As the Lead Teacher for the Community Teaching Garden, I have the joy-filled responsibility of selecting plant varieties to grow in shared garden spaces within each CTG site. Week 5 is dedicated to direct seeding plants in the cucurbitaceae family, including cucumbers, squash, and melons. Students are allowed to plant cucumbers and summer squash in their garden plots, while I select winter squash and melon varieties to plant in shared garden spaces.
My mouth waters at the thought of cutting into a sweet, ripe, and juicy melon. So way back in February, I looked around for melon varieties best suited to grow in Vermont’s short summer. Thus, I ended up ordering seeds from the Solstice Seed catalog, an extraordinary seed saving project maintained by Silvia Davatz. Last year I attended one of her seed saving workshops and made a mental note to buy seeds from her this year. As Silvia writes in the introduction to her catalog: “Thus began my quest to seek out, rescue, and maintain rare, valuable, interesting, and irreplaceable varieties for our tables, pantries, and root cellars. My current seed collection encompasses about 290 distinct open-pollinated varieties, selected for flavor, beauty, suitability to growing here in the Upper Valley, disease resistance, cold tolerance, ability to be part of our year-round food supply, historical interest, geographic specificity, or quirkiness of name, to list a few of my criteria.” (To receive a PDF version of the Solstice Seed Catalogue, send an email to Silvia Davatz at firstname.lastname@example.org)
I chose Eden’s Gem, described as a petite, green-fleshed, netted melon weighing in at about one pound each, developed in 1905 at Rocky Ford, Colorado. Sweet and spicy flavor. Very productive and well-suited to the small garden. In early May I started the melon seeds in a greenhouse, and then by week 5 of the CTG course, it was time to transplant the melons into the Ethan Allen CTG site. We currently have four lovely Eden’s Gems growing on top of a compost pile, with plenty room to ramble and the warmth of the compost mound to encourage their growth.
For winter squash varieties, I decided to plant both bush and vining varieties for students to appreciate different growth patterns in similar plants. I chose Bush Delicata Squash, described by High Mowing Seeds as “Compact, tidy plants with sweet, oblong fruits. Delicious smooth, nutty flesh with hints of butter and brown sugar. Skin starts creamy white with green stripes and flecks, curing to striped light yellow. Compact plants spread only 4-6 feet”. Delicata happens to be one of my favorite winter squashes because its thin skin is edible, and sometimes I choose what to grow at the CTG sites simply because I enjoy eating those varieties!
At both CTG sites we planted Honey Nut Mini-Butternut Squash as our vining variety of winter squash that will share a trellis with peas and nasturtiums. These seeds also came from High Mowing and are described as “Adorable serving-sized mini butternut with dark tan skin and great sweet flavor. Simply cut in half and bake! Delectable squash is smaller than Ponca with more uniform butternut shape. Green unripe fruits; early planting is recommended for tan color. Field resistance to powdery mildew”. I also decided on planting butternuts because they are resistant to common squash pests such as the squash vine borer and squash bugs. Other resistant varieties to take note of include ‘Early Summer Crookneck,’ ‘Improved Green Hubbard,’ and ‘Royal Acorn’.
May your gardens, and especially your cucurbits, grow abundantly this season!
Garden Education Manager and Lead Teacher for the Community Teaching Garden course