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

Our 2022 garden: some progress, and a little harvest

It’s just past 10pm as I start this, and we’re still at 21C/70F, and the higher winds of earlier today have died down to a lovely calm. I found myself looking for reasons to get the fire going, but I really need to get some sleep tonight! Sleep has been frequently interrupted for the past while. 😕

Lack of sleep wiped me out enough that I was feeling quite ill this morning, to the girls took care of feeding the critters so I could try and get at least a couple of hours in. With Leyendecker still in recovery in my room (no, he wasn’t the one keeping me up at night!), and my daughters still having their days and nights reversed, my younger daughter has been taking her “night shift” and sleeping in my room, to keep and ear out on Leyendecker while I’m out. (He seems to be doing all right, though still having difficulties voiding, so we are monitoring him very closely) In the end, it was almost noon before I finally was able to head outside and do my rounds – minus the critter feeding.

Of course, a fair amount of that is spent checking things in the garden. Things like this.

Here we are, into September, and the Red Noodle beans are just starting to show flower buds!

This Kakai hulless squash was the first to develop and is looking like it’s ripe – but it’s about a quarter the size it should be. If the weather holds, there’s a chance we’ll have a couple more, larger ones. In fact, all the hulless pumpkins are going rather well, compared to the other winter squash. Only the Baby Pam pumpkins are managing as well. The Lady Godiva should give us at least 2 fully developed squash by the end of the growing season, with a few more little ones developing. Likewise, the Styrian variety has a couple large pumpkins that should be harvestable by the time growing season is done, with a couple more developing.

As for the Baby Pam, we have a little few bright orange pumpkins that could probably be harvested, that are smaller than they should be, but there are others that are still growing and turning colour that look like they will reach their full size – which isn’t very large to begin with.

This Georgia Candy Roaster is one of two stunted plants that were just covered in slug trails this morning!

While watering this evening, I was amazed to find female flowers among the Georgia Candy Roaster, and even one Winter Sweet. I hand pollinated them, just in case, but I think it was too late for one of the Georgia Candy Roasters.

While harvesting, I was surprised by how many Yellow Pear and Chocolate Cheery tomatoes were ready. I took the few G-Star patty pans that were on the plant killed off by a cut worm.

A few more of the Cup of Moldova tomatoes were ripe enough to pick, and into the freezer the went, with the others needing to be processed.

I keep saying I need to get those done, but the fact that they are in the freezer actually frees me up to work on other things. But that will be in my next post!

As for the garden, it’s a waiting game. So far, we’re not looking to have cold temperatures or frost for the rest of the month. With our first average frost date on Sept. 10, that is very encouraging. I plan to do recordings for another garden tour video on that date. Hopefully, thing weather will hold and things will have time to catch up.

I’d really like a chance to try those red noodle beans!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: filled in the squash bed

The squash bed prepared by my daughter has been filled!

Some things went in some odd configurations. It’s going to take some doing to remember everything, even with the labels.

In my previous post, I’d stopped for a break after getting the Kakai hulless pumpkins, and the Crespo squash, started in the squash bed. As expected, the rest went much faster.

I’m so tired right now, I’m not sure I’m going to remember everything I planted in here at all! 😀

At this corner, the four Endeavor green zucchini got transplanted, running parallel to the low raised bed. This way, they will be easily accessible for harvesting throughout the summer.

There was a bit of space at the end of the row the green zucchini was planted in, so a couple of Teddy winter squash were planted there, and the remaining 6 were planted in a block in the next couple of rows. The Teddy squash has a growing habit similar to zucchini, so I wanted to make sure they were near the path, so we shouldn’t have too much trouble getting by while tending the low raised bed, or the green zucchini.

Next to the Kakai hulless pumpkin, I planted the Baby Pam pumpkins. There was six of them, planted in a 3 x 2 block. These are a smaller pumpkin that are supposed to be excellent for pies.

The poles are with the Apple gourds. I can’t remember if they’re climbers or not, but they are the only gourds in this bed, so I wanted to make them easy to spot.

I know we had some Ozark Nest Egg gourd seedlings, but as I planted them, I got a closer look and it does seem the are all Apple gourds. I don’t remember the Ozark seedlings dying off; if I had noticed, I would have tried planting more! I have no idea what happened to them.

Fit into the remaining spaces are the Georgia Candy Roaster and Winter Sweet.

Of the 7 x 7 grid my daughter dug, I did not plant anything in the south row, as it was too far into the shade. So this squash bed has been planted in a 7 x 6 grid.

The next step will be to mulch this area with straw. There had been thunderstorms forecasted, but now they’re just saying showers – those storm predictions keep going away! Still, we want to make sure the mulch is down as soon as possible.

If I can, though, I’ll see if I can get in with the weed trimmer first. It’ll be more difficult, now that the seedlings are planted, but it will make a big difference later in the season.

There were still seedlings to be transplanted, however. Which means a whole new section needed to be claimed. We were hitting 25C/77F, though, so I went back inside to take a hydration break, though I ended up making a dash to the store to pick up more bug spray. I’d just bought some, and we were already running out. They didn’t have a lot of options – normally we get something that will repel ticks, too, but there was none available. Still, with how fast we’ve been going through them, I got two.

For the rest of the transplants, I decided to start transplanting here.

In this area next to the potatoes, the grass I’d cut was growing back faster that the squash bed I’d just finished planting in, so I couldn’t make do without using the weed trimmer.

I worked in sections, starting out with an area large enough to include walking paths.

I had a couple of bins of transplants already at the garden, so I started on those, first.

These are the G-Star, green patty pan squash. The plants will be more compact compared to the winter squash, and they will be more easily accessed from the path between them and the potato and melon bed. I started by digging the row of holes then, using the jet setting on the hose, drilled into the soil and into the divots to blast as much soil back into the holes as I could, while leaving the roots and rocks behind. Then each hole got a spade full of sifted garden soil, and finally the squash were transplanted.

That process was then repeated for the next row, for the Boston Marrow. There were three pots, but so many of them germinated, I was able to plant eight. Which is probably quite crowded, even though I spaced them out more, as I think these will sprawl quite a bit as they grow.

Once those were in, I went to get more transplants – and found the only squash left were both hulless pumpkins!

Oops. I’d intended to plant them further apart. I would have put the Boston Marrow in between them, if I’d thought ahead. Ah, well.

I chose to plant the Lady Godiva variety here, because there was 5 seedlings, to the other variety’s four.

The last four, the Styrian hulless pumpkins, went next to the bean tunnel. I wasn’t able to use the weed trimmer here, though. I had to add another length of extension cord, but for some reason, it just wouldn’t run. I think there’s an issue with one of the extension cord plugs.

Oh, I almost forgot!

While watering the beds out here earlier, I noticed that we now have peas sprouting! The ones my daughter planted at the finished trellis. There are 2 varieties, and both have broken ground. 🙂

So here we have it! That last of the squash, gourds and pumpkins are now transplanted! As with the others, these will also need a straw mulch.

We might end up finishing off the bale, soon!

As of tonight, the only things left to transplant are the ground cherries and the Yakteen gourds. The Yakteen gourds will be filling in some gaps in other places. After talking about it with my daughter, she suggested a place for the ground cherries that I hadn’t thought of. Next to the compost ring, there’s a spot where we’ve got grass clippings sitting on top of a sheet of metal. That metal has been there for about a year now, so it should be just fine to plant into. We’ll just have to find ways to use up the grass clippings that are there! 🙂

I am so glad to finally have the transplanting done! Where we’re planting them is far from ideal, but they should be fine, I think.

We still have corn to direct seed. We’ll check the days to maturity and see if we still can, or if the seeds will just have to wait until next year. There are other seeds I’d hoped to plant this year, but they will have to wait until next year. They should have been sown back when everything was flooding. There is no longer enough of a growing season left for them.

While I was working on all this, my younger daughter took care of some other jobs, including doing a burn. We haven’t been able to get the burn barrel going for a while, and it was over full of the cat litter sawdust. That meant she had to stay and tend the fire for several hours.

She had just reached the point where she could put the cover on and finally let it smolder away on its own, when I came by to the pile of garden soil for one last wheel barrow load. Previously, I’d been sifting soil from the remains of the pile near the squash bed, but what’s left of that is so full of roots, it’s not worth the effort anymore. Later in the season, we’ll break up what’s left of it and use it to level off that area which, like so many other spots around the old garden area, is really rough, making it difficult to mow.

While sifting soil into the wheel barrow from the other pile – which went so much faster, as I was able to work from an area that hadn’t been taken over by weeds, yet – my daughter and I both heard a strange sound.

Coming from the branch pile.

A teeny, tiny mewing sound!

There are still kittens in there! Well. At least one. I’ve seen the mamas taking their kittens out of there, so this may be different litter? I have no idea. It’s going to still be a while before we start seeing the moms bringing their babies to the kibble house.

We’ll have to keep our eyes out for them. 🙂

So, there we are. The squash transplants are finally done!

Looking at the 14 day forecast, we’re looking at highs hovering around 20C/68F during the day, and the lows hovering around 15C/59F, which fairly regular showers throughout. Which should be just excellent for the garden! It would be so good to finally have a good growing year.

As for me, I am wiped out. A daughter has been kind enough to take care of my laundry for me, I’ve taken my pain killers, and am more than ready to go to bed!

And it’s not even midnight yet. 😉

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: starting seeds, three winter squash

Our next batch of seeds have been started!

I chose the ones that grow the largest and need the longest growing season. They are all new to us. Boston Marrow was chosen because it was described as making the best pumpkin pie the grower ever tasted, and because it was described as extremely rare. We plan to save seeds from these. I’ve heard many good things about Georgia Candy Roaster and, most importantly for us, it’s listed as having great storage quality. Winter Sweet was also described as an excellent storage squash, that tastes better after being stored for several months, and for being a reliable producer.

Because the seeds – especially the Boston Marrow seeds – were so large, we went with the Solo cups as pots, using the double cup method for watering from below. Each variety got three seeds in three cups (after being scarified and soaked a bit). We’ll see how many germinate. If we had the space for it, I would probably have planted more.

Speaking of space, the small aquarium greenhouse has been brought back into service. Once they germinated, we should be able to move them to a better spot, to avoid the issues we’ve been having with the space. Depending on how well they germinate and grow, we might be able to thin by dividing.

In the large aquarium greenhouse, I’m happy to say I’m now seeing more tomato seedlings starting to push their way through the soil. More amazingly, I spotted a hint of green in one of the giant pumpkin pots! That was much quicker than I expected.

The next batch of seeds to start indoors will be two more varieties of winter squash – the Red Kuri/Little Gem and Teddy squash that we grew last year, and managed to have squash to taste in spite of the drought – and cucumbers. Since we saved seeds from the few Red Kuri we got (the Teddy never got to fully mature), I might try some of our own seeds as well.

Then we have the summer squash. In the two years we’ve gardened here, we started them indoors. They did well, but they have a short enough growing season that we could direct seed them. For the sake of space, we may actually do that this year. Chatting with my mother on the phone today, she said the only things she started indoors were tomatoes and cabbages. She direct seeded everything else, including zucchini.

As we talked, she started telling me I should plant a big garden this year, because of how expensive food is getting. She was looking at the grocery store flyer and finally noticing. I’ve been saying this to her for months now! Then she started telling me what she would be doing if she were still living here – the first being, hiring the renter to plow the whole old garden area and then…

… planting trees.

Then she tried to offer me seeds she picked that fell from the trees lining the streets near her place. I declined! I told her that we were intending to plant trees, but these would be trees that feed us, and that we had a plan in mind. She planted most of the trees around the yard herself, or allowed trees that seeded themselves to grow. It’s taken a few years, but I think she’s starting to understand that this is now causing problems, as I try to explain that any trees we will be planting will be carefully chosen, and where we plant them will also be carefully decided. She was more interesting in things she got for free – or someone else paid for, like the shelterbelt trees my brother bought for my parents that were supposed to be planted in the outer yard, but that were instead crowded into the inner yard. I do find it funny that she gave me such a hard time for not immediately planting a garden our first summer here, and instantly having one just like she used to have, back when I was a kid, and now that we are going to be planting a large garden, she wants me to be planting trees!

Well, that’s part of our plans, too. Little by little, it’ll get done.

Today’s seed starts are one more little step in that direction.

The Re-Farmer