Analysing our 2022 garden: squash, gourds and melons

Okay, it’s that time! I’ll be working on a serious of posts, going over how our 2022 garden went, what worked, what didn’t, and what didn’t even happen at all. This is help give us an idea of what we want to do in the future, what we don’t want to do in the future, and what changes need to be made.

*sigh*

I had such high hopes for our squash and gourds for 2022. We planted SO many varieties of squash! We especially worked towards growing winter squash, with a focus on varieties that stored well for the winter. This is part of our working towards being as self sufficient as possible, and to have a good supply of food during the winter months when we can expect to be unable to get out, either due to being snowed in, or vehicles freezing, or whatever, for at least two months. Something we’ve already had to deal with, somewhat.

We also planted a variety of pumpkins, including 3 hulless varieties for their seeds, and summer squash, plus had both new and old varieties of gourds.

Almost everything was a loss, and what wasn’t a loss was still nowhere near fully successful.

We’ll start with our “fun” plants: the gourds.

I am wanting to grow gourds to cure them, then use them for crafting or to make useful objects out of them. Three that we had grown before were:

  • Tennessee Dancing Gourd, which did very well in 2021, even in drought conditions.
  • Ozark Nest Egg, which was set back in growth for quite time time, but when they did start to grow, looked to be incredibly prolific and would have done amazing, if they had not been killed off by frost.
  • Luffa, which had not done well before, but I really want to grow them for their sponges.

These were grown from seeds left over from the previous year. They germinated well, though there were issues with the cats getting into the mini-greenhouse they were in and destroying many seedlings. I used the last of our seeds to try again, and we did manage to have a few survive.

New gourds included the canteen gourd, and apple gourd.

The Results:

I am really, really happy with how the Ozark Nest Egg and Tennessee Dancing Gourds did!

The Ozark Nest Egg gourds are absolutely beautiful! I just love the size and shape of them. The Dancing Gourds managed to produce a decent amount that were larger than those we collected at the end of the previous, drought stricken year.

As I write this, they are both in a bin, curing. The Dancing gourds have mostly turned a tan colour. The Ozark Nest Egg gourds were already almost white, so there’s not a lot of change in their colour.

I look forward to seeing what we can do with them, after they are fully cured!

Then there was the luffa…

They took such a very long time to even start blooming, and when they did, it was all male flowers for quite a long time. When the female flowers started showing up, there were no male flowers to pollinate them! So when we finally got both blooming at the same time, I made sure to hand pollinate them.

By then, however, it was just too late in the season. There was no chance for them to fully mature. When the frost finally hit, that was the end of them.

Conclusion:

I would definitely want to try all three again. Hopefully, I’ll have seeds from the Ozark Nest Egg we harvested, because I didn’t see them when I was ordering other things from the site I got them from originally. I may have just missed them.

As for the luffa, I think those will wait until we have a greenhouse or polytunnel before I try again. I really like them, and when the plants finally do start growing, they grow so incredibly fast!


Next, we have the canteen gourd and the apple gourd.

The canteen gourds ended up needing potting up a couple of times, and even then, by the time I could transplant them, they were getting way too big for their pots. I’d have transplanted them earlier, but had to wait until after our last average frost date (June 2). They were already showing flower buds when they were transplanted – which promptly died.

They never really did well after transplanting, staying long and gangly, and never filling out. They did bloom, but again, it was male flowers only. We did, eventually, get female flowers that I hand pollinated, but it was too late in the season.

The canteen gourds were planted at the tunnel trellis, which had been used the year before, but the apple gourds were grown in a completely new garden area. This squash patch had most of our winter squash and pumpkins. Each transplanted went into its own dug out hole that was filled with fresh garden soil before transplanting. Unfortunately, this area got heavily saturated during the flooding, and it was way too long before everything finally got well mulched.

Out of everything there, though, the apple gourds did the best.

It still took them a long time to get to the point of flowering and producing fruit – I would hand pollinated them, any time I saw new female flowers show up. The three surviving transplants began to produce quite a few gourds, but it was simply too late. Then, even with protection, they were pretty much killed off by our first frosts.

I know these grow in our climate zone. It was just a terrible growing year that set everything back so much.

Conclusion:

I’ve already picked up more canteen and apple gourd seeds. In fact, I’ve also picked up some drum gourds to try, too! Plus some Caveman’s Club. I am just determined to make it work! I want to make stuff with these, and there are other varieties of gourds I will eventually be trying to grow, for different purposes.


Then there was the summer squash.

*sigh*

We accidentally bought three, instead of one, variety pack of summer squash seeds, so we’ll have green zucchini, yellow zucchini, Magda and sunburst patty pan seeds for years to come. Summer squash was one of the first things we grew, in our very first gardening year, and even though we lost half of them to frost because they were transplanted too early, we still had so much summer squash, we were able to harvest them daily for a while.

They didn’t do as well during the drought of 2021, but we were still able to harvest enough summer squash to be able to do refrigerator pickles. Mostly, though, we enjoy eating them fresh and raw!

For 2022, we were accidentally sent a packet of G-Star patty pans, a green variety, as well. When the mistake was pointed out, we were sent the seeds we were supposed to get, and told to keep the ones we were sent by mistake. We were quite happy to try a new variety of patty pans!

The Result:

*sigh*

The Magda, yellow zucchini and sunburst patty pans were planted in a low raised bed together. Because we like them so much, we had twice as many sunburst as anything else. The green zucchini were planted into the new squash bed, right next to the low raised bed.

We planted as many of the G-star as we did the sunburst patty pans, but those got planted in another new bed, on the opposite side of the main garden area, along with corn, winter squash and hulless pumpkins.

All of these had been started indoors with an excellent germination rate.

None of the summer squash did well, though we did get more Magda squash than in previous years, when fewer plants survived. We quite like the Magda squash. Still, there were very few of them overall, and the plants did not thrive.

We got almost nothing from the green zucchini, and not much more from the yellow. Most disappointing of all was how few sunburst squash we got. Even with hand pollinating.

The G-star had a rough start, but once they got well mulched, they really perked up and grew very quickly. We were even able to harvest some, though the biggest, healthiest plant suddenly died, its stem completely cut through by an insect.

Conclusion:

Since we’ve had such success with summer squash in previous years, we know that 2022 was an exception for how bad our summer squash did. The question is, was it because of the flooding? Or where there other factors? I think lack of pollinators were part of the problem, but the plants also just didn’t bloom much at all.

We’ll be growing all these varieties again, and hopefully, 2023 will be a better growing year!


Now we go into what was one of the more disappointing things; our winter squash. I’m including the pumpkins with these, even though they actually did better.

Along with the three types of hulless pumpkins, which were transplanted well away from each other, we had a couple of free giant pumpkin seeds we grew in a hill we used for Crespo squash the year before, and some Baby Pam pumpkins from seeds left from the year before. Those had a zero germination rate the year before, but for 2022, we had a 100% germination rate!

In the new, big squash patch, we also had Teddy Squash, a tiny, short season variety we’d had seeds left over from the year before, Georgia Candy Roaster, and Winter Sweet. In the corn and squash patch, we had Boston Marrow, while Red Kuri was planted in a new bed by the chain link fence.

I feel like I’m forgetting another winter squash. Maybe I’ll remember later. Oh, right! We also tried Crespo Squash again. Those tried to do so well the year before, but kept getting eaten by deer and groundhogs!

The Results:

Again, it was almost a total loss. Especially for the winter squash.

While the big squash patch didn’t have standing water during the flooding, the ground did get quite saturated. We lost some of our transplants completely. The squash and corn patch, on the other hand, so SO much more flooding!

Still, if we’d been able to well mulch the big squash patch better, I think it would have helped. Also, the south side of the patch got more shade than the north side, due to the tall trees between the garden and the house, which certainly didn’t help!

The Georgia Candy Roaster and Winter Sweet just didn’t grow. It’s like they never recovered from transplanting. The Teddy did a bit better, and even started to form tiny squash, but it was way too late for them to mature. The Baby Pam did surprisingly well, and we did get a few little pumkins (they only grow 5-6 inches in diameter). We got a couple of Kakai hulless pumpkins, too. The Crespo squash never even bloomed.

Probably the only really successful thing was the giant pumpkins. We made no attempt to get actual giants, but they still grew really big. We had two plants, and got two pumpkins out of it.

In the corn and squash bed, which got so much more flooding, I’m amazed we got any Boston Marrow at all. They took a long time to recover from flooding, but they did eventually start blooming and producing fruit. We did pick a few, but they were under ripe, and even the ripest one was much smaller than they should have been.

We did get some Lady Godiva and Styrian hulless pumpkins, though nowhere near as many as we should have, nor where they as big as they should have been.

The only real success was the Red Kuri (Little Gem) squash, that grew in the south yard up the chain link fence. They were still smaller than they should have been, but we did get an okay harvest.

Conclusion:

Well, our reasons for growing so much squash haven’t changed, so we’ll definitely be trying to grow them all again. There’s nothing we could have done about the damage the flooding caused. When we try again, we will have to take extra care to make sure they are well mulched, as that made quite the difference, once we were finally able to do it. We’re going to be trying pretty much all the varieties again. My source for Baby Pam pumpkins and Teddy squash no longer carries, them, though. I don’t remember right now if we have any seeds left, but if we do, we will try them again, too.

Among the things we are slowly working on is building high raised beds in the main garden area. When we get to building them where the large squash patch was, the extra height will also help get away from the shade problem on the north side .


Now we reach one more disappointment.

A total and complete loss of our melons.

We had made two new large garden plots, using the Ruth Stout deep mulch method. The north half of both had potatoes planted in them, and the south half got melons.

The previous year, we’d grown two types of melons. In spite of the drought, they did very well, and we got a surprisingly good harvest. We loved having fresh melons, so for 2022, we planted even more. Some were seeds harvested from grocery store melons. We also tried Zucca melon (a giant variety) and a short season watermelon, for six varieties altogether.

The Results:

When some of the transplants died, we filled the gaps with Yakteen gourds (the ones with the red arrows pointing to them).

The watermelons died almost right away. Of the ones that didn’t die outright, they just didn’t grow. It wasn’t until the very end of the season that a couple of Zucca melons started to grow, and even bloom, but it was just way too late by then.

Conclusion:

After the success of the previous year, this was such a huge disappointment. We all really love melons, but they are quite expensive to buy, so growing them would be well worth the effort.

For 2023, we’ve bought more Halona and Pixie melon seeds, which we had successfully grown the year before (we had saved Halona seeds, but not Pixie), plus we are trying a new cantaloupe type variety. We will also be trying the Zucca melon again, plus we still have saved seeds from other varieties.

The flooding we got last year was exceptional, so I don’t think we’ll have that happen again, but we will still need to work on improving the soil and planting them in, at the very least, low raised beds. The Pixie and Halon were planted at the trellis tunnel the first time, and are excellent climbers. We don’t plan to use that tunnel trellis again, but will be building new, permanent trellis tunnels closer to the house, with low raised beds at their bases. That should make a big difference in growing conditions – so long as the weather is cooperative!

The Re-Farmer

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