Unstoppable Squash

I planted some sweet corn at the end of September last year and I put some zucchini seedlings in the same bed at the same time. Then events overtook me and I wasn’t around to see their progress.

When I cam back home, the corn was long gone but the zucchini looked AMAZING. The only problem is, it wasn’t zucchini. Some wild squash had taken over the corn bed and, in the month I’ve been home, it’s proceeded to move down and cover the next bed.

In fact, it’s grown out in all directions and is only this “small” because I’ve cut off a few of the most invasive runners before they could subsume my entire garden.

There are 2 reasons I’ve left this jack-and-the-beanstalk relative to run amok: 1) It’s producing squash and I’m ever hopeful that some day I’ll find one I can eat. And 2) I’ve read that chickens like to eat squash leaves. At the rate my chickens eat and the rate the squash grows, they could be on green street all autumn.

That was the idea anyway. Unfortunately reality fell a mile short of my ideal.

Firstly, the edibles. The fruit starts out so promising.

And then, seemingly overnight, rots on the vine.

It’s been a wet summer (with only normal rain for the past couple of weeks), but surely evolution wouldn’t develop something that would rot with a bit of rain. Frank’s theory is that the wild squash isn’t a “true squash”. I presume he means that nature isn’t a patch on GM – or at least hybrid – products. I hope he’s wrong. What was nature thinking when she caused this beautiful vine to flourish in my back garden?

Secondly, the chickens. They just don’t want to eat these leaves (or vine or squash). My guess is its that the leaves are too furry. It probably tastes like eating a pin cushion to them. They each have had a peck, but then turned their bums to the vine and went like chain saws for the ruby ginger instead.

When all else fails, I know this AMAZING squash will be great compost.

Update 14 April 2012: This morning I watched a rerun of an old Gardening Australia show. They have a segment where people ask questions of the experts. A woman came in with a rotten squash that looked exactly like mine above. The problem was identified as a lack of pollination. The female squash produces a small starter fruit (an embryo of sorts) and then when her flower is pollinated, the fruit grows. If it’s not pollinated the fruit rots. The solution is to use a paint brush to pollinate – brushing first the male and then the female flower each day for a few days. If only I’d known before my amazing squash plant became compost….

About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: www.laurarittenhouse.com for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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