Once a schoolyard has a garden, the opportunities for learning are seemingly endless. This September, for example, students in Eastport will be harvesting produce from their new Eastport Schoolyard Garden and preparing nutritious meals from the garden’s yield.
Summer squash are a major part of a healthful food harvest. The fruits are low in calories, fat- and cholesterol-free, and excellent sources of dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, and potassium.
Seeds of squash plants currently growing in the garden were sown in early July and these plants will soon be producing fruits. By continually harvesting young squash at the peak of flavor, when they are 6 inches or less in length, before their seeds fully mature, and while the skin is soft and tender, the plants will stay productive until the students return.
To hedge our bets, we are planting more squash plants this week, using garden space previously occupied by the spring pea crops. The seeds for these transplants were sown on July 12, and the plants should start producing young squash by the end of August.
Gardeners can choose from several types of summer squash that vary in color and shape. Most familiar are yellow fruits that are thinner at the stem end than at the blossom end. These “constricted neck” squash can be straight-necked or crook-necked, with several varieties to choose from in both categories.
Scallop or pattypan squash are round and flattened like a plate with scalloped edges. They may be white, yellow, or green, depending on the chosen variety.
Zucchini squash are usually green and vary in shape from cylindrical to club-shaped. This type, along with yellow straight-necked, is growing in the Eastport Schoolyard Garden.
Summer squash love hot weather and by the time the first blossoms appear, the bumblebees — primary squash pollinators — are abundant. Within four to eight days after pollination, the fruit is ready to be picked.
We hope to have an abundance of summer squash, but will the students eat them? Squash is not a favorite food among the K-12 group. We hope to change this with creative recipes, including this one I just tried:
Update on late blight disease on tomatoes and potatoes
The University of Maine Pest Management Office in Orono has issued a Late Blight Alert based on confirmation of the disease at a site in Waldoboro. Late blight, the disease that devastated tomato and potato crops in Maine last summer, also has been confirmed in New Brunswick.
Home gardeners are being advised to frequently inspect tomato and potato plants for symptoms. Excellent photographs of these symptoms can be viewed at http://pmo.umext.maine.edu/ipddl/ClinicImages/ImagesOpeningPage.htm. (Once at this site, select link to tomato or potato, then select link to late blight disease.)
Gardeners who find late blight should immediately destroy the plants. They can be buried or simply bagged so that the fungus spores cannot escape and the plant will die. Late blight needs living tissue in order to survive.
Since the spores from infected plants can travel by wind as far as 40 miles to infect other plants, cooperation by home gardeners in destroying infected plants is critical to limiting the spread of this disease.