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August 12, 2011

The beautiful Cinderella Pumpkins

This was the week for a focus on cucurbits: cucumbers, summer squash and winter squash. Specifically, I needed to weed and add a side dressing of fertilizer. Early on, when the squash were small, I went through the squash with my new diamond scuffle hoe. It did a good job of knocking the weeds down, but some managed to survive and of course, new ones grew. Finally this week, I got out there again. This time, with all the amazing vines covering the ground, it took a lot longer to weed. I could no longer use a hoe and had to weed by hand. My penchant for weeding like a gardener is very strongly entrenched in me. I couldn’t shake it. I should have been a little less thorough, but I could not help myself. Now the beds are clear of weeds and I shouldn’t need to weed again until the end of season clean up.

Lots of Spaghetti squash this year

Next up was a side dressing of fertilizer. With the results of the soil tests this year, I only needed to add nitrogen. I chose a mix of blood and feather meals. Since organic fertilizers release their nutrients slowly, I usually only add them once, before planting. This year I thought I would experiment with adding one half before planting and the second half in early summer as a side dressing. I won’t do that again. This was much later than I had originally planned to add the fertilizer (early July) and it was difficult to get it in around the plants with the sprawling vines. Though it seems to have worked fine for the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, and it works in beds that get two crops per season, for full season crops, I don’t think this method is worth the time. If the plants need a boost mid-season, it may have to be with a foliar fertilizer.

A victim of the moles and voles

Unfortunately, while weeding, I discovered a lot of tunneling through the beds, usually right underneath the base of the squash. Moles and voles. It did cause the demise of several vines, but the others have soldiered on and the squash are looking quite nice. The cucumbers have struggled, but I still have hope they will perk up. I planted more cucumbers in our hoop house, a variety that does well in cool temperatures and low light conditions, for fall. They are looking good and should begin producing fruit sometime in late September or early October.

I like this cucurbit family. It fills most of the production season, with summer squash in early summer, cucumbers later in summer and winter squash in the fall. I love seeing the incredible growth of the vines and the fruit can be so colorful and beautiful. Now that the squash and cucumbers have had their week of attention, it is time to move on. Next up: beans.

The cucurbit field when planted in late May

The cucurbit field today

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