Analyzing our 2021 garden: squash, gourds and melons

Since we ordered SO many things for this year, and expanded how much space we were gardening in, I decided to go over groups of things in separate posts, in no particular order and spread over the next few days.

When we had our first garden in 2020, one of the things we ordered was a summer squash mix from Veseys. It included green zucchini, golden zucchini, sunburst patty pan squash, and Magda squash. They were a great success, even when the first transplants got killed off by frost, so I happily ordered the same collection for this year.

I accidentally ordered three collections.

We’ll be growing these for the next few years, and we’re just fine with that!

Oddly, though we did have yellow zucchini seeds germinate indoors for transplanting, we did not get any yellow zucchini. We did have two kinds of green ones, though.

We are especially fond of the yellow pattypan squash, and we like all of them as refrigerator pickles. We also sometimes freeze them.

This past summer, even with the drought, they grew well, though much more slowly than they did the year before. We tried growing them vertically, which I think worked well enough for the zucchini and Magda squash to do again (though with stronger stakes!) but the patty pans tended to have more than one main stem, so they were a bit harder to train up a stake.

The deer tend to leave these alone – they are quite spiny! – but we did catch a groundhog on the garden trail cam, taking advantage of them being grown vertically and munching away. Cayenne pepper solved that problem!

The winter squash was a new one for us. The two varieties we chose – Red Kuri (Little Gem) and Teddy squash – were picked for their short growing season, smaller size, productivity and storage potential.

These suffered from the drought quite a bit, in spite of our diligent watering. Plus, something kept eating the baby Teddy squash at first.

The two types of melons we got – Halona and Pixie – also struggled with this past summer’s poor growing conditions, but once they started producing melons, they went wild! We ended up with lots of melons throughout the last summer and extended fall.

The gourds are one of my pet projects. I really want to grow gourds for crafting purposes. Except luffa, which I wanted to grow for the sponges. We’d tried, and failed, to grow birdhouse gourds last year, with our transplants killed by a frost. This year, we planted two varieties on the squash tunnel – Tennessee Dancing Gourd and luffa – and two varieties at the chain link fence – Ozark Nest Egg and Thai Bottle Gourd.

The only real success was the Tennessee Dancing Gourd. I currently have a whole bunch of them drying out in the big aquarium, where we have house plants under lights, to protect them from the cats. I had them in a basket on the counter, but the cats kept stealing them as toys! They are adorable, and I would happily grow them again. What amazes me more about them is that, based on the reviews I read on them, as prolific as they were for us this year, under better conditions, we could easily have had two or three times more gourds than we actually got!

As for the others…

I think, if we had not had the drought, they would have done better, and we might actually have had some gourds. The Thai Bottle gourd only had a couple of flowers, but never produced fruit. When the heat waves passed and we finally started to get rain, the Ozark Nest Egg started to produce SO many little gourds, but it was just too late in the season for them to mature. I think the luffa also would have done better, though whether they would have had enough time to fully mature, I’m not sure.

The Crespo squash was really amazing. It did so well at first, only to get hit by deer and groundhogs. It rebounded and began to produce prolifically, but by then it was too late in the season. I was really looking forward to seeing how this large, warty variety of pumpkin would turn out. Had there not been the setbacks it got, I think it would have thrived and produced very well. The squash are supposed to be quite delicious, and I look forward to being able to find that out for myself!

I’m going to include the cucamelons here, though they are more like a cucumber, while looking like miniature watermelons.

We grew these last year in an area with too much shade for them, yet they did very well. This year, they were planted at a chain link fence to climb, and climb they did! The new location was definitely better for them. Unfortunately, the heat and drought conditions were just too much, though I also think that lack of pollinators, later in the season, were also a problem. They bloomed prolifically, and you could even see many, many little fruits under the female flowers, but that was as far as most of them got. I doubt we got much more than 2 dozen cucamelons the entire season.


Final Analysis

Summer Squash: we are quite happy with the varieties of summer squash (from Veseys) we’ve been growing and will continue to grow them. I also want to experiment with other varieties, especially other patty pan types. We did get a green patty pan variety by mistake with our first seed order for 2022’s garden, but I am also eyeballing some white varieties, too.

Winter Squash: we’ve rarely ever eaten winter squash, so I wasn’t even sure how much we would like these (when we did the taste test, my husband did not like them, so it’s 3 out of 4). My primary reason to try them was for our food security goals (since they can be prolific, and can be stored), and to see if we liked them enough to even bother growing them again. Even though they didn’t really succeed, due to circumstances out of our control, I consider them a win. What few squash we had to try were delicious, and I would expect they would have tasted even better, had they had better growing conditions and more time to mature. I was able to save seeds from the Red Kuri, but not the Teddy, though I don’t think we used up all the seeds in the packets from Veseys when we started them indoors. I definitely plan to grow the Red Kuri again, plus we already have the seeds for the much larger Georgia Candy Roaster and Winter Sweet varieties of winter squash (also from Veseys). The Winter Sweet is supposed to be particularly good after a few months in storage, which was one of the main reasons I chose the variety. I think winter squash in general are working out well enough that we will aim to grow more plants then just the 3 Red Kuri and 2 Teddy we had this past year. If we have Teddy seeds left over, I will try them again, along with the Red Kuri so, next year, we should have 4 varieties of winter squash to grow.

Unless I break down completely and order some of the rare varieties from that heritage seed company in our climate zone I’ve been swooning over…

*ahem*

Moving along now…

Melons: I am SO happy with how these melons from Veseys did, and how wonderful they tasted. We’ve saved seeds from both varieties, but have also been saving seeds from varieties we’ve tried at the grocery store that we liked. We will definitely be growing melons again, and more of them. There are so many varieties to try, so these are something we will likely be experimenting with a great deal, over the years.

Crespo Squash: these were seeds I got from Baker Creek, and we only tried to germinate a few of them. They were one of my “fun” choices. Given how large they can get, I was very surprised by how many fruit started to form once they were finally able to, and how eagerly they tried to climb the barriers we set up to protect from deer and groundhogs. I really want to try these again – but we will have to do a lot to keep them safe from critters!

Cucamelons: these are cute and fun and tasty little things! However, after growing them for 2 years, I don’t plan to buy more seeds for next year’s garden. We did “harvest” their tubers and are over wintering them in the sun room. If that works (it did not work the previous year, but they were much bigger this year) we will plant those in the spring, but that’s about it. Instead, we will be planting the Eureka cucumber; a variety that is good for both fresh eating and pickling.

Gourds: yes, I will be trying gourds again! The Tennessee Dancing Gourds were a major win, and it looks like the Ozark Nest Egg would have been a major winner, too, under better conditions. I should have some seeds from all the varieties we grew this year left over, and will be trying them again. There are other gourd varieties I want to try growing, for different purposes, but some of the seed sources can’t ship to Canada at all. These are the one non-food plant we are growing (though the Thai bottle gourd is edible, and if picked young enough, theoretically all gourds are edible). The varieties I’m choosing are for their potential usefulness once they have been thoroughly dried out. The problem is, they all seem to need a really long growing season, which means they need to be started indoors very early, I am, however, determined to do it! 😀

The Re-Farmer

2 thoughts on “Analyzing our 2021 garden: squash, gourds and melons

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