When you follow the rules in gardening, it works. When you don’t, it doesn’t.
But the rules we must follow are not OURS. They are nature’s rules. That’s why gardening seems difficult. We Americans tend to be proud of our rule-breaking ways! Actually, rules make things much easier and as Andy Rooney loved to ask, “EVER WONDER WHY…. ?”. Well, in gardening, you don’t have to wonder. The law of sowing and reaping cannot be bargained with or altered. It offers a comforting predictability. Plant a squash seed, get a squash, unless yet another of nature’s rules intervenes, such as survival of the fittest squirrel or cutworm or squash bug. When it comes to planting any seed, it will have its own set of rules. Too deep for one is just right or too shallow for another. Think Goldilocks. As trying as it may be, knowing thy seeds is much like knowing thy child (or spouse): they are all different and have specific needs that, like it or not, require meeting if they are to thrive. Okay, back to seeds…. squash seeds, in particular. I grow primarily two types of summer squash. (I’ve put out seeds for winter squash, too, but those disappeared in a downpour the next day. Probably could look in my neighbor’s yard for them, but didn’t have a decent LOW-FODMAP recipe for them anyway, so just waved good-bye.)
RULES FOR SUMMER SQUASH
1) Both my summer types – zucchini style and the yellow straight-neck – have the same basic needs list: SUN, WATER, and TIME.
2) Seeds sown in hills – with 5 or so seeds to a mound and a 1/2 inch soil and a sprinkling of pine straw mulch – is my success recipe. My daddy taught me how and his Uncle Jim taught him.
3) Germination to ripened harvest is a couple of months, but the time from production to harvest seems only a few minutes. It’s a booger keeping up once they start popping. I find it easiest to have a couple of sowing dates (mid-March and mid-April here in Texas) so they don’t all ripen simultaneously. Squash fatigue sets in pretty quickly at my house. If I miss early seeding because of a late-cool snap, I purchase plants from my local nursery instead of using open-pollinated seeds stored from last year’s crop, a reputable seed company or CSA.
4) Keep squash plants picked to keep them producing. The flowers are also tasty, which alleviates some squash over-load. Top a salad with a yellow squash bloom for a lovely edible garnish. Folks here along the Gulf Coast eat them fried, too. (I might try that this summer since my daughter found a gluten-free breadcrumb mix for me. Thinking about using corn flakes as batter…anyone experimented with that?)
5) Squashes are impatient. Pick while young so they aren’t tough. And since they rot quickly after harvesting, what I don’t eat or share, I slice thin, put on a cookie sheet in the freezer then into containers and back into the freezer. Since slices freeze individually on the cookie sheet, they easily pour out individually.
Introducing children to gardening is one of my passions. Passing on to them that there are natural rules and consequences we cannot change makes for a more fruitful – and less frustrating – life, for both parent AND child. So get a packet of squash seeds and grab a kid (your own, preferably). A bit of spring sweat will turn sweet come summer. In fact, it will be a summer neither of you will soon forget. c: