Posts Tagged zucchini

Rust

At a glance, my squash plants have looked more and more lush and lovely as time goes on and they continue to grow.

But closer inspection reveals that fungal diseases are beginning to spread. Lots of rust, and some powdery mildew in some spots as well.

Rust on leaves

And more rust...

And even more

I have been debating how to proceed. I sprayed with an organic fungicide a couple of times, but even organic I don’t want to overdo it. I trimmed back the most damaged growth a week or so ago, but it has continued to spread. It’s spreading really quickly, in fact. All of the cantaloupe vines (that have only just started growing at last) contracted rust in a matter of two days.

*sigh*

From what I’ve read, this is normal. It’s Florida. It’s humid, and it’s hot, and these are ideal conditions for fungus to grow. I’ve read in a few places that, for my area of Florida, “Northern” squash varieties can only really be expected to perform midway through June in a good year – and it got hot early this year.

I had halfway planned at this point, so close to the end of the squash season, to just let it run its course. The zucchini have slowed production and the spaghetti squash are all being attacked by pickleworms before I can get to them, and I thought perhaps I’d just shift my focus to the new bed across the garden until I had time to pull the squash plants out.

Then, this morning, I saw four new female blossoms on my zucchini plants, and a couple of baby zucchinis as well. And so, for the sake of another round of zucchinis, I decided to fight the fungus while I can. 🙂

More zucchini? Yes, please!

So I trimmed them. Agressively. Not just the worst-hit leaves, but every single leaf I saw with the smallest hint of rust or powdery mildew. For the zucchinis, it meant about a third of their leaves. I pulled the cantaloupes out altogether. And the spaghetti squash – lost about 90% of their leaves. That’s a lot. I have no clue whether the vines will survive the shock, but I figure even if they don’t I’ve only shortened their lives by a few weeks. And I may have extended my zucchini plants in the process.

Here it is now… not nearly so pretty. Kind of disappointing to have all that work make it look worse, but hopefully it will mean there’s more for me to eat!

I would have harvested what I could and pulled the spaghetti squash plants altogether, but it seems the pickleworms prefer them to my zucchinis, so for the time being I am keeping them around as a decoy.

And in a few weeks or another month, I’ll pull them all out, add a new layer of manure and more mulch, and let the bed rest a couple months, until it’s time for the earliest cool weather crops to start going in.

At least, that’s the plan for now. 🙂

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Squash sex: how zucchinis do the deed

All flowering plants reproduce sexually – pollen from the male flower parts must find its way to ovaries in the female flower parts for fruit and seeds to develop. Some species of plants have “perfect flowers” which contain both male and female parts.  On the far extreme. some species have separate male and female plants, each of which only produces that type of flower (for those in the subtropics, this includes papaya and kiwi). The middle ground between these extremes is home to squash plants, where separate male and female flowers grow on the same plant.

Only the female flowers can develop fruit. You can spot the female flowers pretty easily, by the prominent stigma and the large, visible ovary below the bloom. Here’s a female bloom from one of my spaghetti squash vines:

And a side view, where you can clearly see the ovary, which looks like an undeveloped fruit (because, basically, that’s what it is):

Here’s one of my female zucchini blossoms too, for comparison. The ovary on the zucchini looks like a zucchini; the ovary on the spaghetti squash looks like a spaghetti squash.

Conversely, male flowers have straight slender stems, and anthers covered in pollen:

Squash plants rely on pollinators to help them reproduce. Without help, there’s no way for pollen from the anthers of male flowers to reach the stigma of the female flowers.

When bees come along and help the process, the little ovary behind the blossom will grow and eventually develop into a full sized fruit. Here’s a spaghetti squash a few days after pollination:

Otherwise, if there’s no pollination, the ovary will yellow and slowly shrink away, like this one:

Bees and wasps are the most common pollinators for squash, and if you have plenty of them around the odds are your squash plants will be good and productive. If you’re short on pollinators in your garden, you can always hand pollinate. Pluck a male flower, pull back the petals, and then lightly brush the anthers of the male flower on your female blossoms. Be sure to use a mature male flower with viable pollen – there should be visible yellow pollen on the anthers and maybe a slight dusting of it on the petals. Really it’s very easy to do. But if you’d like to avoid that task in the long term, you can always plant a little bee garden to help lure them to your yard so they’re always nearby when your veggies come into bloom!

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This morning’s harvest

Spaghetti squash and zucchini

I had intended to leave this spaghetti squash on the vine a few days longer to ripen more fully, but when I went to check the garden this morning I discovered this:

Do I have a new garden nemesis?

Something bored a little hole in my beautiful squash last night. All around the hole were little yellowish beads that may have been eggs or may have been bits of the strands of flesh kicked out by whatever did this. I carefully removed them all, lest something nasty hatch near my other squashes, and I went ahead and cut this guy off the vine today so we can enjoy what’s there before it’s eaten from the inside out.

I’m thinking zucchini for me for lunch, stir-fried lightly with some organic short grain brown rice from Chuck’s (seriously the best rice I’ve had in my life), and then cooking up the spaghetti squash for dinner with some leftover homemade pasta sauce we have in the fridge.

Aside from this, things are looking good in the garden. Limas have a few largish pods on them; I am thinking we may harvest our first servings of lima beans in about a week. Green beans are doing well, though they have some yellow leaves around the bottoms of all the plants. I don’t know if that’s the normal growth pattern for them, or if this miserable heat is doing them in (it’s reaching the low to mid 90’s daily now). I found one tomato worm on one of my tomato plants and removed it. I’ve been checking things daily and I am hopeful that my vigilance will spare me any major losses despite the lack of pesticides.

In closing, my daughter found this little baby grapefruit the tree dropped (it dropped several, but has LOADS more on the tree, growing steadily), and she very much wanted me to take a picture of it for you. I love her excited, childlike perspective!

Yes, she's harvesting in pj's again!

UPDATE: I want this for lunch every day!

Less than an hour after harvest. YUM.

Stir fried zucchini. I put just enough canola oil in my cast iron skillet to coat the bottom, then threw in some sliced onion and cooked for about 2 minutes. Then I added the sliced zucchini and stir fried for maybe 2-3 minutes longer, seasoning with fresh cracked pepper. I added leftover brown rice, a pat of butter, and a good splash of soy sauce, and continued to cook until the rice was heated through. Put it in a bowl and finished with a generous squirt of Sriracha (rooster sauce) – because Sriracha is bottled awesome. Delicious!

Update #2: I found the culprit

Found this guy in the spaghetti squash when I opened it up. I think it’s a pickleworm. I removed him and the bits he’d chewed through before cooking up the rest of the squash for us.

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Updates: baby ‘maters and fresh cut dinner

Hello all! For your pleasure here’s a garden update full of badly taken photographs. I waited a few minutes too late and there wasn’t enough light to take them without the flash – so now instead they’re all overblown and pale. Enjoy!

Below, my green beans and limas are both doing well. The green beans have been producing prolifically – we’ve picked over 2 lbs of beans in the past couple of weeks! The limas are covered in little babies and I’m expecting to begin harvesting them in a few weeks time. In the foreground of this shot, our tomato plants are growing (I plan to stake them this coming weekend) and the marigolds I planted in between are full and healthy. So far, they’re doing the trick too – no nasty critters on the tomatoes, aside from the lubbers I battle daily.

Beans, tomatoes, and marigolds

And, happy, happy day: I have my first couple of baby tomatoes. Yay!

The squash bed is coming along beautifully on the whole. The spaghetti squash vines are running all over, and the zucchini and our volunteer plants are thriving. The cantaloupes remain in the same condition they’ve been in for a month now. I’m not expecting them to do much of anything at this point, and I’ll probably reclaim that space for okra in a few weeks.

The spaghetti squash vines have several squashes growing; this one is the furthest along.

Here’s one of the zucchini plants, mere moments before I cut this beauty off to bring inside for dinner. By way of explanation: I read on a gardening forum that if you elevate squash off the ground somehow, even just placing a plastic lid under them, it can help prevent fungal problems from beginning. Since we have plenty of fungi in this hot, humid state of ours, I figured I’d give it a shot.

And here it is after harvesting, with a friend. (Aaaaah! Flash attack! Who knew my arms could look even paler!)

These were delicious. Simply awesome. They’re the “raven” hybrid from Park Seeds, which I picked because they claimed to be well suited to hot weather. They also claim to produce later in the season. I certainly hope so: I’ll be delighted to continue eating these. (Much more flavorful than zukes from Publix).

Really, take a moment to marvel with me. This is my first year veggie gardening, and it continues to surprise and delight me that it *works.* Plant seeds, water them, pamper them, and FOOD grows! Ha! This is all organic too. That’s the produce of horse manure and TLC right there, folks. 🙂

Last pic of the evening: our gardenia bush has begun blooming. First blossoms opened on Easter Sunday, which seems beautifully fitting. The bush is simply *covered* in buds so I am looking forward to many more flowers to come.

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