Garden Party: Pruning Squash

Sunday, I picked some veggies:

Squash and yellow are the themes of the day.

Squash and yellow are the themes of the day.

I did not mean to pick the pumpkin because I don’t know what to do with it. I was merely giving it a little turn to keep it from getting a flatter flat side. I heard a sharp snap and knew it was finished. So there it is, my first vine-ripened pumpkin of the season.

I did not even begin to get all of the lemon cucumbers picked. I don’t have enough baskets. Besides, if picking encourages growth, maybe not picking will slow them down. One can hope.

Those squash are oversized, making the pumpkin look smaller than it is. They are really big, those squash. The pumpkin is a perfectly acceptable size for a jack-o’lantern.

Ever since the turkey attack, the zucchini and the yellow squash have not looked good. It has been over a month now, and though the plants have continued to produce some fruit, the broken, wilted and drying stems were getting on my nerves. They also cluttered things up so it was hard to catch the squash before they grew to grotesque proportions. Maybe I am just making excuses for not picking often enough. Anyway, I decided that it could not hurt to trim off those dead and dying bits.

Here's what I took out of the zucchini bed.

Here’s what I took out of the zucchini bed.

What remained looked more tidy and maybe getting rid of the dead parts will get more moisture and nutrition to the healthy parts of the plant. Or maybe I just killed off my zucchini. Right now they still look okay:

Pruned plants: less dense but much greener on average.

Pruned plants: less dense but much greener on average.

The pumpkins continue to thrive, and their adopted zucchini sibling is the only one still chugging along without wilting.

In the other spot, by the bell peppers, one of the pumpkin plants has been sneakily growing a pumpkin, hidden by a board and some rocks. I am very impressed.

Cow pasture pumpkin.

Cow pasture pumpkin.

Speaking of the bell peppers, I am moderately dazzled by how many are on the way. I know they take a very long time to ripen, but the mini bells are ready a little sooner.  I finally ate some last night, in a salad with my first onion, some undersized tomatoes, peas and lettuce.

Mini bells in cheerful hues.

Mini bells in cheerful hues.

A couple of weeks ago, I complained about some brown, dry spots on one of the red bell peppers. It seems to be spreading to the yellow pepper plant. I decided that this required some research.

I googled “brown spots on bell peppers” and got several articles. Most of them pointed to a thing called “blossom end rot,” a calcium deficiency. Calcium deficiency? How the heck do I… they all recommended doing a pH test. A pH test? Of the dirt?

They go on to say it is not so much a failure of the soil, but something gone wrong in the plant that prevents it from absorbing calcium in the soil. So if it is not the soil’s fault, why would I test the pH of the soil? I am fast becoming overwhelmed and am inclined to go back to the familiar: I will try more water. Or less. Not sure. Maybe I will just cut back on the whole “wilting objective.”

A spot of brown on one of the yellow bells. I hope it ripens before the spot takes over.

A spot of brown on one of the yellow bells. I hope it ripens before the spot takes over.

One thing I confirmed in my research that I already suspected: if you ignore the spots, you can still eat the pepper. Cut off the ugly part.

Another possibility that came up was sunscald. I’m not sure this applies as the symptoms are described as: “The fruit may become light colored and feel dry and papery.” The problem spots are indeed dry and papery, but I would not say the whole fruit is dry or papery. Additionally, as you can see in the above photo, the spot is not really where the sun hits the fruit. I think I will settle on the calcium deficiency and mostly ignore it.

That salad that I mentioned before was a bit of an experiment. Some of the undersized tomatoes, while red in color, did not taste quite ripe. I guess they need size and color to realize their potential. The other test was the lettuce.  Apparently, if you don’t eat your lettuce quickly enough, it might grow legs and come find you:

Lettuce gone wild.

Lettuce gone wild.

Maybe I am not enough of a gourmet, but I did not notice anything wrong with the way this lettuce tasted. On top of that, it was much easier to pick and wash. I just lopped off the top half of one of those stalks and had no troublesome dirt-bearing roots to fuss with. With the leaves spread out on the giant stalk, it is easy to find bugs and worms. Actually, I found none. Maybe it is too exposed or warm that high up for bugs and worms. There was almost no dirt on the top half of the stalk. So, it doesn’t look like the nice round head of lettuce we are used to, but it is still perfectly good lettuce.

I mean, if I saw it in the wild I would not automatically say “Ooh! Lettuce!” and eat it. But since I know this is lettuce, I saw it grow from baby sprouts into fine round lettuce heads, I know it is indeed lettuce. Very tall, leggy lettuce.

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