What’s Up With My Zucchini?

When I was a kid my father, who was never one for moderation, would plant a 20 foot garden row of zucchini.  While the garden was meant to keep a family of 5 in vegetables for a year, this was over the top.  We ate zucchini in one form or another nearly every day during the summer and two entire freezer shelves were dedicated to squash that had been either sliced or grated.  This does not even to begin to count the zucchini we gave away to – well – anyone who wasn’t quick enough to flee.

This is why, along with the humiliation of other people’s Instagram posts of giant, fecund zucchini, it is so aggravating to me that my plants are failing.

It’s not squash bugs.  So far, I’ve been spared the rape and pillage of my curcubits by the mongols of the insect world by some unknown sorcery.   But there is some other dark magic afoot.

So here’s the situation:  the  leaves are big and lush and I am getting both male and female blossoms and they are setting fruit.  The fruit gets to be about 2 inches long, then turns yellow and falls off.

There are two possible reasons that my squash are rotting:

  1.  It’s been hot and even though I’ve been pretty diligent about watering, the heat stress will definitely cause vegetables to fail.  However, my cherry tomatoes are fine.
  2. Calcium deficiency:  Last fall I bought 2 loads of composted horse manure and sawdust and sort of half-assed a lasagna garden (a layer of manure, layer of cardboard, layer of leaves, repeat) and used that for the growing medium in the vegetable beds. Even though the composted manure sat over the winter, I think it may still have been a little high in ammonia.  Elevated ammonia levels can cause a calcium deficiency.  However, I added some bone meal to the garden beds during the first week in July and nothing changed.

So, I’m not sure what is the problem – heat stress or calcium deficiency.  It would be great to get a few more  zucchini this year, but I’m not holding my breath.  We’re planning on an entirely different set up for next years garden, to include wicking beds (more on that later) and a shade structure that doesn’t fall down the first time  the wind blows.  Maybe as the temps drop through late summer and fall, the plants will be happier.

If any of you have an answer, I’d love to hear it!   Post it in the comments.

 

July To-Do

July To-Do List

There really isn’t much to do in July.  Here in zone 7, the tomatoes, squash and peppers are starting to come in.  It’s really too hot to do much planting outdoors and pruning is too stressful on the plants. However, beans, corn and fast maturing squash can still go in the ground.  July is really about observing, maintaining and thinking about fall.

  1. Start thinking about cool weather veggies like kale, lettuce, and other greens as well as carrots and some root vegetables.  Make a wish list of what you’d like to eat fresh in the winter months and keep it on your fridge.cabbage
  2. It’s a good time to order seed potatoes.
  3. Plant fast maturing squash, melons, beans and corn if you live in zones 7 and plus.
  4. The bulb catalogs are coming out and some of them are give pretty steep discounts.  None of us want to think about February and March while we’re lounging under the shade tree with a cold beverage but you’ll be glad you did when those first spring flowers come poking up out of the ground.  Get your daffodils and tulips ordered now.  Breck’s is my bulb company of choice right now, though I’m always looking around for other eye candy.
  5. Keep an eye on your plants for caterpillars and other bugs that might do serious damage to your garden and remove what you can.
  6. Read a new gardening book.  I’m waiting on a book on landscaping with native plants by Judith Phillips.  She’s a local garden designer and expert on using plants that are appropriate for the Southwest.
  7. Try new recipes for your fresh veggies.  Really.  You need to figure out what to do with all that zucchini.
  8. Sit in your garden and watch.  Keep a little diary of what’s working and what needs to change for next year.
  9. Even though it’s hot, don’t overwater your trees and perennials.  Once every 10 days is still fine.  They’ll be forced to develop a sturdier root system.
  10. Put a bird bath or small fountain in your garden.  Having a water source nearby will keep the birds from devouring your fruits and juicy tomatoes.  Its also fun to watch them splash around and stay cool.

    IMG_0900
    Our birdbath
  11. If you haven’t already done it, mulch!  We have bark everywhere we have plants right now but are going to be removing the bark around the veggies and replacing it with straw.  Mulch will keep the roots cooler and slow down evaporation so that water stays where it needs to be.http___www.lifeofpix.com_wp-content_uploads_2017_06_bolet-pinassa-444