Friday, June 18, 2010

A tale of two squashes

When I scored some red kuri squash seeds in a seed swap this spring, my reasonable inner voice told me to back away slowly and leave the squash -- with it's large leaves, tenacious vines and high water needs -- to a gardener with more square footage. But my inner crazed gardener beat down that reasonable voice and I furtively tucked an envelope of the seeds into my pocket. I had to be furtive -- my husband hates squash plants, thanks to my foray in decorative gourds a few years back that turned our backyard into a Little-Shop-Of-Horrors of unchecked growth. So the question was, where to grow it?

I have a large, open compost bin tucked behind the garage that is dedicated solely to yard waste like leaves, grass clippings and the like. Since it is just an open wire bin, I do not compost food scraps in there (those go into my rodent-proof plastic composters). This hidden yard-waste area abuts the alley and gets an extraordinary amount of sun. It also is screened by the grape arbor and therefore unlikely to be seen easily by a squash-phobic partner. So I planted the seeds directly into the compost pile -- I had read that this works reasonably well. So yes, even in a tiny urban garden, I can have secrets.

Last month, I saw a delicata squash seedling at a plant sale. Remembering how delicious delicata can be, I couldn't resist adding the plant to my secret squash experiment. The seedling joined the red kuri in the compost pile -- at the time, they were the exact same size. I figured I could grow one plant up the fence and let the other cascade down to the ground. Now, a month later, I am puzzled by the disparate health of the two plants. The delicata is stunted and yellowing. The red kuri is green and lush. If both were sickly, I would guess that it was an issue with nitrogen availability in the young compost pile, too much soggy weather, or perhaps some kind of pathogen carried over from composted diseased plants. Are the kuri and the delicata squash so different in their cultivation needs that one can thrive while the other struggles? My only guess is their true difference: the kuri was sown directly and the delicata transplanted. Other theories welcome!


  1. Maybe delicata is just a bit more, well. . . delicate? Hopefully it's just a slow starter and will catch up with a little time.

    The compost bin is a great place to grow your squash Abbie. I've never tried delicata, but red kuri is (so far) the most awesomely delicious squash I've ever tasted. That reminds me - I still have some puree in the freezer - yay! Yum!

  2. Ha ha -- delicate delicata. Wish I had thought of that!