GAYS MILLS - The 2018 garden season is not over yet, but we can visualize the end of it before too long. It’s been a tough one here at Gibbs Acres thanks to the four hot and dry spells we’ve had and the sandy soil that we are blessed with on this alluvial bench, halfway between the ridge top and the river bottom.
Sandy soil doesn’t have a big “tank” to store water like heavier soil (loam and clay). Technically, it can’t hold onto the water that it gets. The water storing spaces between sand particles are large and water drains right through. Plants start to show stress quickly between rains. Luckily, I like to water and have had plenty of practice this summer. But a half-inch of rain equals several days of watering for some reason. Cold well water is just a survival strategy until the rain falls.
The different garden crops here have shown some variation in success in terms of quality and quantity in 2018. There were no real crop failures, but I am glad we live close to the store—if you know what I mean. Gardening is fortunately just a hobby for me—it’s a habit and a form of therapy.
Ever the optimist, I bought a second small freezer last spring in anticipation of what should have come from the larger garden I grew this year. And they are both filling up, long on the tomatoes and a bit short on peppers.
One favorite crop of mine that has thrived is squash, or, as some people call it, “squarsh.” This hearty, humble vegetable is a great producer if you have the room for it. It can be grown in smaller spaces too, if trellises are used. I like the look of squash plants - big, bold leaves, leaf stems that are loaded with insect repelling bristles, tendrils on vines that tie onto weeds for stability, aggressive, spreading forms that say, “this space is mine!”
Not all squash plants send out vines. The beloved zucchini plant stays put, for example. They are good at hiding what they are growing and balloon to hugeness, if you don’t watch them carefully. It’s high time to start locking your car if you don’t like zucchini or have enough. Zucchini fairies are famous for anonymously “sharing” their bounty with friends and strangers, a famous and harmless gardener’s prank.
Barring further catastrophe, the Butternut squash crop looks bumper. There were some loose (accidental free-range) cattle that wandered by the other night, but apparently the squash patch didn’t appeal to them. Maybe I should put up a scarecow just to be safe? There will be plenty of squash to share, with permission, with friends.
Any day now, I’ll be picking a smooth, cream-colored, bell-shaped Butternut and trying it on the grill. Just thinking about those big, meaty slices makes me hungry. Anything that colorful has got to be good for you, right?
And the beauty, another beauty, of any winter squash is that it keeps for a long time.