Butternut squash

This year I grew butternut squash for the first time I got my seeds from http://www.realseeds.co.uk/index.html I chose the ‘Waltham’ butternut. It was bred by the Massachusetts Ag. Extension Service in the 1960’s by crossing ‘New Hampshire Butternut’ with a wild African squash. They describe it as reliable and a great keeper.

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Once I have fruit to save seeds from, I should always be able to produce butternut squash. Its an ingredient I use fairly often and one of my favourites! Butternut makes great soups, risottos and baked chips with marmalade and spices šŸ™‚ Its one of my favourite Autumn foods. You need to start Butternut fairly early in the year but they grow *large* and they need to be in the ground fairly quickly else they can suffer a lack of nutrients. I started my seeds at the end of April

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There’s always one!

I planted all 8 seeds and grew most of them in pots and 2 in the ground. My neighbour grows butternuts succesfully in pots and trains them up a frame (they are vines afterall.) Never having grown them before I felt it wise to learn from my neighbour and assumed our gardens were fairly similar in aspect.

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So I composted up my pots in the sunnier locales of the garden with trellis behind and saved the little bags that you buy oranges in to make hammocks for my butternuts as they grew. I made compost teas from comfrey and added cut comfrey, hedgewoundwort and nettles as a mulch. This helps to increase nitrates and keep the large leaves healthy and green. Alas it was not to be, all but two in the pots died, and I found it a little sad. It was very very, wet not long after they went outside and I dont think they all fully recovered. Part of the problem is the’ washing away’ of the nutrients when they are in pots. I grew two of my butternuts in the ground. I only put the two in, as I have a large coniferous hedge and didnt want the roots to be competition. I had always recieved advice that nothing grows under conifers and they tend to ‘kill off’ everything. Under mine there are fumitories and ground ivies, fevefew self seeds there readily and even some roses grow. So I thought id risk it. I created a ‘pocket’ for these squash which involves digging a space a foot deep by a foot or so wide and long and back filling it with composts and comfrey leaves.

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Pockets made ready for my squash to go out in early June

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Once your squash are in you can add grass clippings, cardboard (non printed) and general composting materials which the squash will love. They have big appetites and mine may have benefitted from more. I also added some shelter and insulation by using the side of a cloched patch in a sunnier springtime spot and I lined the area with reclaimed clay pipes, bricks and stones. I cut the bottom off a milk carton and partially buried it into the ground close by as squash need plenty of water -should the weather have been dryer! Watering them close to the base causes rot and the plant will split and die. This happened to one of my potted ones despite being watered in this way. (ps You can always add the upturned base to the carton if necessary so that unwanted pests dont get in.)

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They grew steadily and flowered well though fruit wasnt setting, so I had a go at hand pollinating and sure enough my first fruits started set.

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It was the last day or two of August at this point and I am aware there may not be enough warmth left in the season, even if we do get a little more sunshine. With this in mind I had a go at using reclaimed and saved bottles filled with water to act as ‘radiators’ and prolong the season a little.

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Bottles acting as ‘radiators’, saved and reused plastic ones are filled with water

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Reused milk bottles filled with water to radiate heat from the sun. I also cut up milk bottles to write seedling labels on.

I will let you know if/when we get our first squash. IĀ  have recipes ready for it so Im crossing my fingers and toes!

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