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Cue the scary music

I am sure a lot of readers here have seen a photo that is out there on the ‘net’ showing a huge boulder with a tree growing right up through the center of it as an illustration of ‘paper beats rock’ or something like that.

But in the garden (or at least the gardens that most of us have), we are not dealing with a tree growing up through a rock. We are dealing with vegetables that, pound for pound are probably stronger than we are. I point out the photo at the top. That, my friends, is a tendril from a vine of (deh-duh) a spaghetti squash. I love spaghetti squash; I truly do. But the vines all by themselves are aggressive and voracious, running all over the place in a garden, climbing out, hitting the streets. so far, the only way we’ve been able to keep them under control is with a lawn mower.

Truly.

This year, because we put out electro-net fencing to keep out the bunnies (and we’ll see how well this works; I’m thinking the openings are too big for bunnies. They might work with a rather rotund woodchuck, but I’m thinking a bunny is going to have no issues with it, frankly), the spaghetti squash vines have made a break for it by attaching themselves to the electro-netting. And wrapping themselves around it with those tendrils. Look closely; those thing don’t just snag on the netting; they are wrapped around in corkscrew fashion. A few more of those and I anticipate seeing that fencing laying flat on the ground and waving a white flag.

And that’s not all.As you can see from this photo, there are baby spaghetti squashes that are forming at the bases of the flowers (which have been making major work out there). Now, a spaghetti squash is a winter squash, so you want to wait until they are ripe, which means a hard rind. That squash is going to be several pounds before that happens in August/September. Not only with that vine pull down the fencing; I’m wondering if we’ll find at the end that the squashes have eaten it too.

Now, so far, my woven wire with heavy metal fence post arrangement for the tomatoes has been holding up under the onslaught of the all the little green past tomatoes. I’ve tied up the plants to the wire and the posts; with any luck they will hold up everything and I won’t find the whole arrangement down on the ground in August. That would be very sad since I have a bet with the DH that this will do a better job than using wire tomato cages (I still think I will win on that).

This actually was not the arrangement I wanted to use for the squashes – or for the cucumbers either, actually. Once, many many years ago, when I was just a young gardener (this is pre-marriage to the DH), I read an article in the New York Times where the author wrote about his trials with vining anything, including tomatoes and how his answer, which he had henceforth used exclusively was: trellises, put horizontally on top of legs made out of chunks of 2×4’s.

Now, this seems to be a somewhat ‘overbuilt’ answer to the problem, but bear with me on this one. We just so happened to have an old trellis laying around. It had held up roses at one time, as I recall. But it had broken off and was stuck out in the corner of the garden, along with the old wheelbarrow and a rather neglected compost heap. I figured I had nothing to lose and because my parents were rather haphazard gardeners (my father was from the Bronx; his idea of gardening was buying a bag of Scott’s Turfbuilder), no one would be bothering me about it. So I found some old cement blocks laying around, planted the cucumber seeds, and set the trellis on top of the cement blocks.

Remember that old ad, “They laughed at me when I sat down at the piano”? Well, this arrangement was the laugh-riot of the neighborhood. We had some hard-core gardeners as neighbors and I may as well have brought in an alien space craft.

Did I get cucumbers? You bet. Were they good? Better than the usual?

Incredibly. First and foremost (and this goes for anything from the squash family), I’d raised them up…off…the…ground. What’s the big deal about that? Soil is wonderful stuff, but it also harbors fungus and slugs and insects of all sorts. By raising up the cucumbers (they were growing and maturing on top of the trellis surface), they were surrounded on all sides by .. air. So, no rotten spots, no nibbles from insects and slugs.

Secondly, because they are closer to my eye level, I actually could see what was happening and was able to find the cucumbers at the right size, before they got into the ‘put a saddle on it and ride it’ range.

Now, if you are using bush squashes or bush cucumbers, then this arrangement won’t work – you need something that vines. But I’d really like to return to that arrangement next year for anything like squashes or melons. On the other hand, though, I think I’d have to build a trellis out of 1×1 lumber to do it.

That stuff gets very heavy.

So, how are your gardens growing this summer?

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