I’m Diggin Friday: Squash Happens (a lot!)

Welcome to I’m Diggin’ Friday, a weekly feature here at Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog that explores the ins and outs of Barefoot Gardening, a fun, family-friendly, low-stress way to grow fresh produce right at home!

As any home veggie gardener knows, when squash happens, it REALLY happens. That is to say, unlike eggplants or bell peppers, which produce in modest amounts, when you plant squash you almost always get more that you bargained for.

Pumpkin on the walkway
Pumpkin plants spilling onto the path and the first orange pumpkin of the year.

Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Barefoot gardening is all about getting the most food and fun out of the least amount of effort. Squash definitely fits the bill, especially summer squash. They’re easy to grow from seed and have relatively few pests.

(I’ve had problems with squash vine borers wiping out my plants in August, but I got a good harvest before then).

Squash are members of the cucurbit family, which includes cucumbers, cantelopes and melons. There are two basic types of squash: summer and winter. They’re named not for when they grow – both types need warm summer weather to grow and ripen – but for when you eat them.

Summertime – and the squash is prolific

Summer squash include the “soft” squashes like zucchini, patty pan and yellow crookneck. These kinds don’t store well unless you freeze them. They are super easy to grow and VERY prolific.

Let me repeat that for those of you who are tempted to rush out and plant two or more plants: they are VERY prolific.  Even a family of dedicated veggie-eaters couldn’t eat the number of zucchinis that 3+ plants would provide. Ratatouille, zucchini bread, stir fries and the like are nice – but everyday???

Sweet potato and summer squash foliage
The really large leaves closest to the hose and rain barrel are summer squash plants. (The rest are sweet potato vines).

Also, they grow so fast that the cute 2″ long zucchini you admired last week will be a 18″ long club as thick as your calf if you so much as look away. So whatever you do, don’t blink!

(Bonus points to the geeks who can ID that reference).

That said, I planted some in my garden this year, after swearing that I wouldn’t because I get dozens from our two CSA shares every summer. They grow so fast and produce so much they make you feel like a freaking gardening genius!

(More on CSAs or community-supported agriculture in a future post. Summary: They’re AMAZING!)

Squash for fair weather OR foul

Winter squash are the hard-skinned varieties, which can be stored for months. There are dozens of varieties including : butternut, acorn, delicata, spaghetti and of course pumpkins.

Four pumpkins hiding
Can you spot the four pumpkins in this picture?

These guys take a lot longer to grow and are usually not as prolific as their summer cousins, but their still pretty easy and totally worth it if you have the space – they’re vines tend to spread out, unless you plant a variety that is specifically bred to stay contained.

Come Halloween, what could be more fun than decorating a pumpkin you grew yourself?!

I did not plant ANY pumpkins this year.  I planted a few butternut and delicata seeds, but I knowing that pumpkins took up more room than I was willing to give them, I held off.

This morning I counted seven soccerball-sized pumpkins in various shades of green and orange and at least half-dozen tiny ones. They’re growing beneath platter-sized leaves on vines a half-dozen feet long or more in two different beds.

Clearly, it was not up to me.

The eggplant and potato beds
On the right: volunteer squash (and tomatoes) taking over the potato beds. Luckily the last spuds are ready for harvest.

No, my family did not sneak out in the middle of the night and sprinkle pumpkins seeds liberally throughout the garden.  They’re ALL volunteers – plants that came up on their own because their seeds were dropped on the ground sometime between last fall and this summer.

These particular seeds came from a pumpkin that my son brought home from a school trip to a you-pick farm last fall.  We kept it on the porch until it started to get soft, then tossed it in the compost pile.

Now its progeny are taking over my yard. I even found one climbing up a weigela bush and it’s already set a little pumpkin

A pumpkin plant on a bush
A pumpkin plant growing up a bush! Note the little pumpkin already forming at the base of the flower.

The vine won’t be able to support a full-sized pumpkin, but I’ve read about fashioning a sling from an onion bag or an old pair of stockings. (I’ll let you know how that goes).

I’m not really a big fan of pumpkin pie, so what am I going to do with all these pumpkins?

The ones that are babies now will be perfect size for carving come October.

The others? We’ll eat them, of course, but since they store well, we can do so over a number of months. Whew!

When they think “pumpkin”, most people think of only sweet dishes. But pumpkin and other winter squash because a favored part of my diet when I had an Afghani dish that features pumpkin cooked in olive oil, garlic and salt.

My husband also makes a great millet and pumpkin dish.

Basically, pumpkin can be used in any recipe that calls for squash. Try it in a pureed curried squash soup. Delish!

How does your garden grow?

Confession time: have you ever gone crazy with the squash? Had so many you were dropping them on your neighbors porches in the dead of night, slipping them into open car windows? Or maybe you’ve had the opposite problem: vine borers or some other pest doing away with your crop before the first zucchini could make an appearance.

Let us know – in the comments below!

I’m also open to any all and garden questions. If I don’t know the answer I’ll try to find someone who does. Those also go in the comments below.

A hardy thanks to all the folks who have piped up so far – keep those questions and blog topic suggestions coming!

BONUS: July Poster Giveaway

This month’s special giveaway is this fabulous out-of-print NOAA poster, Marine Mammals of the Western Hemisphere. Everyone who leaves a comment between now and the middle of July gets one entry in the drawing. Link to this site on your blog and get two entries. Get your comments in now!

Danielle Meitiv is a writer, marine science geek, gardener and mother who goes barefoot whenever possible. Danielle is also a huge fan and sales affiliate for Holly Lisle’s online courses: How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, and How to Revise Your Novel. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, and on Facebook: Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog, and Danielle Meitiv.



2 thoughts on “I’m Diggin Friday: Squash Happens (a lot!)

  1. My poor zucchini got attacked by root rot, and died a very sudden death soon after producing beautiful blooms, but after reading this, that’s probably a good thing, since I had two plants growing! ::insert sigh of relief here:: As a memorial to them, I planted crookneck squash at the last planting date possible, and it’s already producing TONS of flower buds. I’m so glad I only planted one of those!

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