Squash: the wonder plant
One of the most satisfying plants to grow, in my opinion, is squash. Zucchini, summer, acorn, butternut, pumpkin, and the like are all tremendously easy, delicious, and big. Sometimes size does matter.
Squash seeds send out large leaves just a few days after direct seeding. The leaves grow big and wide quickly. Kids love squash plants because they literally grow overnight.
Wide leaves shade out weeds and reduce the need for watering. They also hide the squash fruits, making harvesting something of an adventure.
In gardening, especially urban gardening, size does matter. Squash takes up a lot of space, but yields plenty in return. A friend of Lil's planted pumpkin seeds with his preschool class. He took the seedling home and recently measured the plant. It is 51 inches in length! Several squash varieties including zucchini can be effectively trellised to reduce some of the horizontal space needs.
Squash happens to be one of my favorite fall vegetable flavors. Zucchini is remarkably versatile fresh and can be shredded and frozen to enjoy throughout the winter. Winter squash (acorn, butternut, pumpkin) can be roasted, pureed, sauteed, or grilled. All varieties contain lots of fiber and vitamins. Winter squash can be stored whole in a cool dry place for months at a time.
Before you cook your non-hybridized* squash, consider saving some seeds. Just remove the flesh from a dozen or so seeds and set in a warm dry place until thoroughly dry. We lay ours on top of the refridgerator on a cookie cooling rack. Store in a labeled envelope and you can plant again next year. *Some hybrid plants will not grow from collected seeds. Organic seeds and seedlings are, by their organic certification, non-hybrid. It's too late to plant squash and expect a fall harvest in Ohio, but warmer zones still have a chance to enjoy this wonder plant this season. The rest of us will wait until the spring.
Can someone help me remember to plant pumpkin seeds at the appropriate time to grow our own jack-o-lanterns? That would be fun.