Last weekend I got the cucumbers and bush squash plants set out in the main garden, and a few of the vining winter squash as well. Before planting I amended the bed with a custom mix of nutrients I made up based on the soil test results. Each 4ft x 45ft bed in the main garden (there are 10 of them) got over 15 pounds of ‘stuff”, plus additional amounts of compost and worm castings mixed in. I spread it over the bed, then used a Mantis tiller to lightly work it in the top couple of inches of soil. The mix includes five pounds of pelleted chicken manure, eight pounds of bone meal and rock phosphate, one pound of kelp plus smaller amounts of sulfate of potash, borax, sea salt, manganese sulfate, zinc sulfate, and crab shell.
I set the bush squash plants two and a half feet apart in the row. That gives them a generous ten square feet each of growing space, and I have found they will usually use every bit of it unless they suffer a premature demise from bacterial wilt, squash vine borers or some other untimely fate. I added about a quarter cup of Happy Frog Fruit and Flower (5-8-4) and some Mykos mycorrhizal inoculant in each planting hole. After setting the plants, I mulched with sheets of newspaper and covered them with straw.
I’ve been using this planting density for several years now, though I’m always looking to tweak things as needed. I’m also a big fan of the newspaper/straw mulching. If the soil and weather are plenty warm like they are now, I go ahead and mulch as I plant, unless it’s too windy. The winds were fairly calm for this planting and I had no trouble spreading the paper. I planted quite a few different varieties, including White Bush Scallop, Striata D’Italia and Romanesco zucchini, the yellow straightneck Enterprise and Multipik plus the crookneck Gentry. I also planted three each of Bush Delicata and Gold Nugget. At the end of the row I planted the vining Honeyboat Delicata. I will train it towards the nearby fence so it can ramble up there.
For the cucumbers I am using concrete remesh cages that a previous owner left for us in the garden shed. I am guessing they used them for tomato cages, and they are about 18″ in diameter. The remesh makes a good trellis for the cucumbers to climb on, and the big openings make it easy to reach in to harvest the cukes. I set two cucumber plants per cage, usually the same variety in one cage. This year I am growing Green Fingers, Summer Dance, Calypso and Dasher 2. I mulch these with newspaper and cover with straw just like I do my tomatoes.
At three corners of the garden I am planting vining winter squash. The fourth corner has the gate to the garden, so I can’t plant anything there. I want to make sure some of our favorite varieties have plenty of room to ramble, and they can climb up the fencing that runs around the perimeter of the garden. This year I am planting Seminole, Thai Rai Kaw Tok and Violina Rugosa at the corners. I am hoping to avoid the disaster I had last year when I planted too many of the vining cucurbits in one bed and many of them got crowded out.
I’m still working to plant the rest of the main garden. I got a good start on peppers yesterday, but I need to finish planting them plus eggplant and sweet potatoes. And I still have one bed to cleanup and fertilize before I can plant the rest of the vining squash and the melons.
It sounds like I’m on the same schedule, today’s plans are to get the rest of the squash and the cucumbers into the garden. I’ve got a few pepper plants that need to go into pots. And then I need to figure out where to squeeze in some eggplants.
Do you use any irrigation lines under your paper mulch or does the rain manage to get through it?
I run soaker or weeper hose over the top of the mulch and it soaks through everything just fine. I use about two sheets of newspaper.
Wow – those are a LOT of beds to amend! I’ll be planting out my squash next week. I’ll be growing them in straw bales this year, so we will see how that goes. I’m already cheating with my straw bale preparation as I’ve had so little time lately – which I guess is a ready made excuse in the event they don’t grow well again this year 😉
That is a lot of space. You have about three times my garden in your main garden. Of course my main garden is my only garden. At least if you don’t count all the fruit trees and bushes scattered around the yard.
It’s a big garden, for sure. I figure I can always plant less if it gets to be too much for me, or plant some of it in cover crops. I’ve always had a large garden, at least for the last 25-30 years or so. I used a tractor to work up my previous garden, when I lived on the farm.
I am absolutely going to try your newspaper mulch idea – hopefully I can get to it this weekend. I worry that the newspaper will dry out between waterings and blow away so I guess that straw keeps that from happening? I might have enough straw as well …
Yes, the straw keeps the paper in place.
Looks like a good system. I’m going to use black plastic but if I didn’t I would use something like this. I usually direct seed the squash, but the cukes I start in peat strips. Everything except the peppers has to go in this week or next. With a garden your size that would be a lot of work.
I’m going to take your suggestion and try trellising some of my cucumbers. I ordinarily let them sprawl. I have a bunch of old rusty tomato cages that might do the trick, do you think? Maybe I’ll do half-and-half to see if the trellised ones are more productive and healthier. Thanks!
I also think the cukes are more straight when trellised, and the skins are nicer when they aren’t on the ground.