Winter Squash?

Simon came up for a day to help me with some yard work which had built up over the past month or so as pine needles and maple leaves have dropped from the trees. I could have done it myself but it would have taken me a few days to complete what he and I did in one. He also ran a confirmation test on the bread with two major league sandwiches and pronounced it edible. Helped us figure out our new digital kitchen scale when we weighed a freshly picked cabbage to try it out – 3# 2.1oz. I think we could have figured it out without him but…………….

The garden is looking spectacular, if I do have to say so myself. It must be the near perfect weather we’ve had this winter because I really have not done anything differently. The several different varieties of cabbage are all really beautiful and tasty. Usually a few will be bug eaten or not quite as green as you’d like or not perfectly shaped but these are prizes. And that seems true for almost everything – everything but the spinach and beets which look a bit weathered. I pulled out the remains of one row of tomatoes which had suffered fatally from the frost a couple weeks back and put in a wire trellis for more peas. I also filled in behind the pole beans with lettuce, scallions, radishes, and a few heads of Chinese cabbage.

I think I’m going to make a move to the wild side in the garden and try to get some zucchini squash growing in January. No, I’m not jumping on the global warming band wagon but we do have some winters that are warmer than others and this one feels to be shaping up that way. Squash is very temperature sensitive so we have to grow it in the warm weather; normally I’d plant seeds mid March. Problem is that bugs love squash and also warm weather so it’s nearly impossible to bring in a good squash crop. I think two years ago worked out perfectly, but usually not so good. I have some cold weather techniques that may allow me to keep young plants going to the point of producing fruit before the bugs are waking up from their winter snooze. I’ll put in a couple seeds under the “wall of water” and also cover with frost cloth after germination. That will give me both temperature and critter protection. Nothing to lose but a few seeds so why not try. Plenty of up side. If it goes according to plan, we could be eating squash in March instead of thinking about it. Another approach is to start the plants indoors and then transfer the seedlings to the garden in a few weeks. It’s not totally clear to me which technique would bring the best results. On one hand the cooler soil temp in the garden could stop the germination of the seeds; on the other hand, transplanting a seedling from indoors to out is a shock to the plant and not always successful. I’m doing both, belt suspender approach. Cost – 4 seeds instead of 2. What you can’t see in the picture is that I planted the seeds directly above the buried carcasses of two spec’s. How “Mother Earth” is that?

Wall of Water
Wall of Water

I have two dead pine trees that have to be dealt with. Both are really large trees, I would guess 80 to 100′ tall; 2-3′ diameter. One is down by the lake and if it fell, would crush the dock. The other is up by the road where limbs falling off would fall directly on to power lines. I also have a water oak that’s too close to the house for my liking. Water oak have marginal root systems and it wouldn’t really take much to knock it over – into the TV antenna; or into the master bath picture window; or into the screen porch. My neighbor was calling a tree guy to take down some trees bothersome on his property so I decided to piggy back with him to get a better price. It’s going to cost $350 for the three trees. I think that’s reasonable. He’s going to top the pines below the branches but still leave a 30-40′ trunk section for the woodpeckers. The oak will come down all except about 3′ of trunk which I’ll use to set a plant on. I still have a couple of dead bay trees on the property but they’re small enough for me to deal with myself.

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