Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
A while ago I was talking with a neighbor about plants, and she was raving about a delicata squash she had on the mainland. She said it was the best she has ever tasted but unfortunately could not find it locally. Earlier this year I was looking through a seed catalog and came across this squash. According to the description, delicata squash (Cucurbita pepo) has high sugar content and a delicate sweet flavor. It produces fruit that grows from one to three pounds with white skin and green stripes. I quickly added it to my cart and will be growing my own squash for Thanksgiving! Admittedly, I haven’t had good success with cucurbits (plants in the gourd family that include melons, cucumber, and zucchini). This is due to powdery mildew and pests that eat the vine and sting the fruit, but I will give it a try. If all goes well, I’ll do an update on my harvest in the fall (crossing my fingers).
The first thing I did was flip over to the back of the seed packet for the planting instructions. This provided guidelines as to spacing, planting depths and sun requirements. Seed packets usually state how many days to maturity – this means how many days you can expect to harvest fruit. My seed packet didn’t have this information, so I checked the seed company’s website. It said 100 days. My plan is to have fruit ready for Thanksgiving, so I counted back 100 days from Thanksgiving, and this is the absolute latest date I should plant my seeds. I planted my seeds at the beginning of July to make sure I’ll have ripe fruit BEFORE Thanksgiving rolls around.
I found a spot where the plants will receive 8-12 hours of full sun. The planting area was weeded, and the soil was amended with compost. I also put up “dog-proof” fencing to prevent my four-legged helpers from trampling in the planting area. I planted a couple seeds in the ground according to the planting guidelines on the seed packet. I also started a couple seeds in pots as back up just in case something happens to the ones I planted in the ground (like birds or slugs eating the seedlings). The potted seedlings will need to be transplanted into the ground quickly because they do not like having their roots disturbed.
As the vines grow and stretch out, I’ll be on the lookout for signs of powdery mildew, and when the little fruits form, I will be covering them to protect against any insect stings.
If you want to grow pumpkin or squash for your holiday meals, you still have time to plant seeds now.
Amy Tsuneyoshi grew up playing in the mud and still finds joy in getting her hands in the soil. She grows a variety of edible and ornamental plants in her urban jungle as well as Native Hawaiian plants. She has a degree in horticulture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and is currently the President of the Friends of Hālawa Xeriscape Garden.