The Virtues of Planting Late?

It’s September 23rd, and the world has not ended (yet), and neither has my West Virginia garden. Today, I collected corn and summer squash. Commercial farmers can’t gamble with cold weather, but maybe it’s worth it for the home gardener to set aside some ground to gamble on extending the fresh-from-the-garden season.

This corn was planted on July 5th. Last year, corn planted at about the same time matured much earlier, but this year we had two cold weeks that slowed down its maturation, and there was dry weather when I should have watered it, but didn’t. We’ve never had garden corn this late before; perhaps it is something to try on purpose next year to extend the availability of luscious fresh corn.

This hybrid summer squash (2016, Johnny’s Selected Seeds but they no longer carry it) was planted June 20th in the midst of the first corn patch planted to conserve garden space.  It limped along in shade, fighting weeds, until I harvested the corn sometime in late July or early August. The sad things were weeded and watered and have been producing squash for a few weeks. There are half a dozen young squash on them and the weather outlook is great (I am the only one in the family who eats squash, so this is more than enough.)

Last year there was so much fennel I had to freeze most of it.  Fennel does not freeze well. It lost flavor and was tough, so this year I planted less, twice. The fennel pictured was planted on June 2oth. Next year I’ll try three plantings.

The last tomato was not planted early, but next year I plan to plant one slicing tomato plant one full month after the others. The best thing about this plan is that I’ll be able to sow the seeds directly into the garden, so much less effort.

 

There is also watermelon maturing, and some Chinese cabbage that was looking good but now looks bug-eaten. I will let you know if either of these works out.

Kabocha Winter Squash (Japanese Pumpkin) Experiment

The kabocha squash is a pumpkin-like, grey-skinned squash from Japan.  I have no room in my little 24 foot by 24 foot raised bed garden for winter squash or melons, but we have piles of partially rotted tree trimmings so I planted the squash in one of those.  A few inches down, the pile was still very warm as micro-organisms were actively converting the wood into humus (no, not the luscious chickpea dip), so I wasn’t at all sure it would work, but my only loss was the cost of a packet of seeds.

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As you can see, the vines started off very strong, and did produce seven full-sized squash.  Then over the past two weeks the vines died off with several of the squashes never having made mature size. Perhaps this is normal, or perhaps not — the cucumbers in my garden all died at the same time leaving many baby cucumbers shriveled.  In any case, the return on that packet of seeds was well worth the minimal cost and effort involved.

Thinking the smaller squashes may not be worth keeping, I cut them all open.  They did have some places that were starting to rot, but otherwise looked and smelled promising.  Roasted (slathered in coconut oil and Tsardust Memories seasoning), they turned out quite tasty, even with the skin on.  I ate a few and then skinned the rest and later converted most of them into a Savory Squash Casserole.  Dogs love cooked pumpkin and mine loved the leftovers from these as well.

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Below are the full-sized squash:  not a huge harvest, but ridiculously easy, and next year the mulch pile will have rotted more and be less hot, so hopefully there will be more squashes.

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These were Winter Sweet hybrid kabocha seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  Since they’re hybrids, saved seeds won’t breed true.  Next year I’ll look for a variety I can plant and save seeds on my own, or failing that, I’ll save seeds from several of these squashes and work my way towards a reproducible, non-hybrid, kabocha squash.