Question from Forrest:
Hello Pat, I was told that you live in Del Mar and I’d love to get your expert opinion on something. I have become very interested in growing heirloom winter squash (after reading the wonderful “Compleat Squash”) and I wonder if we get enough heat here to mature them properly. I live on Mango drive, I’m sure you know the street, so I get a bit more sun than down by the camino del mar area. So… what do you think? I’ve got limited space, so if it is a total gamble I’ll just grow some root veggies or something.
Btw, if you know anywhere I might be able to buy or try such winter squash, I’d love to know-especially Marina di Chioggia or any of the Aussie Blues!
Answer from Pat:
Thanks for your kind words. There is a catalogue for heirloom vegetables including many squashes—Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds http://rareseeds.com/ They carry Marina di Chiogga. Send for a copy of their wonderful catalogue. You will be able to find Marina di Chiogga, Australian Butter (though not blue) and dozens of other exciting heirloom varieties with extraordinary shapes and colors. The photographs are a delight. In Rancho Santa Fe a friend of mine grows the handsome and delicious Musquee de Provence but I am not sure if the weather is warm enough on Mango Drive to get a good harvest. It’s worth a try however. Bees are very important for pollination. Be sure to watch my video on that.
Winter squash grow wonderfully well in Del Mar. I have often grown them myself. But you cannot grow winter squash in the winter. Despite their name, all winter squash varieties are summer vegetables. Not simply a summer vegetable either, but a vegetable that needs to be planted when the weather has gotten somewhat warm and then it must have a long warm season with lots of sunshine in order to thrive. The variety I grew in Del Mar with great success was “Sweet Mama” I tried some other varieties but this one did the best and gave me the largest harvest of good flavorful squashes. It was an All America variety and these are pretty easy. But those old European varieties taste the best and are far more handsome and exciting to grow. Most of them need a long hot summer. Maybe where you live a bit back from the beach, and with more sunshine up on the mesa you will have greater success than I did.
The reason that winter squash bears that name is not because it grows in winter but because it keeps through the winter. People used to harvest these squashes in fall and them store them in root cellars and eat them all winter. Plant winter squash in well prepared soil in April in full sun. All summer vegetables need full sun and correct spacing. Winter squashes grow on big vines and need plenty of room. Follow package directions. Water deeply and not too frequently and you should have good success. March is the first month in which to plant summer vegetables but too early for planting winter squash.
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