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Garth Brown |

I am really happy about the squash so far this year. I finally timed the seed starts correctly and the frost co-operated with the planting out. I love winter squash - my three favorites are Acorn, Kabocha, and Sweetmeat (a type of Hubbard). The first year I gardened here I grew the best Sweetmeats ever, and each subsequent year has failed to make it to such perfection. Don't get me wrong, they're still wonderful, but they haven't quite equaled that first year. I wonder why. Different genetic line in the type? Different growing conditions year to year? Soil conditions differing year to year?

I test my garden soil yearly and amend with minerals accordingly. By all accounts the soil mineral profile is better than it used to be. It could be the breeder of the seed let the quality slip a little. Or it could be my growing conditions. One year we had humid cool weather with lots of fog for weeks. Powdery mildew made an appearance and took its toll on the vines. Last year the first frost struck early and I think all the squash could have used another two weeks of sun to really pump the fruit full of sugars. That first amazing year frost didn't come until the middle of October (which is quite late for this part of the world). I think those extra days let the vines get the squash all the way ripe.

I'm optimistic for this year because I got such an early jump on the season that I think the fruit will have the time it needs to become excellent. I plant to pick the late flowers so that all the plants' energy is directed into the older, more mature squash.

Last year and this year we had some striped cucumber beetles attack the flowers and leaves. When the plants were smaller I trolled around and squashed them between my fingers each day. In the cool of the morning it was a simple enough task. Trying to do the same thing in the heat of the afternoon was an exercise in frustration because the beetles were so much quicker they'd often escape my incoming hands. Now the plants are so big they can tolerate a bit of predation, and I'm not seeing as many of the little pests as I did a few weeks ago.

The squash look good. Don't ask about my corn.


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