Room for squash

ZachS. z5 Littleton, COJanuary 16, 2014

I've never grown the long vining winter squash before since I'm always concerned were going to have frost the 1st of September rather then the 1st of October (here on the front range I've seen frost anywhere from the end of August to beginning of November with no degree of certainty year to year) so I've never bothered before. So, I only have experience with the bushy summer types and cucumbers. But this year I want to finally try them. I'm getting a little worried about space and having them take over my entire garden and making it impossible to get around to the other vegetables.

I have a 6'x12' area reserved for them and as of now it is planned to hold two squash vines. Will this be enough room to contain them in (by training the vines and/or pruning) AND get a decent harvest out of them? I hate to give up this much room if I'm not going to harvest but 1 or 2 squash at the end of the year. I think I want to try long island cheese and winter luxury.

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

There are some bush type winter squash varieties available. Otherwise in a 6x12 area I'd plant 3-4 hills of 3 plants each down the center of the space. You could fit in more but it would be hard to keep them from tangling (not to mention cross-pollinating if you want to save seed) and getting into the area to harvest.

If you have unused space around the area where the vines can run - lawn - then you can keep it from getting so over-run in the patch.

And of course, it all depends too on the variety you want. Some of them are more rampant than others.


    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 6:42PM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

Thanks Dave, I appreciate the help! One of the long sides does border the lawn but there is some fencing along that side but there is 6-8" openings between the slats if I could get some of the vines to go through the openings and onto the yard that would be a great idea.

I also have some leniency on one of the short sides. There's a few extra feet of space that all I put there is a compost barrel (course If I have to traipse through a jungle of vines to get to it, it's not going to be much help haha).

As for the 3/mound how close should those three plants be?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 7:37PM
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I simply can't imagine how a plot as small as 6x12 can sustain more than one single plant of winter squash.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 10:55PM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

I will keep that in mind Ceth, and keep working it out. There's still 4 months to go before planting, so, by then it may wind up only being one, if any.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 12:37AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

You can guide and train the vines to be contained in the area. You can also pinch the mains (after a while) to grow laterals and stay more bushy. The space requirement is not so much for the roots and nutrients but for the vines to run and you can control it to some extent. So your better option is to choose BUSH types.


    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 6:56AM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

Are the bush winter squash about the same size as the bush summer squash or are they bigger or smaller? I may wind up going that route,

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 10:42AM
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You might consider running the vines up a trellis. You could use the fence as your trellis. Using a trellis you can grow twice as many plants as you can by allowing them to run across the ground. As the little squash appear on your trellis, before they are more than two inches in diameter, us an old nylon stocking, sock, or other method to support them, if you think they will be too heavy for the vine.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 12:33PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I simply can't imagine how a plot as small as 6x12 can sustain more than one single plant of winter squash.

Why not ceth? That is feet not inches. :) One plant in the center of a 6'x12' bed would be alot of wasted space. Been doing it for over 50 year now. Sure it is crowded but pollination and production is excellent assuming proper nutrition and watering. Plus you can easily cover the whole bed with Reemay to prevent borers if desired.

Standard spacing for winter squash is 3-4 feet apart and rows 6' apart so he has the 6 foot and in a 12 foot long bed 3 hills is easy to do and you could squeeze in 4 if planted in an alternate zig-zag fashion.

As for the 3/mound how close should those three plants be?

Make a hill 18"-2' in diameter and 8-10" tall and flatten off the top a bit. Space 5-6 seeds evenly 2-3" apart around the top of the hill. Thin to the 2-3 strongest plants so they will drape down different sides of the hill.

Are the bush winter squash about the same size as the bush summer squash

Yes. See link below for pics.


Here is a link that might be useful: Winter squash for tight quarters

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 1:48PM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

Charlie, I did think about going up and over the fence, but a solid wall of squash vines and leaves I think would cast too much shade.

Thanks again for all the info Dave, now I can formulate a new plan...for now. Every year it changes at least 500 times between December and May haha.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 3:25PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

I don't recommend pruning but you can spiral the vines around themselves. I also would pick other varieties than those two which are very large and produce more meagerly. I would go with Thelma Sanders, Delicata, Sweet Dumpling. Hmm those aren't as exciting as a Moschata species squash, but those are so long to produce. Anyway you could get 3-4 pumpkins total production or a ton of smaller squash with different varieties.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 6:24PM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

Very good to know little minnie, thanks! Like I said I hate to use such a significant amount of my space for a very low producing plant when I could have used up that 72 ftò and get far more return.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 6:41PM
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I am guilty of overcrowding my garden (8x18ft) because I love variety and my greed foolishly takes over, but with that said, this past summer was my first try at butternut. I have major vine borer problems, so butternut was a decent option to try. I planted two plants at the very end of my garden-one on each side (a disease resistant variety, which bears smaller fruit). Of course, the vines went haywire, but I trained the vines to go away from other plants. My garden is fenced in (I have a bunny problem also) so I had fruit growing up my fence. I made hammocks out of my son's old tee shirt to hold the fruit securely. Each plant bore three fruit, to a total of six. So, I didn't get much production, but enough for some soup and sides.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 1:15PM
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It depends. 6x12 feet is enough for their roots, which will be almost as wide ranging as the vines. Can you let the vines roam outside this area? If so, let them. I routinely grow a huge crop of outstanding Delicatas in a 4x24' bed. I let the vines escape thru the tomatoes or roam into the potato patch which has gone dormant.
You are correct to be concerned about ripening. For me, the larger Maximas are a challenge to get completely ripe. Butternuts, not possible without some more extreme measures. So I grow the smaller Maximas and the Delicatas, which are Pepos and ripen quickest and most reliably. They are IMO the tastiest, and very productive. Everyone I share them with rave about them. And they keep in storage quite well despite their reputation. I routinely have them available into March, at about which time they may suddenly turn corky and flavorless.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 8:12PM
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You can grow a lot of winter squash in your 6x12 space. Last I grew over 20 Waltham butter nuts in a 3x7 raised bed. I used 9 gauge concrete reinforcement wire that was 6 foot tall. You can get it in rolls. I made two round towers and tied the vines to the wire as they grew. I also used the wire for watermelon and cantaloupe. This year I will use it on tomato as well. If your limited by room you can grow upwards with these towers. the wire is not real expensive and has lots of garden uses. Waltham butter nuts taste great. A have furnished a link to a photo that shows u what this stuff looks like remember its 5 foot or more tall.

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Stuff

    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 12:30AM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

Squish, I am pretty bad about it too. My garden last year brought up some long suppressed memories of field training exercises I had while I was stationed in the jungle haha. Course, being out of state for almost a month right at planting time made preparation a bit hectic. (which is why I started planning the garden in December this year).

I wish I knew how to post pictures, so I could show the layout of my garden. Problem is, I have them slated for the side of the garden with the incoming sun with the taller (I assume) plants, such as tomatoes, trellised cukes, and corn, behind them. If I let them grow over the fence, or made a tower for them to go upwards, I fear that they would become at least as tall as the plants behind them and give them too much shade. Letting the vines go through the fence and onto the yard (provided enterprising individuals do not mow them over) would not cause this problem, with the vines still going horizontally.

But you bring up an interesting idea Tcstoehr. If I could interplant some other things (say a tomato for example) along the edge (where I could reach them without having the Army crawl through squash vines) I could rearrange space and give them more room.

Thanks guys for all the information and the ideas. I appreciate all the input, as it's getting the old gray matter a-churnin.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 1:33AM
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You need to remember that there's winter squash and there's winter squash. Some will keep in a relatively small space, and others will overtake the yard and drive you out. Read through a few seed catalogues - they usually say if a variety is a real spreader. The big ones like Blue Hubbard definitely spread like crazy.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 3:12PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

On early frosts, you can protect the plants. If you have old quits laying around, tarps or whatever. While your frost comes a bit earlier than mine (average is October 15th but can be earlier), if you get a couple of frosts but then it is nice for a while you can buy time with frost protection.

You do not say when your last frost is. Ours is generally May 15th so if I want to get a head start on an earlier planting I will warm the soil and start seeds under milk jugs or wall of waters, it does give a head start because I am guessing it also takes time for the soil to warm for you and the nights are likely cool which keeps things from taking off (I get about 5 nights a season over 60 degrees and that is it). Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 3:57PM
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What about something like this to help make the most of your space? (Saw this on Pinterest when I searched "winter squash trellis")

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 4:33PM
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ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO

Thanks Jonfrum, this is why I ask questions early and not right before planting. I will keep looking.

Tish, I hadn't thought about frost protection. I have done it with more moderately sized plants, but never even considered it for such a sprawling type as winter squash. As far last frost, well, off the top of my head I was planting cucumbers and green beans in 70+ degrees at the beginning of April two years ago while last year, we were buried in feet of snow right up 'til May! I was planning on using plastic to warm the soil where the squash will go, and starting a few indoors a couple weeks before my *tentative* plant-out date in mid-May. Like you we are very lucky if we have any 60+ nights (our night average is in the 50's all summer). I've only ever grown the short season tender plants like cucumbers and summer squash, so I have never had any problem with direct sowing at the end of may and still getting a good harvest without any season extending methods. I do like the idea of using milk jugs though, probably would be helpful even if I transplant from indoors. Thanks!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 4:58PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

If you grew them up like that you would have to hammock the larger squash because they are so heavy.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 6:15PM
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