Mary's Veggie Garden

July 27, 2014

How Vegetable Plants Climb

Filed under: Beans,Gardening,Peas,Squash,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 11:18 am

Many vegetable plants are eager climbers. Gardeners can take advantage of this tendency by providing the appropriate support. Plants on a trellis enjoy better air circulation, reducing disease problems. Their fruits are easier to reach for harvesting and much cleaner. There is also less insect damage, particularly from slugs.

Let’s look at a few climbers.

Pea tendrils searching for an anchor.

Pea tendrils searching for an anchor.

Peas have compound leaves with slender, forking tendrils at their tips. The tendrils eagerly wrap around anything with about the same circumference as a pea vine: string, wire, brush, and adjacent pea plants.

Well anchored pea tendrils support a big plant.

Well anchored pea tendrils support a big plant.

Young pea tendrils make a tender addition to a spring salad. Once anchored the tendrils turn tough and wiry, well able to support the growing plant.

Pole beans do not have tendrils: they climb using twining stems. After the stem encounters support, it grows quickly, often traveling 5′ up a pole in a week. Pole bean stems are coarse and rough so they cling easily to rough surfaces such as bark but the flexible stems will also wrap around string and netting. The vines are big and heavy so use a tall, sturdy trellis.

Pole beans climb with their flexible branch tips.

Pole beans climb with their flexible branch tips.

This picture shows three young pole bean plants. Two have touched the pole and are spiraling upwards. The third plant is still searching for support – you can see the growing tip silhouetted against the black hose. Sometimes I help my pole beans by laying the stem against the pole.

Squash tendrils emerge from the stems opposite leaves. The spirals of a squash tendril form a hemihelix – they spiral in one direction, then change direction to spiral in the reverse direction. My squashes have climbed tomato cages, deer netting and wire fences.

Squash climbing a tomato cage.

Squash climbing a tomato cage.

Hanging squash fruit under 5 pounds do not require support. The stem of a hanging squash responds to the stress by growing stronger and more fibrous – which means you will need loppers to harvest. Bigger hanging squashes and pumpkins benefit by some support – perhaps a bucket or barrel turned upside down and placed underneath.

For more information please see my blog:

A Pole Bean Teepee

Supporting a Hanging Squash

February 24, 2014

Extreme Squash Storage

Filed under: Squash,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 9:32 am

How long can a squash be stored? And will it still be edible after all that time?

I store my squashes on shelves in the basement for later eating. Thus, when harvest started last autumn, I had to clean up the shelves and deal with the stuff that collects in all flat spots. This stuff included two squashes from previous harvests.

A two year old butternnut and a one year old Tetsukabuto squash.

A two year old butternut and a one year old Tetsukabuto squash. Photographed 9/2013.

The butternut squash was grown and harvested in 2011. That year I grew two butternut varieties, Early and Waltham. This one was probably an Early Butternut. After storing it weighed 1 pound 6.8 ounces and felt very light weight for its size.

The Tetsukabuto squash was grown and harvested in 2012. It weighed 3 pounds 5.1 oz. At harvest time the squash is solid green except for an orange patch where it rests on the ground. While in storage Tetsukabutos gradually turn orange. Most of the color change happens in the first six months.

Two Tetsukabuto squashes, left 1 year old, right freshly harvested.

Two Tetsukabuto squashes, left 1-year-old, right freshly harvested.

From the outside these two squashes look pretty good. The butternut feels light but the weight of the Tetsukabuto feels normal for its size. What do they look like inside?

A two year old butternut and 1 year old Tetsukabuto.

A 1-year-old Tetsukabuto and a two-year old butternut.

The butternut is dried up. Not edible, except maybe the seeds which I put outside for the wildlife. The expected storage life for a butternut is 4-6 months. I stored this one 24 months, so the results are not surprising.

The Tetsukabuto looks more promising. The seed cavity is dried up but the flesh is still moist. So I cooked it. The taste was flat, with none of the normal sweetness. I don’t know if there was still any nutritional value, but I used it in a squash bread.

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