Squash

Squashing ‘difficult’ vegetable rumours?

Butternut squash
That was as good as it got in 2015 with butternut squash

I love butternut squash, but my initial bad feelings about growing them came true in 2015 – an utter waste of time.

Our cool, dull summer put paid to any crop, aided and abetted by the worst year I’ve ever had for slugs and snails. Some fruit did set – only to be severed by some evil monster gastropod.

Still, if you want to give them a go, Sweetmax F1, Mr. Fothergill’s) did flower and set fruit early. I sowed mine indoors, 1.5cm (1/2”) deep, placing the seeds on their edge (they can rot), in small pots of compost – a temperature of 15-20°C (60-68°F) is ideal.

Butternut squash
No fruit but the flowers are nice

Keep the pots moist and seedlings usually appear in seven-14 days. Grow the plants on under glass and then gradually harden off before planting out 90cm (3’) apart, after the last frosts – the beginning of June here.

You can sow outdoors if you’ve got warm soil (don’t do this in heavy clay) where they are to crop, 1.5cm (1/2”) deep directly into finely prepared soil which has already been watered.

Sow two seeds on edge per position. You’ll need to protect any early sowings with cloches, as they really don’t like the cold. Thin to leave the stronger plant. Water well until plants are established.


honey boat squash

Squash
Redcurrant tomatoes and Honey Boat squash seedlings

I was sent two Honey Boat squash from Rob Smith’s Heritage Veg collection at Dobies. Here’s what Rob has to say about them:

I first found this squash in the United States, California to be exact… This squash is easier to grow, and sweeter than a butternut squash. It’s more productive too. First introduced in 1894, Honey Boat can be left to crawl over the floor or trained up a frame, or wires. The fruits are super sweet with firm, deep orange flesh, the ideal size to serve 2 people. It’s also got its own built-in best before date, as the green stripes will disappear as the squash ages, so you’ll always know which to eat first.

Sadly, my failure on the squash front continues… sorry Rob, I let the side down – or maybe it was the weather in NE England.


Native American Indian Three Sisters planting

Growing sweetcorn, squash and beans together is the traditional Native American Indian growing system, known as the Three Sisters.

The runner beans grow up the sweetcorn stalks, keeping them off the ground; the beans attract beneficial insects that prey on pests.

The squash acts as a living mulch prevents evaporation and spiny varieties deter predators.

That’s great – but I’ve never managed to grow either sweetcorn or squash successfully in NE England, so my runner beans are an only child.