Over the weekend I harvested most of my winter squash, and the results were decidedly mixed. My three-by-six foot raised bed produced just two spaghetti squash before the vines died back—though they weighed in at over five pounds each—while the acorn squash produced only three one-to-two pounders.
I've got to say, it is a bit of a disappointment. Both plants were thriving when I left town the beginning of August, just before a heat wave hit. When I returned ten days later, the combination of hot weather and a busted soaker hose appears to have taken its toll. But having never grown winter squash before, I can't be certain. Perhaps a disease or pest was the true culprit.
Oddly, my butternut squash, which had always been the more sickly and stunted of the three, has recently taken off. There's a one-pounder still growing on the vine, and several more recently blossomed or soon to blossom fruit tantalizingly developing. I've pulled out the other vines, pruned judiciously, and trained the butternut squash vines along the top of the cages. If I can keep the powdery mildew at bay, I figure I've got another six to eight weeks to squeeze a decent squash harvest out of this bed.
Goldy | The Stranger
A snapshot history of this single garden bed, January 31 through September 2, 2012
So was it worth it?
Well, I'm not a huge squash fan to begin with, so I'm reminded of the old Catskills joke about the terrible food, and such small portions. Still, if all I got out of this bed was 16 pounds of winter squash, then obviously no. Safeway is selling squash for $1.69/lb right now (though I'd guess organic squash like mine would demand a hefty premium. Subtract the six bucks or so of inputs, and that minuscule harvest simply isn't worth the space in my garden.
But of course, I intensively garden year round, so regardless of how the butternut squash ultimately produces I'll have harvested a lot more out of this bed than a half dozen or so squashes. This bed fed us collards and kale throughout the winter, with a bumper crop in the spring. When I planted the squash starts in May, I also direct sowed lettuce around the perimeter, and bush beans in between. Both produced well, as did some volunteer kale and dill. And now that I've cleared the soil beneath the canopy of remaining vines, I've direct sown fall crops of mustard, radishes, broccoli raab, and lettuce. That's four crops a year from one 18 square foot bed.
I'll have to wait on the butternut squash harvest to pass judgement on my winter squash growing experiment. Or more importantly, I'll have to wait on the eating. Squash is a storage vegetable, so unlike my tomatoes, it's hard to imagine that my home grown squashes are much of an improvement over their store bought counterparts. But we'll see.