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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Winter Squash Virgin

Posted by on Sun, Jul 22, 2012 at 10:13 AM

Lots of vine, lots of flowers, so far only one spaghetti squash.
  • Goldy | The Stranger
  • Lots of vine, lots of flowers, so far only one spaghetti squash.

My spaghetti squash and acorn squash vines are incredibly vigorous (my butternut squash, not so much), but so far most of the fruit has dropped off after flowering. All I've got to show for the season thus far is this one zaftig spaghetti squash pictured above, and two acorn squash. Having never grown winter squash before, I'm wondering: Is this normal?

Has the weather just been too cool to set fruit? Do I need to do some hand pollination? Or should I just be patient?


Comments (21) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
I think it's the weather. I've blossom rot on about half of my zucchini.
Posted by Pol Pot on July 22, 2012 at 10:25 AM · Report this
Janell8me 2
Definetely need hand pollination!
Posted by Janell8me on July 22, 2012 at 10:25 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 3
My peppers are doing the exact same thing.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on July 22, 2012 at 10:31 AM · Report this
heywhatsit!? 4
The whether?

Snark aside, my squash are having a bad year too. Give them time.
Posted by heywhatsit!? on July 22, 2012 at 11:35 AM · Report this
balderdash 5
Every year I've tried to grow squash up here, powdery mildew just completely destroys them, so I have no real advice for you.

The one real exception to that is a couple of pumpkin plants, one giant and one sugar pie. Both of those plants grew large but produced only one pumpkin each. This was year before last, so... maybe the weather? I don't even know. I'm as eager to find out as you are, Goldy.

Posted by balderdash on July 22, 2012 at 11:44 AM · Report this
you need pollination, period. no fruit will set on female flowers without being visited by insects carrying male pollen at least three times.
Posted by chandler on July 22, 2012 at 11:52 AM · Report this
Goldy 7
@4 Fucking OSX autocorrect. I preferred when it just put a dotted underline beneath typos instead of attempting to figure out what meant to type.
Posted by Goldy on July 22, 2012 at 11:52 AM · Report this
Just because you're a squash virgin no need to be afraid, Goldy.
Lots of lube and that squash will slide up your ass just fine.
Posted by probably ought to pull your head out of there first, though on July 22, 2012 at 12:04 PM · Report this
Keep your chin up, don't let this poor growing season squash your hopes.
Posted by DisorganizedReligion on July 22, 2012 at 12:10 PM · Report this
Note To Self 10
My experience with the squashes in Puget Sound is somewhat limited, and is mostly with pumpkins, but I am seeing two things that may be a pattern. First, the female flowers open really early in the morning and tend to close up at about the same time the male flowers are starting to open. There is only a short overlap of time when both are open. Second, the bees seem to ignore the squash early in the season, especially in early morning when the female flowers are open. Around mid-July the bees discover the squash and go nuts for them. If you want the early fruit to not drop off you should hand pollinate. After the bees get involved you can let them take over.
Posted by Note To Self on July 22, 2012 at 12:26 PM · Report this
rob! 11
Goldy, squash plants tend to produce male flowers (slender stems) earlier and in greater numbers than female flowers (mini-squash on the stem end right below the flower). The male flowers will only open for a day or two and then drop off. The female flowers, if not pollinated, will similarly wither and fall off, along with the unfertilized ovarian structure (mini-squash). That's probably what's mainly happening unless you're also seeing signs of whitish or black fungus near the flowers.

What I can see of the foliage looks reasonably healthy, but you should remove aged, yellowed, withering leaves because pests like squash bugs will congregate under their cover. Opening up the base of the plant will also make it easier for bees and other pollinators to do their job.
Posted by rob! on July 22, 2012 at 12:26 PM · Report this
those squash look gay......
Posted by that might explain it on July 22, 2012 at 12:30 PM · Report this
MAKE THEM SCREW, GOLDY! (Hand pollination may help.)

Also, spaghetti squash? Yuck. Why?
Posted by STJA on July 22, 2012 at 1:25 PM · Report this
+1 for hand pollination. I used to use a q-tip, but now I just pluck a male flower and rub its pollin-y parts up against a female flower. It feels dirty, but someone has to do it. In 10 years or so, we've had good years and bad years for squash; sometimes one fruit per plant, sometimes many. With just a few plants, the timing of the boy and girl flowers being open at the same time seems important. When we've had more plants, closer together, they've all done better.
Posted by pox on July 22, 2012 at 1:34 PM · Report this
Try adding fish bone meal. The soil may lack phosphorous. I was having the same problem with my sweet pumpkins and now it's growing like crazy, with pumpkins!
Posted by formerblackthumb on July 22, 2012 at 1:43 PM · Report this
Bauhaus I 16
I'm still waiting to see why so many cooks, people, etc. rave about butternut squash. I've had it roasted, pureed, and in a soup, and I still think it's way overrated. I don't get it. I realize there may be something out there with butternut squash in it that I'll just adore. Hasn't happened yet.

Hey, Goldy, send some of those spaghetti squashes my way if you start having a bumper crop. They're $5-$6 each in supermarkets. Supposed to be a healthy alternative to pasta, but at those prices it's easy to see why people just go to Burger King.

The hardest, most disappointing gardening I ever did was in the great Pacific Northwest. For one thing, as a Southerner by birth (but not by inclination), I wanted to grow things that WILL NOT grow in Seattle. The growing season is just too darn short. I found myself limited to NW varietal cherry tomatoes (excellent, yes, but not a beefsteak), zucchini, and snap peas. Other people have way more luck than I do with some things, but you aren't ever going to get a non-greenhouse Roma, for instance, that's any good or plentiful okra in this climate.
Posted by Bauhaus I on July 22, 2012 at 3:18 PM · Report this
I feel your pain, I'm having the same problem with my Cinderella pumpkins. On my plant, for whatever reason, the vine has produced damn near a dozen female flowers with little fruits while the male flowers have yet to open! So all I can do is wait for one of the male flowers to pop and then it's hand pollinating for sure. Meanwhile the baby fruit falls off/rots. Winter squash can be a real pain on the coast. While there is a huge vogue for heirloom varieties like the Cinderella, the fact is we're probably better off selecting early hybrids for the coast in many cases. You can game the system a bit if you have a hot place in your yard. My friend's garden is next to her driveway and the plants LOVE the heat that comes off of it. Her pumpkins do just fine there.
Posted by teamcanada on July 22, 2012 at 4:00 PM · Report this
Use those male flowers! Dip them in pancake better and fry. Be sure to take the little center stamen or whatever out first or you will be very sorry (not poisonous but not digestible).
Posted by sarah70 on July 22, 2012 at 5:06 PM · Report this
Cascadian Bacon 19
Pretty normal for the region, in fact this has been one of the better years for squash. Hand pollinating will help, I suggest getting orchard mason bees. Squash and mason bees are native to the Americas, so the mason bees tend to be active when squash blossoms are open, unlike European honey bees which are active later in the day.

The vine type winter squashes also tend to make only 1 fruit per vine with multiple vines per plant so again this is somewhat normal. you should also put a piece of cardboard under the squash that do form to keep it from being directly on the ground exposing it to pest and rot.

Like 17 sad you will be better off going with a hybrid, pick the one with the shortest season. Heirloom varieties of warm weather crops tend to not do well here.

Try "Caspian Pink" it is a short season Beefsteak developed in Russia that does well in out climate. Personally I have had good luck with romas that I grew from the seeds of a grocery store roma I grew them for several generations until i moved to an apartment. Using a clouch to extend your season and a raised bed in is mandatory in the PNW. Growing in big black pots or using black plastic mulch to raise soil temp is also a good idea.

Increase your spacing, powdery mildew is often due to lack of airflow, also plant in the warmest part of the yard. regardless all squash plants will succumb to powdery mildew in Aug/Sept due to the plants being weakened by shorted solar duration.

Furthermore I can not recommend Steve Solomons "Growing Vegatables West of The Cascades" enough.

It is available at every nursery and on amazon.…

If you are on a budget pick up the old edition:…
Posted by Cascadian Bacon on July 22, 2012 at 5:23 PM · Report this
@16- get your tomatoes up against a south-facing wall in very big containers and you will have more luck. Mine are against my house and they love both the extra heat and the cover from the rain. Cut off any leaves that touch the soil.
@19- I do think that is a great book, but it's also true that Solomon doesn't live on the *actual* coast. It is bone freakin' dry in the summer in Oregon where he is growing. He can grow melons for crying out loud!
Posted by teamcanada on July 22, 2012 at 10:10 PM · Report this
Spaghette squash is called that because it LOOKS like spaghetti. It makes a horrible substitute for spaghetti.
Posted by STJA on July 23, 2012 at 2:40 PM · Report this

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