Squash Wrap Up

Another front came through last night.  Since this is the second significant front to come through in November I realize that the end of growing season is at hand for a lot of things in my garden.  The last front actually brought a little freezing weather with it so I had to cover up the tomatoes.  I also had a few winter squash that were not quite ready so I covered them too.    I also harvested the winter squash that were ready.

The last of the winter squash.  Top wrung - Red Warty Thing, Black Futsu and the unidentified squash.  Second wrung - Turk's Turban.  Third wrung - another unidentifed squash.  Photo by Chris Rue

The last of the winter squash. Top wrung – Red Warty Thing, Black Futsu and the unidentified squash. Second wrung – Turk’s Turban. Third wrung – another unidentifed squash. Photo by Chris Rue

I planted five varieties of winter squash back in August.  I bought the seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (rareseeds.com).   Even though I planted five varieties of squash, I wound up only harvesting three of the varieties I ordered.  This was due to a couple of strange things that I have never happened to me before. 

The cucmber beetles ate everything - leaves and flowers included!

The cucmber beetles ate everything – leaves and flowers included!

The first were the cucumber beetles.  OMG!  They were terrible.  In addition to being a general menace they completely destroyed all of the vines of the Lakota winter squash.  I really wanted this variety so that was pretty disappointing.  However, that is nature.   Bugs happen.  Since I have never had cucumber beetles before, and since they COMPLETELY ate all of the Lakota vines, I can only assume that the Lakota squash brought the bugs to me.  I will never plant this variety again.

This image of Galeux d' Eysines is from rareseeds.com.  This what I wanted to grow.  The green and orange squash in the first picture is what I got.

This image of Galeux d’ Eysines is from rareseeds.com. This what I wanted to grow. The green and orange squash in the first picture is what I got.

The next thing that happened was truly strange.  I am convinced that Baker Creek somehow messed up their packaging.  I ordered a variety called Galeux d’ Eysines.  As the season progressed it became clear that I had none of this variety growing in my squash patch.  Instead, I had a large, oblong squash that was mostly green but stripped with a little orange.  To this day I have no idea what variety this squash is.  I have gone through all of the pictures on their website and I can find nothing that resembles the squash I grew.  Very strange.  I know accidents happen but I have never bought a package of seeds and then had them turn out to be something other than what was advertised.

This lovely Tatume' was grown by MOH reader Sherry Westphal in Michigan.

This lovely Tatume’ was grown by MOH reader Sherry Westphal in Michigan.

On another note, I recently got an e-mail and pictures from Sherry Westphal of Michigan.  She grew Tatume’ on a trellis in her garden.  Tatume’ is my favorite squash of all time.  Tatume’ is the rare squash that can be grown as either a summer or winter squash.  I grow it in the spring and eat it when it is young.  However, if you leave it on the vine it will turn into a mild winter squash.    So glad Sherry enjoyed her Tatume’ and took the time to send pictures and tell me about it. 

All of this cold means the end of what I consider prime gardening time.  The tomatoes are done and the last of my winter squash will soon be on the porch.  However, thanks to my mild climate, I have enough greens and brassicas growing  in the garden to keep my hands dirty until February.

Controlling Squash Vine Borers (Melittia cucurbitae)

A squash vine borer moth in Patty Leander's garden. Photo by Bruce Leander

In my mind, squash vine borers are kind of the nut sedge of the insect world. They reproduce like crazy and they are very difficult to control. Very few pests in the garden are as dreaded and damaging as the squash vine borer.  While aphids make your leaves look ugly, squash vine borers make your whole plant die!

A close up of the grub like larvae of the squash vine borer. Photo by Bruce Leander

Since we have had such an unusually mild winter, many people have planted early.  Because of this, their squash is now at a perfect state of maturity to be attacked by these  pests.  So, I thought I would take this opportunity to give a few tips on controlling them.  While there are both organic and commercial pesticides out there , the best way to control these pests (in my opinion) are your growing practices.

Squash Nine Borer eggs. Photo by Bruce Leander

First, if you want to stop the problem before it begins, grow your squash under floating row cover. If you put row cover around your plants when they start to vine, you can prevent the borer from laying its eggs on your vine.  Cut a fairly large piece of row cover so it can expand as the plant grows.  Anchor the edges in the soil with dirt, boards or bricks; anything that will create a seal and prevent the moth from getting to the base of your plant. Be aware that if you put row cover over your plants before they pollinate, you will have to pollinate by hand.

Squash being grown by under row cover in Patty Leander's garden. Photo by Bruce Leander

If row cover and hand pollination are more than you want to deal with, watch for the adult borers in your garden. You can hear them buzzing if you are close. However, if you can’t be outside, you can place yellow sticky traps around your plant. Since they are attracted to the yellow (like the squash flowers) the moths will get trapped and let you know they are in the area. Once you know they are there, look for their eggs on the stems and under the leaves that are close to the base of your plant. They are pretty small and reddish brown in color. Once you find them, pull or scrape them off with your fingernail or a sharp knife.

A healthy zucchini. Photo by Bruce Leander

If you see little bumps forming on the base of your vines, you have an infestation.  You can take a razor blade and cut into the infected area. If this doesn’t kill the larvae, remove it and then tape the cut with floral tape or pack with soil. If done soon enough, the plant will recover and produce as normal.


If your squash wilts and does not recover in the morning, there is a very good chance you have the squash vine borer. Photo by Bruce Leander

Because effective control of this pest is so hard to do, try planting squash varities that are not as affected by the borer. I grow tatume’ squash and it has no problems with the bugs. Also, do not plant in the same place year after year. They larva pupate in the soil under the plant they killed so every year move your squash as far as possible from where it was grown last year.

Some squash varieties like "Tatume" are not bothered by the squash vine borer.

If you are not of the organic mindset, there are a few chemicals out there that do a pretty good job of controlling borers.  The most common and readily available is Sevin Dust.  Sevin works pretty well against the moth.  However, it has a very short effective period so if using it, apply weekly.  Also, the chemical Methoxychlor (trade name include Marlate, Chemform and Methoxy-DDT) is very effective and relatively safe.  Methoxychlor is very popular in greenhouse applications because of its relatively low level of toxicity.

Nothing is more disappointing than seeing your beautiful squash reduced to a pile of shriveled of green stuff in two or three days.  Squash vine borers have broken more hearts than any other bug I know.  Because these pests are so destructive it is important to be alert and stay on top of them.   The best way to control an attack is to stop it before it starts.  So, go to garden regularly and watch for any sign of the pest.  With a little diligence you can keep this bug from depriving you of all of the wonderful summer squash.

Friends and Fresh Cut Flowers

This past Friday, two very pleasant things occurred at the Yupneck’s house;  an unexpected visit from my youngest daughter and the first formal dinner party hosted in our newly remodeled farmhouse (celebrating the “almost end” of a five year remodeling project).  While visits from the kids are always welcomed, it is those rare, unexpected drop ins that I love the most.  Whitney is a senior at North Texas University.  She is also a very talented floral designer.  While there, she found out that we were hosting the renowned Master of Horticulture, Dr. William C. Welch (Bill) and his lovely wife Lucille.  She asked if she could make us some arrangements from the garden for the dinner.  Of course I said a most enthusiastic YES!!!!!

Whitney grabbed some shears and left the house for about 20 minutes.  When she returned, she had a large bundle of flowers and foliage from just about every plant on my property.  It was a joy to watch her sort, strip and prepare these cuttings for arrangement.  What happened over the next fifteen minutes was truly amazing.  In less time than it takes me to brush my teeth, she created three incredibly lovely arrangements that I felt I had to share.

Arrangement for the yupneck's table. Made with things from my gardens by my lovely and talented daughter.

The first was a large arrangement that she made for the center of the table.  If you look closely, you will see hollyhocks, love-lies-bleeding, salvia, dried yarrow, coral honeysuckle and PURPLE HULL PEAS!  Who puts peas in a floral arrangement?  A young Master of Horticulture, that’s who.  This arrangement was stunning!  I wish my camera skills did it justice.

Close up of the table arrangement. Notice the use of purple hull peas and coral honeysuckle.

Next, she made a small arrangement for the bath.  This arrangement was built in a small water pitcher.  She incorporated  tatume’ squash, zinnias, love-lies-bleeding and southern wax myrtle foliage. 

Lovely arrangement using zinnias, amaranth and a tatume' squash.

Finally, she turned a vintage Mary planter into another stunning arrangement.  Here she used zinnias, salvia, wax myrtle foliage and iris leaves for effect.  Beautiful!

A vintage Mary planter featuring zinnias and salvia.

Whitney’s arrangements were the cherry on the top of the truly fabulous meal that my lovely wife prepared for the Welch’s.  Mrs. Yupneck created a carmalized onion and goat cheese appetizer, steak with bearnaise suace, stuffed summer squash and a tomato and balsalmic salad.  This was washed down with a lovely red brought by the guests and finished with a decadant “mudslide” dessert.  The evening was perfect.  My wife and daughter’s combined skills came together to create a dinner that was memorable for all.

The yupneck with his very talented floral designer daughter and his equally lovely and talented culinary wife.

P.S.  My daughter is a very talented floral designer.  She has started her own business in the DFW/Denton area.  She will be more than happy to give you a bid on events of any size.  To see more of her work you can check her out at Arbor Floral.

P.S.S.  Since the dinner was to celebrate the almost completion of our FIVE YEAR LONG remodeling project here is a picture of the entryway.

The entryway of "The Nest"

Tatume’ – The wonder squash with many names

Some of the best things in the world happen by accident;  Post it Notes, potato chips, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and my discovery of Tatume’ squash.   While three of these accidental discoveries yielded vast quantities of money for their inventors, my discovery yields pounds and pounds of a fresh, flavorful, and versatile squash. 

Between work, grad school and the remodel of my house, my garden has not received the time and attention it normally gets.  Since it was a little late in the spring when I built my potager, I decided to speed things up a bit by purchasing established vegetable plants for my garden.  I bought my plants from the left over’s of the Texas A&M Horticulture Club’s Annual Plant Sale.  I bought several varieties of tomatoes, egg plant, watermelon, and fennel.  When I went looking for squash though, there were only two types left; white summer squash (we call it UFO squash in our house) and a variety that I had never heard of called Tatume’.  I grabbed the last summer squash and two of the Tatume’.

Tatume' vines and flowers in my potager

I soon realized that Tatume’ was no normal squash.  In a little over a week it has sent out vines that were over six feet long!  Everywhere a node lay against the ground, it rooted and sent out more shoots.  In two weeks time, half of my garden was over run by these two aggressive plants.  I was afraid it would cover the entire garden but I was comforted by how lovely it was.  The vines were covered with beautiful big yellow flowers.  Once it flowered, the growth rate decreased.  I decided to do some research and see what I had gotten myself into.

Most of the squash that we grow come from the species Cucurbita pepo.  Tatume’ is a variety of this species.  C. pepo is a native of Meso-America and archeological evidence shows that gardener’s there have been growing varieties of it for the past 8,000 to 10,000 years.  In America, squash is generally divided into two categories based on when they are harvested.  Summer squashes like yellow crook neck, zucchini, and pattypan (UFO) are harvested in their immature state.  Immature squash have a soft skin, seeds and flesh.  Winter squash like butternut, spaghetti, and acorn are simply squash that are allowed to ripen fully on the vine before they are harvested.  Winter squash have a thick hard skin and their flesh is generally firmer and sweeter than summer squash.  Tatume’ is one the rare varieties of squash that can be harvested as either a summer or winter squash.

Young Tatume'

Tatume squash is an open pollinated variety (heirloom variety) so you can save the seeds from year to year.  The fruits are round or oblate in shape.  Their skin is stripped green and they resemble a small watermelon or pumpkin in there immature form.  It is best to harvest Tatume’ when it is about the size of baseball.  If left to mature, their skin will become a mottled deep green and they can grow to almost the size of a soccer ball. 

Tatume’ appears to be the squash of many names.  Many seed catalogs list it as Tatume’ or Tatuma but I have also seen it listed as round zucchini and Mexican zucchini.  In the markets of Mexico, it is most often called calabacita (little pumpkin). 

Whatever you call it, it is a very versatile and flavorful little squash.  It is a staple of Mexican cuisine.  Mexican cooks use this squash in soups, breakfast dishes, casseroles and as a stand alone side.  This year, my wife and I have used it in lieu of yellow squash in all of our squash recipes.  We have fried it, baked it, boiled it with onions and made it into a casserole.  We even harvested and sautéed the blossoms.  However, our favorite thing about Tatume’ is the way that it cooks on the grill.  Tatume’ is more flavorful than yellow squash and its flesh is much firmer.  Its round shape and firm texture allows it to be cut into thick round patties that are perfect for the grill.  A little EVOO, garlic salt, season salt and fresh ground black pepper make for a simple but delicious summer side dish.

A ripe Tatume' ready for the grill!


 Tatume’ is a squash variety that posses all of the traits that make squash one of my favorite summer vegetables to grow.  It is hardy and productive.  Its long vines produce a fabulous show of big yellow flowers that draw bees into the garden.  It is tasty and versatile in the kitchen.  My accidental experiment with Tatume’ has convinced me to add this to my keeper list.  I highly encourage you to try it in your garden as well!

*This article was published in the June 2010 issue of “Hort Update” (http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/newsletters/hortupdate/2010/jun/)