter, but I imagine that it would have to be quite large.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Tenacious Nature Of Nature

Powdery mildew is the bane of just about every species of summer or winter squash. It's not a matter of if it will show up, but when. It's a fungus that infects the plant and sucks nutrients from it, usually starting with the leaves; which initially take on a white, powdery appearance. The affected leaves will not manufacture as much food as they should, and may turn yellowish or brown and drop from the plant. It can also stunt and distort the plant's buds and sometimes, but less often, the squash itself. There is no known cure, although there are some fungicides which can prolong the life of the plant and reduce the ability of the disease to spread.

When the infection occurs early in the growing season, it means several months of trying to keep the plant alive long enough to produce squash. Since the infection of my papaya pear summer squash plants occurred only a couple of weeks ago, I decided to just let things take their course and see what would happen. I was fairly certain that the plants had given me the last fruits I would see this year and were on their way to oblivion.

As you can see by the photos above, I was wrong. It's hard to believe that the fresh green growth seen in the top photo, is part of the same plant as the severely infected leaves seen in the bottom photo. There will be one more harvest of tender, tasty squash this year. And once again I've been reminded to never underestimate the tenacity of life.