Advice for Growing Delicious, Healthy Cucurbits
Though cucurbits such as watermelons, cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins can be some of the most troublesome and challenging plants to grow, they can be the most rewarding. Cucurbits flourish in the summer when the days and nights are routinely warm, which explains why they taste horrible in the winter, if you can find them, that is.
As plants that produce a male and a female flower, they need plenty of space for their twisting vines to spread out. Having a decently large amount of space for this type of organic garden is the best way to go. If you’re limited on space, you may consider dwarf cucurbits, which are now available in certain areas.
Keep them in the sun
Cucurbits need lots of sun and good soil in order to thrive. Ensure your garden is placed in an area with optimal draining so your soil can drain properly. Before planting cucurbits, be sure to increase your soil’s richness. Organic matter, rotted manure, or peat will ensure cucurbits will grow in your garden. In order to achieve the best fruit development, strive to maintain a low nutrient level and a high potassium level. Avoid over-fertilizing with nitrogen, as this will hinder fruit development.
Pollination is key
If at any point in the season you start to notice shriveled up fruits that have dropped off the vine, it’s probably because too little pollination occurred. If the bees haven’t been visiting your garden, hand pollinating may be the way to go. Grab a paintbrush with soft bristles and gently collect the pollen from the male flowers (the ones that typically stand up tall) and then softly brush it against the female flowers (they’re typically hidden under the foliage). Most organic gardeners agree that the best time to hand pollinate cucurbits is in the morning.
They need lots of water and support
Providing your cucurbits with a steady stream of water will ensure they grow to their fullest potential. If you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to consistent watering, you may consider choosing something else for your garden. Cucurbits also benefit from support systems. Fan trellises, cane teepees, and wires are all effective options. Keep in mind that cucurbits are pollinated by insects, which leaves them open to potential problems. If you start noticing a powdery mildew or deformed fruits, chances are they’ve come down with a virus. Red spider mite and cucumber mosaic virus are two popular ones to watch out for.
Wait until the last minute to harvest the fruit
One common mistake people make with cucurbits is harvesting them too soon. If you’ve planted pumpkins and squashes, be sure to leave them on the plant until their skins have become hard. You’ll also want to wait for cracked stems, as this is a sign that they’ve reached their full potential and are ready to leave the vine. When taking them off the vine, be sure to leave a long stem and store them in a warm place first before moving them to a cool space.