The Squash and Friends garden was planted for reasons both practical and impractical. It was mid-June, late into summer for southern California planting I’d been told. So, I did some research and found possibilities and potential in squash.
Squash was appealing mainly for sentimental reasons. They remind me of my favorite season in New England, especially pumpkins. One October, in college, I wrote down every free-associative thought that came to my mind on a giant pumpkin that I kept on my kitchen table. Some visitors thought it was funny, others found it disturbing. A great win, in my opinion.
I've tried to grow pumpkins many times at my parents’ house. My Dad worked in the yard every Sunday. It was his ritual and in turn the yard was always beautiful. His ease in all things garden made me think growing pumpkins would be simple. The first year, I didn’t read the package and planted several seeds in a much too small raised bed. The long vines became tangled and everything died. The next year, in the same space, I planted fewer seeds. I got two small fruits that were quickly eaten by a rabbit. The same thing happened the following year, so I gave up.
When Daren showed Zara and I how to plant summer squash seeds in a bowl made of soil, the Squash and Friends garden truly was born. This technique helped overcome problems of infrequent watering and aqua-phobic ground. The directly sown seeds germinated in abundance. Success felt good. I wanted to know that high again, so I bought more; honey boat delicata, blue hubbard, zucchini and howden pumpkin.
A pumpkin harvest seemed unattainable and unlikely. At the time, there wasn’t much space, but I’d wanted the seeds anyway. I planted a single seed - on my late father’s birthday. With love, in memory, I marked it with an orange flag and checked on it weekly, afraid to get too attached. As Summer progressed, we added volunteer squash from compost and other “friends”; zinnias, sunflowers, marigolds, tomatoes. They all grew around what became my lil pumpkin prodigy. I’ve been told it’s the biggest The Learning Garden has ever seen. I’m not much of a gardener really - it couldn’t have grown alone.
The Cool California Food
By: David King, Garden Master
Lettuce, the ubiquitous plant that is the main salad plant for most of the world, continues to play the starring role in salads with an abundance of colors and leaf shapes. For a few hundred years, lettuce has been slowly turned loose from it's plain leaf style and now the selections of lettuce are mind-boggling in their varieties of color and form; from red leaves that astound to soft leaves that do not crunch, from sweet tasting crunches to brilliant reds, some flashing like roses and others more maroon that anchor the lettuce on the plate.
Lettuce is easily grown – in cool weather. The plants are not pleased with heat, so Southern Californians tend to plant their lettuce seeds in Fall and continue to plant a few more here and there to keep it in supply, the warmer the weather the shorter their life-time. I like to plant a short row every other week – barely getting any soil at all on the rather tiny seeds – they need to be kept moist. In a heat wave, shelter your lettuce plants to keep them from bolting (prematurely breaking into flowers, after which they are no longer sweet crunchies, but tougher and not nearly as tasty. In the warmer months, put your lettuce in some shade; in the cooler months place them in places where you can protect them from our common sudden heat waves.
Some lettuce varieties that I enjoy include (the number is the supposed “day to maturity which often has nothing to do with reality.)
* Lolla Rossa (53) Little lettuce heads, ruby red that fades to a light green. * New Red Fire (45) slow to bolt, a light red, a lot of variable colors and crunchy. * Merveille de Quatre Saisons (49) do yourself a favor and grow some of this French named lettuce that becomes the star of the garden and the salad plate
All of the proceeding varieties were from Pinetree Garden Seeds catalog, www.superseeds.com
There is nothing better than working outdoors in a developing garden! Bring your gloves, drinking water, gardening shoes and mask!