Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Judy Walker
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Enjoying some winter in summer and fall

Carlton County Master Gardener Intern


September 13, 2018

Provided photo

It's that time of year when local farmers' markets are overflowing with every imaginable kind of vegetable. Like going to the grocery store when you're famished, shopping at the market can be an exercise in self-restraint. Everything is so fresh and beautiful ... and so very tasty. It is entirely possible to want one of everything. A personal favorite is winter squash. There is something so rewarding (well, maybe at times frustrating) in watching the seeds in spring grow into vines in the peak of summer that could literally take up every square inch of the garden in fall, if left to their own devices. And the brilliant flowers followed by fruit in all kinds of shapes and sizes - amazing!

The University of Minnesota Extension website explains that winter squash belongs to the cucurbit family, and is closely related to pumpkins, summer squash, zucchini, melons, gourds and cucumbers. The many different kinds of squash fall into three different species: Cucurbita pepo (acorn, delicata, and spaghetti-squash types), C. moschata (butternut types), and C. maxima (Hubbard, kabocha, and buttercup types). When mature, winter squash can range from single-serving size to 15 pounds or more.

There are some common issues you may have encountered this year with your winter squash. Troy Salzer, Carlton County Extension Educator, has been growing squash for over 15 years and has a wealth of experience. He shared some great information regarding potential pitfalls for you to file away for next season.

If your squash developed powdery mildew, Troy suggests selecting varieties that are resistant to the disease. This should be indicated on the seed packet or plant tag. Powdery mildew thrives in dampness, so allow adequate airflow by giving the plants plenty of room to grow. And Troy also advises watering longer and deeper, and less frequently, as a generally good gardening practice. You can see pictures of powdery mildew on What's Wrong With My Plant?

If you had sturdy vines and plentiful flowers but little or no fruit, there may have been a lack of pollination. Planting pollinator habitat or hosting a hive are good options. You might also have the soil tested for deficiencies. Troy's practice is to apply the appropriate fertilizer right around the plants when they are a few inches tall, and right before a rainfall. And don't let the vines take over the garden. Cutting off the ends of the vines will not only help contain the plants, but will also force more growth into the fruit.

If you have additional questions about growing squash, Troy is available to take them- just call the Carlton County Extension Office at (218) 384-3511. You may also run into him at the Duluth Farmers' Market, where he sells his squash (his personal favorite is red curry, with butternut running a close second). We are so fortunate to have him as a local resource!

Squash is the Carlton County vegetable of the year, and there are many different ways to enjoy it. Check out Cooking with Squash, a joint offering of the Carlton County Extension Office and the One Vegetable, One Community initiative. Jim Sheetz, chef and owner of the "Historic Scott House" will demonstrate some of his favorite squash recipes for participants to sample. The cooking class will be held on Thursday, September 20 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm at Salem Mahtowa Hall, 2702 1St. St. in Mahtowa. Please call the Extension Office at (218) 384-3511 to pre-register. Tickets are $5 at the door, 18 and under are free, and the entry fee may be waived upon request.


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