Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
July, 2003
Regional Report

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Tender baby zucchini deserve to be gathered daily, preferably early in the morning when they are at their best.

Those Crazy Cucurbits

The season is here for following the zucchini diet, which involves eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But zukes aren't alone in showing their zest for life. There are butternuts tumbling out of my compost, cucumbers rambling beneath my tomatoes, and it's time to plant pumpkins, too. Cucurbits love the summer garden, so it only makes sense to love them back.

Planting Replacements
Whether they are zucchinis, yellow crooknecks, pattypans, or acorns, the summer squash that are filling your harvest basket now won't last forever. Squash borers often take the plants down, or they may simply exhaust themselves. This being the case, why not sow some more plants for late-season harvest? I like to start a few seeds indoors and set them out in late July or early August.

Research from the University of Georgia shows that young summer squash plants, less than three weeks old, produce just as well as direct-seeded crops. And starting seeds indoors often is simpler than keeping them adequately supplied with water in the garden.

Pretty Pumpkins
If you want to grow some pumpkins for fall harvest, there's an easy way to get the plants up and growing. Prepare a furrow for the seeds, dampen it well, lay in a few seeds, and then cover them with an inch of compost or potting soil. Then cover the seeded area with a board for a few days. Because the soil atop the seeds is not watered, it will not form a crust, and the seedlings should pop right through as soon as you remove the board.

Use newspapers or old cardboard to mulch around your pumpkins. Between the paper mulch and the plants' large leaves, weeds will be kept in check. I like to grow small-fruited pumpkins like 'Baby Bear', which produce lots of fruits and require less care than varieties that produce huge fruits.

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