Monday, June 12, 2017

Jumbo Pink Banana Squash Harvest

Today I picked the rest of my Jumbo Pink Banana Squash that I have been growing since February.

In early February, since we were having such a mild winter, I decided to try and start some banana squash very early.  The previous planting in the fall had been a bust because of the hot weather we had in the early fall, and by the time the plants started to produce, we had very short days, and a freeze in late November.  
So I started the seeds in some plastic cups, and would set them out in the garden on during the day, and bring them in during colder nights.
Banana Squash, acorn squash, and spaghetti squash seedlings enjoying a mild winter day
On March 1, since we were still having such mild temperatures, I decided to put them in the ground, and then cover them up with plastic covers whenever the temps at night got below 40.  It was a bit of a hassle, but not too bad... I just had to keep a careful eye on the forecasts.   There were actually 2 in pots, and I also direct seeded the third plant a few days later,   because one of my seedlings had died, and the soil was not very cold.  
The plants grew pretty quickly, and by April 1st, were already vining. I had mulched the area very deeply with lots of leaves, to keep weeds out, and to try and bury the vines with the mulch as they grew to help prevent the squash vine borers from laying eggs on the main parts of the vine.  
One of the banana squash plants by April 1.  
With the warmth of April, and the longer days, the plants started growing very quickly, and started producing flowers.  By mid-April, the plants had gotten pretty large.

And a couple of female flowers had gotten pollinated, and the fruit had set.  
They start off yellow, and look very much like a banana.  You will get many female blooms, but most of them abort.  You can pretty much tell when a fruit will abort because it will stop growing.  Banana squash grow very quickly, so if you notice they stop growing, they will get aborted.  It seems that once they get the around twice the size of a real banana, they have a good chance of making it.  
Like I mentioned, they grow very quickly.  When they are getting ready to pick, the will get pretty fat, and look more like a blimp than a banana.  They will also start developing faint stripes, and the color will start changing from yellow to pink.  

By early May, a couple of the  squash were almost ready.  I had to cover most of them with some tulle netting, because in the past I have had bugs, or slugs bite holes into the fruit, or even squash vine borers lay eggs on the fruit, and the larva bore into them.  

We picked our first around May 11th, and then a few more shortly after.  
The plants kept producing, and I gradually picked more as they were ready.
The vines started getting really affected by powdery mildew, and were also getting hit by squash bugs.  The vines are so large that I didn't have time to go in and try and find or kill the squash bugs.  Also I have noticed some squash vine borer damage.  The combination of the three are pretty much killing the plant, so I decided to pick the rest of the squash, which pretty much looked ready anyway.
Today 6/12 I picked the last few, making a total of 11.  The first one above is not in the picture since we already opened it. 

I had 5 that were more than 20lbs, the biggest around 25lbs.  The first one I opened, I baked about 2/3 of it, and  pureed it(for pies, bread, pancakes, etc). The other third,  I broke up into pieces and wrapped in saran wrap, for use in cooking.  We have used it for various things such as cubing it, baking it, and sprinkling it with sugar/cinnamon, and for some other concoctions, such as in stews, and curry dishes.  It has a surprisingly good and natural sweetness for a squash.  Eating a piece of it raw almost tastes like a very firm cantaloupe. 
Out of my 11, 2 did get some deep holes in them due to bugs, and I dug into the holes with a wire, and pulled out a small couple  SVB grubs.  Most others had some shallow holes, probably caused by slugs, but those healed up well.  So I will have to check those two fruit with the SVB holes, to see if they will heal, or if not I may have to process them pretty soon.  With so many squash, we'll need to get creative on how to use it.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

May 20th Update

 May 20th Update


Every spring, I leave a little space for some flowers. The ones below are actually in a bed that created for my daughter.  We sowed a bunch of Papaver poppy seeds after her spinach and lettuce had bolted and we pulled it out in early April.  They all started blooming this week and look very beautiful.

Papaver Poppies
We have also had many volunteer sunflowers every spring.  There were a clump
of them that I have let grow, and now they are huge.  The tallest one is probably 8ft tall now.
Volunteer sunflowers


The cherry tomatoes are doing quite well. They just started ripening, so I picked about 8 so far this week.  I need to start looking out for tomato hornworms soon.  I saw something that looked like eggs under one of the leaves.  

My onions are still there.  I still don't see much in term of bulb formation.  The plants look healthy though.  Probably be mid-June until some of these are ready.  In front of it is a yellow crookneck squash.  Its gotten a lot of SVB eggs laid on it, but I have picked some off, and have injected some of older leaf stems with BT as preventative.  I've picked one squash and more are on the way. The smaller squash plant on its left is a round zucchini, which I also intend to inject with BT.
So I guess I am doing an experiment of sorts.  I have two of the round zucchini plants out in the open, and will try to inject them weekly as a preventative.  And then I have two other plants that I recently put under tulle netting.  These plants had recently been in pots, but I cleared out some space in the garden for them. We'll see how they do, in terms of yield, and work involved.

The Jumbo Pink Banana squash are doing great.  I've picked three huge ones, of 28, 25, and 21 lbs.

And the crazy thing is that there are about 5 other ones that are growing pretty quickly.  They are mostly on secondary vines, so I don't think they will get as large as my first one.  But I think I will have so much, I am not sure what I am going to do with it all!  I will break open the 25lb one, which is the first one I picked, pretty soon.

Here are two on the same vine segment
Another banana squash growing

I do find some SVB eggs on these but have not seen any damaged vines yet.  The vines are very thick, so it would take a lot to bring these plants down.  I did pick some small ones to eat as summer squash.  They were fairly good, honestly not as good as the yellow crookneck.  But I'll continue to do some of that too.

The spaghetti squash plants seem to be dying, mostly from powdery mildew.  We picked two big ones, and there are around 6 smaller ones that are on the vines, that are almost ready to pick.  The pic below shows a part of the smaller plant that is still fairly healthy.  I did find a spot on the other vine that had an SVB grub in it, and I removed it from the vine with a wire.  But the powdery mildew is real bad on it.  Its all good, because they have produced well, and its been a success.

The golden acorn squash have also done very well.  I've picked around 12 of them of various sizes. Below are a couple nice sized one before picking. The vines are doing well, except they are getting powdery mildew too.  No signs of SVB yet, although since the vines are very short, I have been injected some BT into the leaf stems as preventative.  So far I have done it just twice, just takes a few minutes.  The vines tips are getting pretty small, so I think the plants are probably going to give up soon.

A nice golden acorn squash

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Early May Update 2017

The beginning of May is here, and we've had some fairly good weather this spring... a good amount of rain, and temperatures that have fluctuated between nice and cool, and pretty warm. It was in the upper 80s on Saturday and then upper 60s on Sunday.


Since we had some very mild weather this winter and early spring, I had gotten a very early start on squashes.   My Jumbo Pink Banana squash are doing very well.  The vines are huge and sprawling everywhere, and there are three squash on it. Two are probably full size already, and one is growing quickly.

I have them covered up in some netting to try and avoid anything from damaging the fruit.   The dreaded Squash Vine Borer moths are already out.  I have killed two, and have picked off a few eggs from the tips of the vines.  The bases of these plants are buried in leaf mulch, along with a lot of the major vines.  So I don't expect the SVB to start having a big impact on the plants until probably early June, when these three squash will hopefully already have been harvested.   The two big squash are huge, I suspect they are around 30lbs or more each.

My golden acorn squash plants are doing well too. They have started vining some now, and have lots of small squash on them.  I picked the first three yesterday.

And regarding my Spaghetti squash, one of my plants has 2 big fruit on it, and a smaller one.  The other plants is a runt, and doesnt really have anything on it.   

The plant with the squash hasn't really grown that much recently and has gotten hit by powdery mildew.  Its probably because its spent all its energy producing the fruit.  This one above is almost ready for picking.

Peas and Beans

My snap peas are not looking very good.  They got hit hard by powdery mildew, and I didnt try to stop it, so most of the plant is dying now, and the new pods are pretty small.  We've been able to pick enough for three good meals, but that's probably about it.  There are some volunteer pole beans  (from last year's bean vine) that grew next to them and they will probably take over the area soon

I started another area of pole beans by the area where the gourd trellis is.  Here are the plants, with the squash vines in front of them.  I planted a bunch of there beans, but unfortunately only about 5 of them are growing well.  


Here are my cherry tomatoes.  We had major wind the past few days, which damaged some of these plants, so I had to create some reinforcement for them, as the vines have really grown long and tall.
There is a bunch of little green tomatoes on them.  Will have to keep my eyes open for the arrival of the tomato hornworms.  I'll have the BT ready for them.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Mid-April Update

Mid-April has brought some very nice weather, mostly in the mid-70s to lower 80s for highs. The garden is ahead of normal schedule due to the extremely mild winter we had.   Here's what been going on since my update earlier this month.

Here is my Jumbo Pink Banana squash, with my 8-yr old son.  There are 3 plants there,in 3 hills, and they have been producing many flowers, both male and female.  There are about 4 tiny squash that seem to be forming... one seems like its swelling pretty well but the others I am not so sure about. Last year in the fall, I had so many that just withered and never grew, so I really hope these set well and get going. 
Here is another view, with the banana squash in the front of the picture. Behind it you can see a tall patch of snap peas.  They snap peas are blooming like crazy, and hopefully I'll be picking a bunch soon. Unfortunately a big part of the lower parts of the plants have gotten powdery mildew badly.  The spider mites have not hit them as I have typically see, but instead its been the powdery mildew.  I wonder if these plants just weaken a lot as they start producing, and naturally just succumb to pestilence.
I have two spaghetti squash plants growing, one plant has gotten pretty big, but the other is still pretty small.  The large plant has been blooming for a couple of weeks now, but it was all females at first. When some males started appearing, I started hand-pollinating, and one squash has set and is growing.  

I have two cherry tomato plants, and they are doing very well.  They are close to outgrowing their cages,and a few tomatoes have started growing. I'll mention about the heavy mulching I have done, with the leaves.  Most of the picture show the heavy leaf mulch, and it has been very effective at preventing weeds. But the drawback is that it has prevented some volunteer plants I have enjoyed such as the German Chamomile, and a few others, that normally have come up by themselves.

The onions and garlic are still growing. I have checked the onions, and I still don't see any bulbs forming yet.  But the plants look healthy and are doing well. In the middle of the picture is a single yellow squash plant. I sowed about 6 seeds but only one came out.  In the right is the spaghetti squash, and on the left, and in many other pictures, you can see some blooming spinach plants, being kept around for seeds to keep.
Here is another view of the garden. You can see the peas again, and on the bottom you see some turnip plants, a red mustard plant, and some cilantro that is in full bloom, plus a cabbage head.

There are still a few cabbages around, but they are riddles with some holes, mostly from slugs.  I have not seen too many caterpillars, because the wasps have been controlling them. Speaking of beneficial, the lady bugs got an early start too, and they have kept the aphids under control.  The picture also shows on the left the golden acorn squash.  There have been tons of females and most have died due to lack of pollination, But a few have set recently because some male flower have started appearing too.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

April 1st Update

Today is April 1st, and the garden is doing very well.  We finished off winter with very mild weather.  It was probably the mildest winter that I remember.   Our last hard freeze was in early January, and we had barely had 1 frost in early  March, where I had to lay out a tarp to protect some plants. 


In my post from late February I talked about planting some squash plants in pots for a very early start. I had planted spaghetti squash, golden acorn squash, and jumbo pink banana squash.  I had transplanted them to bigger pots, and then around the first week of March, I put them in the ground.
Jumbo Pink Banana Squash
I put in 2 banana squash plants, and later direct seeded 1 more.   I planted 2 of the spaghetti squash plants and gave 3 plants to my sister, which we planted in her yard.  I also put in all the golden acorn squash.
The banana squash are doing very well.  I have mulched the area like crazy with lot of leaves as you can see.  They already have flowers developing, and the vines are running.  

Golden Acorn Squash

The golden acorn squash came from some seeds from a store bought squash.  So I was not sure if they would fruit true to seed.  Surprisingly these are not vining, but are growing more like zucchini!  They are even developing some female flower which look like they will open soon.  Unfortunately there are no male flowers, so they wont be able to develop.  They plants are still fairly small though, so I am surprised they are doing this!
Below is a picture of one of the female flowers. You can see how the plant seems to be a busy variety. 
Female flower that looks close to opening 
spaghetti squash
One of my spaghetti squash plants is doing very well and vining, also with some soon opening flowers.   The other one looks like it will be a runt of a plant.  Shown the big plant, shown growing next to some lettuce that is bolting soon, and some cabbage, and garlic.  


After transplanting to bigger pots, I put my cherry tomatoes into the ground in mid-March.  Here they are today. I got 4 good plants, and gave the two other ones to my sister.  They are starting to have some blooms.  Next to them you can see some of the spinach that is bolting.  The spinach was awesome this year. I have frozen a bunch of it because we had so much.  I am hoping to let a bunch of it go to seed so I can collect seeds for this fall.  

cherry tomatoes
variety of onions: red,yellow, white, planted from onion sets

 Onions and Garlic

My onions and garlic are also doing very well.  My onions are pretty dense... hopefully not too much so.  I dont see any bulbs forming yet, but the plants look very healthy. As you can see I have the whole garden area very heavily mulched with leaves.  So weeds have not been a problem.  This winter I would go around the neighborhood with my truck and pick up bagged leaves for this purpose.  

And here are my garlic plants. They also look very well.   

 Cool Weather Crops

 There is a mixture of the cool as well as warm weather stuff growing now.  I still have a few heads of cabbage growing.  Once again, the cabbage was great this late winter.  Probably harvested about 12 heads at least, and have three in the fridge.  The red mustard shown below is also doing very well.  My red mustard I had planted in the front flower beds have gotten powdery mildew and aren't looking as nice.

The peas I had mentioned in the previous post are doing very well.  Here they are shown in the back.  There are some flowers blooming, and a few pods have started.  The plant are about 5ft tall now.
These are shown growing behind another spinach patch.  In front of that is a small turnip patch.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Early 2017

I might have called this post "Late Winter 2017" but the weather has been so warm here lately that the word "winter" doesn't even come to mind. I heard that the last freeze we had here was Jan 8th!  We did have frost last week one morning, but otherwise its been lows in the 50s and highs in the 70s on average.  I read that a lot of the South is experiencing and extremely warm winter this year, and many trees are budding already.

I meant to do a final post last year, but forgot to. One of the disappointments was the Jumbo Pink Banana Squash.  It never had enough time to produce.  By the time the weather cooled enough, the plant was in a lot of shade, and it had two growing, but not enough time to mature.  I think the problem was the very warm fall.
The sugar pie pumpkins did come through at the end, and I had at least 15 pumpkins.

Early Starts for Warm Weather Plants

Well, since we are having extremely mild temperatures, I'm planning on getting a very early start this year with some warm weather plants. In those yellow pots (Dickey's BBQ cups with holes punched underneath) I have planted three Jumbo Pink Banana Squash, around 6 Spaghetti Squash, and 5 Golden Acorn squash (saved from a store bought squash a number of years ago, I just hadn't had a chance to plant it).  I plant to give 3 Spaghetti squash plants to my sister, and keep 2.  I will keep them in pots (and move them to bigger pots) probably until early March( if mild weather continues), and then put them in the ground.  Then I'll have covers handy if we get frost or a late freeze.  Same thing with my tomatoes.  I also have some Cherry Tomatoes going in those small jiffy peat pots.  In the meantime I have to monitor the weather,and bring them in on cold nights.

Cool Weather Plants

I have lots of cooler weather crops growing now.  The picture above also shows some Bibb lettuce, and some Spinach.  I had built a makeshift hot-frame in early January, and seeded them,  They got off a to good start, but with the warm weather I keep the glass off.  Also in the back, is some garlic.  I also planted it in early January.  

In last year's final post I had shown some cabbage I had started in pots. I put them in the ground shortly afterwards, and they have done very well. Its the "Flat Dutch" variety.  I've only had to cover them twice, in mid December and early Jan. when we had some temps in the teens.
Cabbage picked early Feb.

 We've picked about 4 good heads now, and there are about 8 more developing.
some remaining cabbage,with onions in the back
I also started some onion sets in the end of January, and those are coming up now.  Its a variety of red, yellow, and white onions.  

One of my favorite cold weather crops in Spinach. I have 3 small beds growing now.  One was shown above.  They do great in the winter here in North Texas, because they are very cold tolerant.
In the picture below is one of my patches. with some pea plants behind them that recently sprouted. Those I started from seed at the end of December,and had them in small pots until their secondary leaves came out.
spinach, with peas behind them
And below is a small patch that my daughter Elizabeth had started back at the end of October.  It also includes some lettuce and cilantro.

Below are some more plants:  Some turnips (which have big roots now that are ready to pick) and a few red mustard.  I actually have a bigger patch of red mustard in my front yard, which are very pretty and I am treating them as ornamental plants (that are edible too!)
I'm starting to see aphids on the turnips though. :(