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Country Gardens: Squash season is here

Squash is a wonderful fall staple. Most squash are fairly large and more than enough for one or two. Why not try growing small squash or look for them at your local farmer’s market? There are ideal smaller squash to grow, even some bush types that you can grow in a small area. Bush varieties are excellent choices for gardeners with small plots. Most of the summer squash are bush varieties.

Squash Growing Tips Squash is a warm season crop that must be planted after all danger of frost is past and the soil has warmed. Squash grow best at temperatures between 65F to 75F. Seeds germinate poorly at low soil temperatures; therefore, wait until the soil is 60F before planting. Plant seeds one inch deep and 12 inches apart in rows 40 inches apart, or plant several seeds in hills that are three feet apart. Thin plants in rows so they are two to three feet apart and thin plants in hills to two or three plants per hill. For vine-type squash, thin plants four to six feet apart. Care It is important to control the weeds through frequent shallow cultivation and/or with the use of mulches. Black plastic mulch stops all weed growth and can help in warming the soil. If using organic mulch, wait until early July before laying it down to allow the ground to warm. Cultivate all the weeds before applying the mulch. Desirable materials include straw, saltmarsh hay or sawdust. Hay should be avoided because it may contain weed seeds. Avoid using fresh lawn clippings or clippings from a lawn that was treated with an herbicide within the last six weeks. If you do not treat your lawn, it is the perfect mulch. Squash require a plentiful supply of water. Keep the soil evenly moist throughout the season. If it does not rain, an application of an inch of water per week will be enough. Squash plants are monoecious, having male and female flowers on the same plant. Male blossoms appear first on a long stalk which often lifts the flower above the foliage. The female flowers are on a short stalk that resembles a small fruit. Squash requires cross-pollination, which is done mainly by bees or other insects. Different varieties of squash will cross-pollinate, so do not save seed if different varieties are grown in the same area and flower at the same time. Cross-pollination will not affect the look or taste of this year’s fruit. It can affect the look and taste of squash grown from the seed of cross-pollinated plants.

Small Squash Varieties The following types are available at Baker Creek Heirloom seeds:, and Lemon Squash The shape, size and color of a lemon; it grows great here, has huge yields and the best resistance to insects I have seen in a summer squash. Very tasty, great fried! A favorite, this is a superb market variety and is very attractive. Table Queen Bush Squash Here is an exciting true bush version of “Table Queen Acorn;” 36-inch plants stay compact and produce heavy yields of these delicious squash with dry orange flesh. A great variety for small gardens. Table Queen Acorn Squash Eighty days. Dark green acorn-type fruit. Iowa Seed Co. introduced this variety in 1913; possible Native American origin. The small fruits have sweet, orange flesh. Silver Edge Grown for its beautiful, delicious seeds that are very large and white with silver edges, hence the name. The fruit are round-to-pear-shaped and are white with green stripes; attractive for decorations and great for seeds. A unique squash that is still popular in some parts of Mexico. Baby Queen Hubbard Cute little 7-inch green fruit look just like the big green Hubbard, but these weigh just 5 pounds. The flesh is sweet and nutty–great for baking or in pies! The smaller size makes these perfect for market growing. Delicata Squash 100 days. High sugar content, fruit are 1-3 lbs. each and skin color is rust-white with green stripes. Delicate sweet flavor. This old heirloom was introduced in 1894 by Peter Henderson and Co. Ronde de Nice 50 days. The delicious, Italian heirloom round green zucchini; the fruit are very tender and fine flavored; an ideal squash for stuffing. A popular variety for home gardens and specialty growers. Vigorous, quick-growing plants. Yugoslavian Finger Fruit A most unique and unusual squash! Large, fluted, acorn-type fruits have 10 finger-like ribs that come to points at the end of each squash. Cream colored. An excellent ornamental type for fall decoration and marketing. Introduced as “Pineapple” in 1885 by James J.H. Gregory’s retail catalogue, who said, “A peculiar, striking-looking variety… Very fine grained and smooth to the taste.” Mongogo du Guatemala A Guatemalan heirloom superb for fall decorations. The 4-pound fruit are pumpkin-shaped with big ribs, with golden yellow and dark green-striped skin. The young fruit are good fried as summer squash, and mature fruit can be made into pies and preserves. Almost extinct in the US, but sold commercially in Europe. Bennings Green Tint Scallop Squash 50 days. Colorful light green scalloped shaped fruit, tender and good quality; excellent yields, easy to grow. We have grown this variety for many years; an old favorite. Good color for market. Burgess Buttercup Introduced in 1932 by Burgess Seed & Plant Co. of Bloomington, Ill., Buttercup has set the benchmark over the years for all other small winter squash. Flattened dark green turbans with a distinctive button on the blossom end. Typical fruits weigh 3-5 pounds. Super sweet brilliant orange flesh with very fine eating qualities. Rind is thin but very hard, medium length keeper. 85-100 days. Chirimen First offered by the Aggeler & Musser Seed Company of Los Angeles in 1922. Beautiful dull bronze-orange skin. Fruits weigh 5-8 pounds on average and have deep-orange, moist, sweet flesh. Needs a long growing season to mature. In a normal season this can be done at Heritage Farm, which is on the Iowa-Minnesota border. 95-110 days. Look for these squash this fall and next spring consider trying one of the these types for the perfect meal for one or two.

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