Heat tolerant/loving squash

akowaleskiApril 2, 2008

I live in Florida, and am interested in growing squashes in my vegetable garden this summer. However, I am a college student away from home and will not be able to start any seeds until about April 28. (I have a way to transport them home from college)

Florida is obviously quite hot and humid in the summer, a less than ideal condition for many squash.

What varieties do you veteran gardeners recommend for me to grow in Florida? I know that C. Moschatas are generally more heat tolerant, but do you have any specific varieties that work well. Also, I would like to grow some more traditional pepo pumpkins. Are there any of them that are heat loving or at least heat tolerant?

Many thanks.

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carolync1(z8/9 CA inland)

I don't think it would be a good idea for you to try to take squash seedlings home from school. Squashes suffer more than most vegetables from transplant shock. They are even stunted by a little collar in the soil to protect against cutworms. You would likely do better starting them in the ground at home. I sometimes transplant squashes started in "root trainers" before they get true leaves, which works O.K.

I can't say that planting squashes in late April is a good idea in the hotter parts of Floriday, but you might try Tahitian, which is a very large squash. It has a long maturity date which would allow you to harvest in cooler weather (unless you don't care if the squashes ripen while it's still hot). Argonaut is another big C. moschata squash with a long maturity date.

I have never had much luck with C. pepo squashes started here when the weather is already hot. But if you want to try it, go for varieties which are noted for their disease resistance. If you are willing to wait a year on the winter squashes, you could try a C. moschata summer squash like Zucchetta Rampicante Trombocino. You can eat mature ones like winter squashes, but they are on the fibrous side, sort of like spaghetti squash, and not too sweet.

You might plant them on a fence or trellis with some edible gourds, such as the Cucuzzis or maybe a fuzzy gourd, winter melon, etc. from Asia or one of the various edible gourds from India. Try Evergreen Garden Seeds for the former, Willhite for the latter. They are tolerant of heat and humidity, are attractive on a fence, and have had few disease problems for me, although the white-flowered ones are sometimes attacked by the corn earworm or geranium budworm. I think you could make a dandy shade structure by planting these on an arbor of, say, pre-framed lattice.

Below is a link to a thread on the traditional Florida squash, Seminole Pumpkin.

Here is a link that might be useful: Seminole pumpkin

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 1:04AM
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Thank you for the advice. I've already bought seeds from the Seminole and Tahitian squashes. Also, the calabaza (tropical pumpkin) looks promising.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm the obsessive type, so I'll probably end up trying to grow Pepos whether it is desirable or not (I can always buy shade cloth, a misting system, use mildew resistant varieties, etc...where there's a will, there's a way)

As for transplanting, I've grown squash for a number of years, and I've never had an issue with transplant shock (Watermelon is another story entirely) The competitive giant pumpkin growers to a man/woman start their seeds indoors, and it doesn't seem to harm their growth. In any case, if the plants are harmed during transport, I'm no worse off than if I had just direct seeded, as I can always start over when I get back.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 2:24AM
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carolync1(z8/9 CA inland)

I like to coddle squash seedlings indoors, too. But I plant them out very early. I have grown larger transplants vs. direct-seeded plants (planted about the time the transplants were put out) side by side and had the direct-seeded ones out-perform the transplants by far. They were nice transplants, too - not gangly. I was careful not to disturb the roots. These were C. pepo summer squashes. C. maxima or C. moschata may be different. Or maybe the transplants were spoiled by their potting soil and didn't want to stretch their roots into the native soil. We've done better with watermelon transplants, which is the opposite of your experience.

I've never thought of heat as the main problem for squash growers in the East. In our area, we don't have to contend with squash vine borer or cucumber beetles (though squash bugs are a major pain). I still have problems with C. pepo or C. maxima started late, due to disease, either insect-borne or soil-borne. Mildew is only an occasional problem for us. Kabocha squashes are grown for export near here - with harvest starting in June.

Of course, C. pepo summer squashes bear so fast and hard that you could get a crop of those before insects or disease get to them. Below is a link on trombocino squashes, which gardeners in the East seem to like. They look a lot like baby Tahitian squashes when young, but the Trombocinos really taste better as summer squash than the Tahitians do, while Tahitians are far superior to Trombocinos as winter squash, unless you are looking for squash to go in savory dishes, rather than for a sweet winter squash. I have had some unfortunate cross-pollination experiences with these two varieties.

Cucuzzi gourds are mentioned in the link. They are much more delicate in flavor and can be sliced and steamed for 2 or 3 minutes when the diameter of a quarter, or pared with a potato peeler and stuffed when they start to approach baseball bat size. I think the gourds are lots of fun, and they are basically care free.

You must really like squashes if you plan to plant Tahitian (very good), Seminole AND pepo types. If you want a moschata type that looks like a pumpkin, try Rumbo or one of the "cheese" varieties, like Long Island Cheese. I grew Rumbo two years ago, and they did fine, although black widows set up households under the squashes to feast on squash bugs. The squashes were ready before winter storage season.

In our drier heat, melons are the cucurbits (other than gourds) which perform best when planted in hot weather.

Here is a link that might be useful: trombocino summer squashes

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 9:40AM
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RuthieG__TX(z8 TX)

I always heard that squash was hard to transplant etc etc but I saw lots of transplants at the market so decided to give it a try...I have never had even the least bit of trouble transplanting them. Just pop them in and you are done...No special handling or being extra careful...

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 10:55AM
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In my exp direct sowed out performed transplants in size and yield. 3 years running. I started seeds indoors again this year, But it will be the last I think.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 11:44AM
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