Step by Step, Big Ugly
Like opening a gift under a Christmas tree, watching what grows out of the compost is always a wonderful surprise. You just know something will pop up — you just don’t know what exactly will take hold and grow.
After emptying the compost this season into the garden, the compost box sat and rested for a few weeks. Not long after, with the return of some warmer weather toward the end of May, several plants emerged looking like triplets. While it quickly became clear that the new growth was a squash — the question remained: what kind? It only took a few weeks to discover that the plants were butternut squash. Once they took off growing out of last year’s compost box, the result was amazing! Vines grew out along the top of a mulch pile extending some 15 feet or more. Giant squashes appeared on the vines some measuring almost a foot and weighing close to 4-5 pounds each.
If a person ever needed convincing that growing vegetables using compost was a good idea, he/she would only need to behold the sight of these vines and the production of the squashes to understand that the composted dirt is precious gold for plant life.
For our busy gardeners still harvesting tomatoes, green beans, peppers, okra, etc, bringing in the winter squash is delightfully easy. Just weigh the produce to report on your Grow Appalachia harvest report, wipe the dirt off the squash, then leave it on the porch for a couple of days to cure. All that’s left to do is bring them in to store for the winter. Squash picked this month (September) can be stored not only for the winter but well into the spring of 2021. The very tough skins provide protection for the squash. In fact, it is possible to be still eating last summer’s crop when putting new seeds in the ground for your next season’s crop. Easy and amazing!
It’s sometimes a little bit of hard sell to try and get new gardeners to try growing winter squash if it’s not familiar to them. At Big Ugly, we usually bring in a half dozen winter squashes from the previous season to one of our April or May workshops so gardeners can see for themselves how well preserved the squash is. It’s been a great way to get people interested in trying something new.