Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Squash Watch

Every year, come hell or high water, I plant flowers in containers to adorn my outdoor living spaces. I’ve been doing it since we bought our first house in Oregon twenty-six years ago, when I fell in love with fuchsias and begonias and all the lovely plants that did not thrive in the Midwest. I remember coming home from late shifts at the bakery and watering hanging baskets in the dark. The neighbors would stop and exclaim, “Your flowers always look so beautiful!” Though I didn’t necessarily do it for the neighbors, it was always nice to know I had one of the more remarkable gardens on the block.

Even in the midst of all the fourteen–hour “Café Days,” when I barely had the time or energy to enjoy my outdoor spaces, much less decorate them—I carried on with that tradition. It was probably even more important during those frazzled years, to carve out the time to do something calming and joyful. And then sit back and watch the show until the November frosts or rains did their damage.

This spring, I was more eager than ever to get my hands in the dirt and plants in the ground. As it happened, neither the weather nor my energy level was particularly conducive to that undertaking. Spring weather actually arrived about three weeks ago. And though I wasn’t working those fourteen-hour days after May 8, my remaining commitments took up more of my time and depleted life-force than I had foreseen. Early season buying sprees—my eyes were definitely bigger than my oomph—had resulted in dozens of plants that had to go somewhere; they couldn’t spend the season moldering away in cardboard boxes on the deck (though many a plant had suffered that exact fate during the Café Days.) Despite the crummy weather and other challenges, I managed to get most of the plants properly situated by the time the County Fair came along.

One of the things I envisioned in this year’s early spring pipe dream was a vegetable garden. After all, I was going to have nothing but time, I reasoned as, in a fit of addle-brained impulse buying, I plunked three beautiful little squash plants into my wagon at the nursery. Butternut squash. Calling to mind the astonishing vigor of the only member of the squash family I had ever cultivated—zucchini—I figured that these guys should be a no-brainer. They would grow like crazy with little or no help from me; and, unlike zucchini, they would store well into the winter, so I wouldn’t have to worry about what to do with them immediately upon harvest. Perfect!

But, oh…the trials those poor little guys have been through! First, they lived in the greenhouse for awhile, because as of the end of May, we had not yet stopped having frost. After about three weeks in there, they had to be summarily relocated, as they were getting cooked when the sun did come out, and I was afraid I would forget about them and that would be the end of them.

I repositioned the planting box I had in mind for them. I bought dirt and weed fabric to go in it. Around that time, I lost my momentum. The poor little squash plants sat on the deck, surrounded by a parade of annuals that came and went as I found and arranged pots. I continued to water and fret over the little squashes, but they started to dwindle. They grew spindly. They got mildew. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t get the mojo to assemble that planting box.

Finally, last week, I looked at them and said, “Now or never.” Realizing that I was never going to get that box together, I took my poor, sad looking little squash plants and hollowed out places for them in an empty strip along the fence, where I had planned (for about the last six years) to extend my shrub border.

They’ve been in the ground for about a week, now. I have been very solicitous about watering them. Even gave them a shot of Miracle Grow. And let me just say, they…haven’t died, which is probably saying a lot considering the condition they were in when I planted them. But they haven’t grown much, either.

So, here’s my plan, dear readers: Once a week, I’ll post a picture of them. We’ll watch them grow (or not) together. Any good thoughts or positive energy you can send their way will be appreciated.

Anyone want to take bets on whether we’ll actually get a harvest out of this?

Picture The First—July 27, 2011

Squash Watch


  1. We just picked two zuchinnis. But the basil apparently hates us. Also got our first two lemon cucumbers. It's still too darn cool. And I hate hot weather.

  2. Vibes for strong growth coming all the way from NY!