I really have striven to have a garden that is lower maintenance this year. The emphasis is truly on long term storage foods, such as soup beans, flour corn, and squashes.
With that goal in mind, my backyard has squash plants. A lot of them. Considering the amount of room I have back there, the main fenced in garden should be blanketed with vines before the end of the summer.
For C. Pepo (the family which includes most pumpkins, zucchini, acorn squash) I finally grew Mandan Squash. For those of you that enjoy reading historical accounts of gardening and farming, this apparently is the variety which was grown by Buffalo Bird Woman, and was sliced and dried in great quantities for use in winter stews. Basic description is that it is incredibly short season, getting fruits to maturity in under 50 days, very prolific and palatable. Well, “palatable” is not a shining endorsement, but the short maturity time & high production is a plus if it turns out to be true. I have about 10 of these plants in the garden.
Arickara Landrace, from which I am trying to select for larger fruits, is another short season squash, but of the C. Maxima (Hubbards, butercups, turban, bannana squash are in that group) variety. The vines have grown about 6 feet in the last week. They have always been very prolific and fast growing. Maturing time on these has been about 70 days which for a C. Maxima is wonderful. The plants keep producing until they freeze out as well. They store really well, and I have some still, from last summer, in the breezeway. I have 12 of these plants back there. 8 in hills, and 4 along the back fence.
For C. Mochata (Butternuts, Pennsylvania crookneck, Seminole, etc) I have the grow out of my large fruited Butterbush. This is more of my playing around and trying to select out for different fruit sizes & shapes. Last year I had most express the tendency to give fruits that were a couple of pounds, with a longer neck only a couple of inches thick. There was one plant though that gave a large butternut, and was mature in a very short period of time. In my field plantings, it is all the longer necked smaller ones (see http://threedaughtersfarm.com/wp/?p=1116) but here at home, it is the large one’s seeds that I planted. Approximately 24 of them. The vines on all of them last year were about 48 inches long by the end of the season. I have planted these pretty intensively, so we will see how they do.
There are just a few tomatoes here and there, the strawberry bed, some young fruit trees, and trellised (mostly) beans. There is a good amount of room for the vines to roam.
From what I have read, the Mandan is not stored at maturity for eating. Instead they are picked 4 days after the withering of the flower, cut into slices about a half inch thick, and dried. A few of the best fruits are allowed to mature for seeds, but end up drying much like a gourd. I can store the dried slices in buckets, same as I have for other summer squashes, just to toss into soups and stews. The Arickara and Butternuts will be allowed to sit in the garden until later in the fall, at which time they will be moved to the basement and breezeway for the winter. Ones that spoil, get hauled over to the chickens. The rest we eat whenever we feel like it.
There is one last Cucurbit plant out back. A friend of mine who farms out in Washington State sent me a small quantity of Birdhouse Gourd seeds she had saved back in 2006. I have never had much luck growing gourds, but this year I tried planting them in two locations. The Birdhouse Gourds I planted next to a bean trellis planted with Rattlesnake beans. For the longest time I had thought that none of them had germinated, but yesterday evening I found one, and just one, when weeding around the trellis. Like the Gooseneck Gourds out at the Ness farm, it appears that this is going to be mostly an exercise in increasing seeds and seeing if the plants will reach maturity in our climate.