Category Archives: Hybrid Plants

Another Look At What I Consider A Failed Squash Season

An analysis of my first summer squash planting.  (I plan to replant by the end of July – we have 2 planting seasons here, although with this global cooling of the past few years, the cold weather gets here sooner in the fall than it used to ).

I am very disappointed with the plants and their production.  Something got the garden this year and I strongly suspect Dow Agriscience and their poison aminopyralid had something to do with it.  The heirloom Rattlesnake Pole Beans also totally failed – all 3 successive plantings.  The peppers failed.  I have a dozen or so heirloom pepper varieties that I have replanted for years.  This year, however, the pepper plants were deformed and never grew properly.  I don’t trust any of the very few peppers that have been produced.  Most of the few fruit shrivels long before the fruit matures.  I am going to have to buy new heirloom pepper seeds and Rattlesnake Pole beans this fall from Southern Exposure, Baker Creek and maybe Seed Savers.

The squash just didn’t do either.  At the very first of the season, most of the plants initially grew wonderfully.  Then they started to die.  The plants just died almost overnight long before producing anything but a few male blossoms.  Often times the leaves quickly yellowed and the plant then dies.  Some plants just flopped over in a day – but careful examination of the plants did NOT show any sign of squash vine borers, so something else killed them.

Some of the butternut squash plantings are developing yellow spots that precede death.

Here are some pictures of the death and destruction.

Here, the base of 6 Waltham Butternut squash plants are dying – starting at the base of the stem and dying along the vine.  About 6 or so feet along the right vine, the leaves are starting to develop those yellow spots.  The vines that have grown to the left and around the base of the raised bed are rooting into the ground so hopefully the fruit set on those vines will mature although the base of the plant is dying.

the base of these waltham butternut squash vines are dying

After seemingly growing well for a while, many of the summer squash are developing light green spots on their leaves.  These plants quickly dye after the leaves finish turning yellow.
light green spots developing on squash leaves

More summer squash baby leaves turning yellow, away from the veins.  This quickly spreads to the entire plant and it dies.  I have kept my evil squash bugs to a minimum so they are not a problem (although I hate them and can’t tolerate even one bug or nymph or eggs on the leaves) and I don’t think they have transmitted any disease to the squash.  It’s got to be something else, but what?  I recently spread organic fertilizer all over the beds – but the plants were already deteriorating before that – and the beans and peppers were already damaged before the fertilizer application.

light green spots on waltham butternut squash leaves

These are hybrid butternut squash (these seeds grew fine last year).  After growing well for a while, they are developing yellow spots.  These yellow spots spread and turn more yellow, then those spots turn brown and a hole appears as the leaf dies.
spots on butternut squash leaves

Many of the baby squash are molding.  They have been pollinated – bees are all over in the early morning, and I like to hand pollinate all blossoms I find each day.  For some reason, the fruit is no longer reaching maturity – lots of baby fruit is dying even before the blossom even opens for pollination.  Early in the season, the fruit was reaching maturity.  Is there a delayed reaction to aminopyralid?  There has been no other herbicide usage on my property.  We are way out and far away from any neighbors and surrounded by 60′ trees, so I don’t think any herbicide drifted in from anywhere.
baby fruit is dying on zucchini and squash plants

Some more yellow leaf spots on Waltham Butternut squash in another area of the garden.  It seems that this if affecting mainly the butternut squash varieties.  This vine is growing on the ground and has rooted along the vine.
yellow spotson butternut squash leaves

More hybrid butternut winter squash.  So many of these plants are developing these spots.  The yellow spots spread, turn whiter, then brown that turns into holes then the leaf dies.  This seems to start at the base of the plant and spreads along the stem quickly.  I have a document from Dow Agroscience that talks about the 3 day rule and it specifically mentions fields that will be planted with cucurbits (squash).  This tells me that that poison does affect cucurbits to some extent.  I have to think that this very odd damage to my squash is somehow related to that poison that has been let loose.   I have never
yellow spots o butternut leaves

This leaf has what I believe to be spider mite damage.  I see tiny blackish spots on the bottom of the leaf and believe that it is spider mites.  Some of these leaves also have a small black hopping bug on their top.  I think it is some sort of plat-sucking bug.
white spots on squash leaves

The leaf on the upper left – below –  has a bit of powdery mildew on it.  The past few weeks, powdery mildew hasn’t spread fast because it has been so hot and dry.  I have been spraying affected leaves with Neem oil and it seems to hold the powdery mildew down.  The leaf in the bottom middle has what looks to be spider mite damage.
problematic squash leaves

I just don’t know what to think.  This bed was planted with about 50 squash plants, half a dozen varieties including both zucchini and yellow summer squash.  The plants all started out very nicely, but then started dying quickly.  When they were growing well, they were starting to produce nice zucchini – the yellow summer squash never really made it.  As you can see, there aren’t many squash plants left and these plants just aren’t producing any fruit.  I just don’t understand.  Last year when my beds were only half full, and full of sandy ‘top soil’ at that, my plants did very well – much better than they have done since I filled the other 6″ of bed with that composted horse manure.
dying squash

I have planted basil seedlings in the open areas.  I’ll let them grow for a while until I pull everything up and plant a second round of summer plants.  If you can make it out,  in several of the top beds in the pic, you can see the scrawny, half alive pepper plants – by this time they should all be full and bushy with lots of peppers – didn’t happen.

Articles that I have read about the poison aminopyralid, a test is mentioned whereby pea or bean plants are planted in samples of suspected soil.  If the seedlings grow fine, all is well, but if the seedlings show problems, then Dow’s poison is still at work.  I think I’ll plant bean seeds around the garden and see how they fare.  Haven’t heard back lately from the Dow rep who contacted me – they are supposed to stop by and look at the destruction and see if they lay claim to any of the damage.

Puzzled and upset . . . . . . . .

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Three Types Of Cucumbers This Season

I have grown 3 types of cucumbers this spring.  The 3 shorties on the left are Little Muncher/Ferry Morse from a store rack.  The next 2 are Tasty Green hybrid from Twilley Seeds.  The 2 on the right are Heirloom Japanese Long Soyu.

3 types of cucumbers

I don’t like Marketmore type cukes – I prefer English type cukes.  Thus these 3 varieties do not have that bitter jelly like filling around the seeds like the standard Marketmore cukes do.

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Squash, Zucchini and Cucumbers Are Starting To Come In

Finally, the squash and cucumbers are starting to come in.

The round zucchini is a hybrid 8 Ball. I think that the 2 zucchini on the left side are Elite Hybrid – I picked the small one a few days too early.  The pepper is a sweet banana and the 3 cucumbers are either Twilley Tasty Green hybrid or Japanese Long Heriloom –
squash, zucchini and cucumbers are starting to mature

I am picking the onions that I find.  I waited too long and some of the tops have already dried up.  If I miss some onions, they will re-sprout in the fall.  Some of these onions are from sets that I  bought at a big box store and some are from seeds that I started at the first of the year – see an earlier post – I didn’t bother making note of which are which.
onion harvest

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Overview Time

Time for an overview.  This garden, except for the peppers, has exploded in the past 3 or so weeks.

This view is from the center row, looking up at 4 raised beds – 2 on each side.  In the far set of beds, you can see the summer squash over flowing into the row between the beds.  Since I don’t have very much bed space, I planned to grow squash on each side of the raised cattle panels in the middle and allow the squash to grow over the side into the middle beds.

In the front bed on the right, you can see the cucumbers and the waltham butternut squash growing on the ground around the bed.  The left bed has chard and some poor quality tomatoes.

overview of garden

This picture is from standing at the opposite end of the garden, looking at those squash plants growing into the aisle.
overview of garden

It was very humid today and the camera lens fogged up on this picture.  This picture was standing just a bit over from the last picture.  The grass is in serious need of mowing, but it has been so wet this past week.
foggy lens  garden overview

A closeup of the zucchini and squash.  These are hybrid plants from Twilley Seed.  They grow larger than heirloom plants.  Some winter squash – butternuts – are growing up on the center cattle panel.  That is a pot of basil in the front corner.
overview of garden

The squash is doing great.  The peppers are a failure due to excessive spring rain.  The beans aren’t doing the greatest.  The chard has to be harvested soon because it doesn’t like the heat.

I mulch between the raised beds with wood chips and bark.

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Female Blossoms, But No Male Blossoms To Pollinate Them

These hybrid 8 Ball Zucchini plants grow fast and strong, but they put out female blossoms first!?  I have had 4 female blossoms so far, but not a single male cucurbit blossom to pollinate them with.  Since I’m not saving seed, ANY male cucurbit blossom would have worked – squash, cucumber or melon.

8 ball zucchini first fruit

What a waste.  I decided last season that I didn’t plan to buy anymore 8 Ball seeds because they could be hard to harvest.  Often, the round fruit would form on the bottom of the plant stem so that to harvest it I had to move the stem around a bit.  I don’t like to move the stems – they could snap or bend.  And then when I cut the plant off, if it was under the stem, the plant would usually fall over because the fruit was holding the plant up.  Just too messy.  However, since I still have seeds, I will plant some each year until the seeds are gone.

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Tomatoes in Pots

I am growing some tomatoes in pots – they look to be about 5 gallon pots.  I simply don’t have enough raised bed space for all of the tomatoes that I start from seed.  These guys didn’t make it into the garden proper.  We have a secondary raised bed where we are growing about 4 dozen tomatoes.  This is the main eating and canning bed – where we grow the crop to can.
tomatoes in pots

These are Twilley Seed Co seeds.  The large tomatoes (8 oz) are Grandoise.  I don’t recall off the top of my head what the cherry toms are, but they are a hybrid variety that fruits like a cluster of grapes.

Since the summers are so hot here, I can not grow jumbo heirloom varieties.  I have tried – it just doesn’t work.  No fruit sets when the daytime temps rise above about 90 degrees – which is just about all summer!  I grow varieties whose fruits are about 8 oz.  This size sets fine and is large enough to easily process for canning.

For this volume of potting soil, I have been making my own.  I have been mixing my home made compost, some perilite (I buy it by the 3 cu ft bag), some peat moss and some cheap compost stuff from the big box store because I need the sand in it.  The ratio changes – I just eyeball each batch.  Seems to work well.

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Cutworms? Something Is Loose In The Garden

These are new beds so for some reason I didn’t expect to have a problem with cutworms.  Well, not so.  In at least 2 of my raised beds, I have numerous peppers that have been cut off at the ground.  I have also found a few cucumber seedlings and Chinese Long Red beans that have also been cut off.

cutworm damage on a pepper

The picture shows the cinched stem there at the ground level.  That healthy green stem ends with a constriction and grayish tissue.  I have sprinkled diatomaceous earth around the pepper stems where there are damaged peppers.  Well see if it does any good.  I sprinkled the DE earlier today and it is raining hard tonight.  Fortunately, only a few of my peppers have been damaged – maybe 5%.   A couple of the peppers seem to still be alive, but laying down because their stem has been damaged.  I’ll let them grow as they lay and see if they ever produce.
closeup of cutworm damage

I have started all of these peppers from seeds that I save each year and I don’t like them to be damaged.  I do keep a thick leaf mulch on the soil, but I don’t think that affects the cutworm.  It is going to live in the soil anyway.  The mulch may even make it more difficult to find a plant stem?

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A Sample Pepper Harvest

The peppers were planted late, also, but they are producing fairly.  I learned that I can plant my peppers twice as dense in a raised bed next spring.  I had never planted them is a 5′ x 16′ raised bed before, so I wanted to leave them plenty of room to expand.  Lesson learned:  they don’t need the room that I left them.  I had planted 3 to 4 plants across the 5′ length, only about 10 rows along the 16′ length.  Next spring I plan to start twice as much pepper seeds – that means 144 plants instead of 72 seedlings.
a days pepper pickings

The large red peppers in the center top are Cubanelle peppers, a very nice sweet pepper.  The orange peppers in the top right are Tequila Sunrise, a mildly hot pepper.  The long red peppers under the Tequilas are Jimmy heirlooms, a nice sweet, thin skinned pepper.  Under them are Cayenne hot peppers.  To the left of the small cayenne are a red and a green heirloom jalapeno pepper.  The seeds are only viable from the red, mature jalapeno.  Under and next to them are more cayenne peppers, including 1 green one.  In the bottom left corner is another Tequila Sunrise.  The yellow/green peppers on the lower left side are Sweet Banana peppers – heirlooms.  Above them on the left are red Chili peppers.  I originally got these seeds from a dried chili pepper at Kroger.  Finally, the orange pepper on the upper left corner is a Golden Marconi, a sweet pepper.  My Golden Marconi peppers did not grow as large as normally this year.  I am hoping that the seeds are still genetically good and that the smaller size was due to new, not very fertile soil.  I will plant these seeds next year and if the peppers do not grow to their usual larger size, I may have to purchase new heirloom seeds.

Next year I will not be growing 2 varieties of peppers that I had previously grown for years:  Brown Bell and Pimento peppers.  This year, they were stunted and the peppers that grew to somewhat maturity were afflicted with what appears to be anthracnose.  I tossed these peppers and plants in the burn pile – they will NOT be composted so as to not spread what ever it is that is afflicting the peppers.

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Squash and Zucchini

Because of out move, the entire garden was put in a month late. This has resulted in several issues.  Some of the plants didn’t mature enough before the heat – and some plants are actually stunted.  I didn’t get enough production out of the plants before the heat and drought hit.  You can see the powdery mildew on these leaves.  This zucchini is a Grey Zucchini – an heirloom that is one of my favorite zucchinis.
grey zucchini closeup

This is an overview of a row of Patty Pan summer squash.  The plants are strong and large with plenty of  baby buds along the stems.  It is almost ready to produce.  This pic was taken 2 weeks ago and we have had a week of rain that has taken its toll on the vegetable garden by spreading powdery mildew.  These yellow squash are susceptible to the mildew.   I have yet to harvest a Patty Pan squash out of this garden.  The variegated squash leaves in front of the cattle panel are some hybrid butternut varieties planted to grow up the panels.

grey zucchini

This is a closeup of some of the yellow summer squash plants.  There are plenty of buds along the strong stems and a burst of baby leaves and buds at the growing tip.  Hope these plants live to produce what looks so promising on them.  You can see the powdery mildew splotches on surrounding leaves.

yellow crookneck squash

This is a Cocozella  heirloom zucchini, one of my 2 favorite heirloom zukes.  Notice the thick leaf mulch under the plants.

cocozella zucchini

Another closeup of a Cocozella heirloom zucchini.  The mature leaves show the ravishes of powdery mildew.

cocozella zucchini

A closeup of some hybrid zucchini plants.  You can see an Obsidian zuke on the plant in the front right side.  Overall, these were fairly strong plants that produced well – because the were planted before the rest of the zukes and squash.

obsidian zucchini

These are my first 2 Waltham Butternut winter squash.  The little one on on the left is no longer with us – it must have died and fallen off when I wasn’t looking.  Usually Walthams do better than this bunch has done – but they are also usually planted a month earlier than I planted these.  There are, though, many buds on these vines.  Overall, Walthams are somewhat resistant to powdery mildew, although I am seeing it on some Waltham Butternut leaves.  I planted seeds from several sources and am assuming that all Waltham Butternuts are open pollinated unless other wise stated, meaning that all of these Walthams should be very similar.

waltham butternut

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Two Types of Cucumbers

I am growing 2 types of cucumbers this season.  Tasty Green, a hybrid from Twilley Seed, and Ferry Morse’s Muncher cucumber.  I prefer an ‘english’ type cucumber and Tasty Green is that.  Just for the heck of it, I picked up a Ferry Morse seed packet and Muncher was a”‘non-marketmore” type cucumber.  I call the standard grocery store type cucumber ‘marketmore’.  English type cucumbers – and fortunately,  Muncher, do NOT have that jelly like center that surrounds the seeds.  It can sometimes get bitter and I just don’t like them.
2 types of cucumbers

The Tasty Green needs to be picked when about 12″ long, before it starts to get fat.  Once it starts to get fat, it can develop a jelly-like filling around the seeds.  Muncher, on it’s seed packet, looked sort of like a short ‘english-type’ cucumber, and that is what it harvests as.

These cucumbers both seem to be somewhat resistant to the powdery mildew that is racing its way thru my garden.  They have been growing for 7 to 8 weeks and are really producing now.

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