|Hayrack with 2011 Winter Squash|
|A nice mix of winter squash|
We tried a few new approaches this year (some of which were tried last year, but heavy rains 'washed' them out).
1. Starting seedlings and transplanting
We've resisted this process for a few reasons. The extra cost is actually the least of our worries here. It has more to do with space and time. If you direct seed, you plant once. If you transplant, you plant twice. If these are in trays, you have to water daily. But, we found the transplants did significantly better because the plants were out in the field after the stage that cucumber beetles normally girdle the plant. (Girdling essentially happens when a critter gnaws around the stem of the plant, cutting off the vascular system) The result? We'll be transplanting many more of the squash, with some exceptions. Acorn and spaghetti squash are already shorter season and seem to make it through things well enough without the extra help.
2. Squash and flower spacing
We're working on optimizing our squash and flower spacing. We have found that nasturtiums are great to repel vine borers and it seems like our vine crops do much better with zinnias, borage, bee's friend and marigolds nearby. We are also trying out Four O'clocks as a companion. No solid conclusions yet, but the ideas to fine tune are coming.
Similarly, we will be trying a green mulch (cover crop between rows). Essentially, a green mulch is where we select our weed and cultivate it like another crop. It is critical to select a cover crop that is a good companion for the cash crop.
And, of course, the old stand-by for mulching is straw. But, the issue here is sourcing the straw. We don't have land to grow our own.