Monday, January 11, 2016
[th]e-Seed: New Year 2016 Edition
When Dan and I were dating, the first time I came home with him to meet his family, we sat down at the dinner table. At each plate was a card to rate the squash they were serving as part of the meal. I didn’t grow up with squash. I had only eaten it once in my life and it was not a good experience. I didn’t even LIKE squash. Much to my dismay, each of us were to taste-test the squash and rate it for color, texture, and flavor.
Uncle David’s Dakota Dessert squash requires 95-105 frost-free days to reach maturity. Seed companies often recommend starting winter squash indoors and transplanting them in northern climates. However, Uncle David’s was bred for northern climates. We direct seed our squash when danger of frost has passed and soil temperatures reach at least 70°F, usually the last week of May. (We are located at the 46th parallel in Dickey County, North Dakota in what used to be Zone 3 but is now designated as Zone 4.) Black plastic mulch can be used to increase soil temperature for earlier planting. We plant at a 1-inch depth, 2 seeds per foot, in rows 5-6 feet apart.
Carefully inspect any wilt you see in your squash patch; make sure you do not dismiss wilting as a water or drought related issue without ensuring that it is not disease related. Common wilts in squash include Fusarium Wilt, which is caused by the fungi (Fusarium oxysporum). This can be seed and/or soil borne. Other possible diseases are Bacterial Wilt (Erwinia tracheiphila) and Cucumber mosaic virus; remove and destroy any infected plants.
Striped Cucumber beetle feeding can damage young leaves so extensively that plants either die or are stunted in growth. In our experience these insects often appear in our cucurbits after a strong south wind. If the plants are in the two to four leaf stage, they are particularly vulnerable. The insects target weakened plants first and can literally suck the leaves dry, destroying all of its leaf area. In addition to the feeding damage, these insects can transport diseases, such as bacterial wilt. Prevention strategies include crop rotation and removal of crop debris to discourage overwintering of these pests. Tents can be constructed of fine netting, cheesecloth, or floating row cover to protect young plants. (Remove before flowering to allow pollinators to do their job.)
Squash is cross-pollinated AND insect pollinated. Take caution if you are planning to save seed, as many squash are the same species, Cucurbita maxima. Therefore, they will cross with each other. If different varieties of the same species cross-pollinate, the squash itself will still look and taste like Uncle David’s Dakota Dessert squash; you won’t even know it crossed with anything. If you save and plant that seed back the next year, it will not be Uncle David's squash; you will get completely different squash throughout your patch. You now have an interesting science experiment on your hands, rather than good production of predictable quality.
We are having Uncle David's Dakota Dessert squash for supper! Hope you are too!
Happy New Year to you!
Theresa & Dan
Prairie Road Organic Seed