Among the vegetables that produce masses of eating for very little work, the squash family is a real standout for gardeners that give them rich soil, water in dry spells and a sunny environment.
Mid-June is pretty well the last call for transplanting winter squash into the garden because the fruit needs time to ripen before fall rains and frost begin.
But summer squash, zucchinis and cucumbers can still be planted over the next weeks because they can be eaten at a younger stage.
Because transplants are stressed with the initial root disturbance and adjustment to new conditions, they're very susceptible to slugs.
Tiny seedling squash are even more at risk. Some gardeners surround the plants with organic slug bait while others may pop a mini-greenhouse type cover over the plant. They may cut the bottom off big plastic milk cartons or saw it off polycarbonate juice covers.
Air circulation can be provided by removing the top caps and substituting a square of the plastic mesh used to package fruit for sale. Twist-ties are best. Elastic bands rot and break.
Many summer squash, including zucchini, are available as bush varieties. These can be productive in large containers if they can be given lots of nourishment, watering and sun.
The acorn type winter squash have some semibush and compact varieties, including the true bush type Table King Bush Acorn.
Compact plants producing pumpkins have also been developed.
In a generally cool, short-summer climate like ours, it's always a challenge to get squash planted in time to produce a crop before winter closes in. But immature winter squash can always be eaten in the same way that summer squash can be.
An experiment I've wondered about for people that like vegetables much better than lawns might be starting a full-size vining squash in a container in the middle of a lawn. If it runs true to form, the plant should cascade down the sides of the container and all over the lawn, picking up extra nutrition from its stemroots. Squash patches can be very beautiful.
I once tried starting squash in the middle of the vegetable garden and guiding the vines with stakes into the harvested-vegetable beds and around the others.
It was a semi-success.
On the positive side, the squash patch produced more fruit than ever before. But access to the winter garden beds became a problem and I had to prune away the outside edge of wandering vines. Later when I cleared away the frost-killed vines I discovered multiple weeds had sprouted under those luxurious leaves.
Many of the heritage squash grow so large they may have to be dragged rather than lifted. But they do have delicious fruit, though some of the tastiest, like Triamble and Turks Turban, can also have deeply ribbed rinds that need a good scrubbing before freezing.
Some, like Hubbard, develop very hard skins. These squash are magnificent keepers, as they needed to be when the pioneers grew them.
The round Buttercup squash and the zucchinishaped Butternut are very manageable.
The Butternut is an exceptionally good keeper and has more flesh and less strings inside than the others. Smaller squash like Delicata and Acorn produce masses of easy-to-prepare squash that are just the right size for two people sharing supper.
Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to her via firstname.lastname@example.org.