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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.

Family of 4 Garden Harvest Report

Today was an exciting day in the Family of 4 Garden! We actually had some tomatoes to harvest!  They turned out to be not beautiful – one with a crack and one with a touch of blossom end rot (shock!). But they were still tomatoes. The cucumbers and zucchini are still producing quite well, although we ended up pulling out the zucchini due to powdery mildew. The cucumbers are slowing down quite a bit, probably because they are coated in aphids. I’ll post more about these two occurrences tomorrow or Thursday.

Today’s Harvest:

4.5 lbs of cucumbers @ $1.00/lb = $4.50

2.25 lbs of zucchini @ $1.50/lb = $3.38

0.56 lbs of tomatoes @ $2.00/lb = $1.12

Weekly Total = $9.00

Year to Date = $115.05





Family of 4 Harvest Update

Yesterday was just a zoo here at the Demo Garden (and in the office!), so I didn’t have a chance to update you on our Family of 4 garden harvests.

Let’s just say that the ‘Homemade Pickles’ cucumbers are not lagging anymore! They weighed in at 12.5 lbs yesterday, and I could probably find more today if I wanted to dig around in the cucumber vines. Ugh.

Cucumbers = 12.5 lbs @ $1.00/lb = $12.50

Zucchini (green & gold) = 20.25 lbs @ $1.50/lb = $30.38

Weekly Total = $42.88

Year to Date = $54.01

(Just in the interest of full disclosure, I did add $10 beyond what I’ve already reported this year, just because we’ve had a couple weeks of zucchini and a few cucumbers that didn’t get added in the way they should have.)

Just for fun, I looked back to see where we were at in previous years in the Family of 4 Garden.

July 20, 2010 – $163.86

July 19, 2011 – $163.39

Given last summer being so atrocious, it’s kind of surprising that there was only 47 cents difference between the two years at this point. Of course, in both years we had a lot of spring vegetables. Last year, after recording $163.39 on July 19th, we didn’t break $170 until September 6th!  In 2010, we were over $215 by that point.

This year, our expectations are going to have to be different. First of all, we planted in mid-May, losing all opportunity for spring vegetables. Second, our Family of 4 Garden is only about 4′ x 14′, as opposed to the 4′ x 25′ that we have had in the past. Then, with the beans and tomatoes affected by some herbicide damage, we had to pull the beans and the tomatoes are not very strong. At this point, we are pretty much going to be running with cucumbers and zucchini for the year! We’ll get some fall things planted in another month, hopefully, but it may be a challenge to get to $150 this year.

Garden Plans for 2012: Mexican Garden

Another one of our theme gardens this year is the Mexican Garden. This garden is going to be a fun mix of more commonly recognized vegetables with some uncommon vegetables!

We relied heavily on Rosalind Creasy’s book, The Edible Mexican Garden, for inspiration in planning our Mexican Garden.

Starting from the left side, we of course had to put in several peppers. Since we had so many peppers last year, we didn’t want to go crazy. Still, we have 6 peppers, ranging from serrano to bell peppers. Then we have a few rows of a black bean that can be used as either a dry bean or a fresh shelling bean. With the amount of space allotted, we know that we won’t get tons of beans, but it should be enough to have fun growing them.

Of course, the herb most people associate with Mexican cooking is cilantro, because it is in salsa. Unfortunately, cilantro doesn’t like the heat here very much in the summer, so we are also growing culantro. Culantro is an herb that has a similar flavor to cilantro but much better heat tolerance. We’ll also have a Mexican Oregano plant.

Cantaloupe are also a native Mexican vegetable/fruit! We are reprising the ‘Tasty Bites’ melon from last year on a trellis, as well as giving a shot at growing jicama. Jicama is a tuber vegetable, but the plant is a huge vine. It needs a long growing season, so it will be fun to see if we get anything from it.

You might have noticed that we skipped the tomatoes in the Mexican Garden, in favor of 4 tomatillo plants. Supposedly tomatillos produce better if they have another tomatillo as a pollinator, so we decided to try a purple tomatillo (2 plants) and an large green tomatillo (2 plants).

The two zucchinis are a paler grey color, rather than a typical green or yellow on a summer squash. The ‘Ronde de Nice’ is actually a round zucchini.

All the way on the right side of the map, we have 2 plants of ‘Aztec Red’ Spinach. Don’t let the name fool you – this is not a spinach in the sense we normally use it. It is a native Mexican green called Huauzontle (or Huauzontli). It is in the same family as Lambs’ Quarter, a common weed, which is also edible. The young, tender leaves of the huauzontle are eaten, as well as the immature flower buds. This will be a fun one to experiment with on some recipes this summer!