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A Look at the Parthenocarpic Squash

Outwitting the squash vine borers is one of the ongoing themes in the garden this summer. Let’s take a look at our parthenocarpic (no pollination needed) squash trial.

This is the fancy cage we built for the row cover over the squash. We hadn’t really made new row covers/low tunnel frames for the new raised beds yet, so this seemed like a good opportunity to try something new. One of the things that I’ve always struggled with on our raised beds is how to manage the lower edges without resorting to a bunch of bricks or milk jugs of water. I had this idea to use a PVC frame along the bottom edge that the row cover could be clamped to. We also decided to make a larger, square frame because the squash get big, especially under cover.

The biggest problem we’ve had is that there’s no good way to open the row cover when we need to get in and work on the plants or harvest. When we take the clamps off, it tends to tear the fabric. So…it’s a good idea, but still a work in progress.

That’s what the clamps look like, in case you were curious.

The squash under the row cover are looking quite jungle-esque. This is pretty typical when you have plants under a row cover. They are protected from the wind and they are slightly shaded, so they tend to get a little bit tall and leggy. You can see the longer, skinnier stems on these plants compared to what you might expect. It’s also nice and warm under the row cover, so the plants grow quickly.

As you can see, we are starting to get some flowers. With most squash, when using row cover to circumvent the squash vine borer, we would take the row cover off right now. However, since we are using parthenocarpic varieties that supposedly require no pollination to set fruit, we shouldn’t need to do that. It will allow the protection to continue until we take the row covers off.

 So…is that translating into squash? As you can see from this picture, the answer is not so much. There are several squash that are clearly rotting and have not successfully set. Now, it could just be early and this will straighten out. It could be that the varieties we picked are only partially parthenocarpic. Or it could be that the project is a big bust and we’ll have to take the row cover off to get any zucchini. I looked up the varieties we chose to see if there was any data on how they do. ‘Partenon’ was listed as setting fruit 69% of the time parthenocarpically. I didn’t find any data on ‘Segev’. So, we’ll see how things continue! The plus side is that even if we have to take off the row cover now, the plants should be large enough to withstand quite a bit of squash vine borer damage before they die.

Preparing for the Sudden Onslaught of Winter

I feel like I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the weather, but it really isn’t just idle conversation! The weather is extremely important to our success as gardeners. After one light freeze and lots of unseasonably warm weather, we are looking at more than a week of unseasonably cold temperatures. Overnight lows look like they will be hovering in the upper teens to low 20s for the better part of the next two weeks. (At least that low of 9 degrees is gone, for now!) Many of the cool season vegetables will tolerate temperatures down to 24 or 25 without significant damage, but two weeks of lows down around 20 is probably a bit much for them to tolerate, especially when they haven’t been hardened off with cold-but-not-too-cold temperatures.

So…it was time to harvest some things and cover others this afternoon! Because I can’t resist experimenting, I left one or two plants of almost everything in the garden, just to see what would happen.

We already had the cold frame out, but still open. We closed it up and tucked some straw along the back edge to keep the cold air out.

We also put hoops and row cover over the main section of spinach and radicchio. Normally I’d leave those out, but I think this will be a bit cold all of a sudden.

I left some of the other spinach around the garden uncovered, including the Indian variety. (I don’t have great hopes for its cold hardiness!)

I harvested a few of the radicchio plants to see what stage they were at. I also harvested the watermelon radishes, fennel, half the bunching onions, and most of the dandelion greens. I was just going to leave the lemongrass, but then I just couldn’t let it go to waste, so it went to our Foods & Nutrition department.

I’ll post more pictures and show what I did with some of the different vegetables later in the week!