Winter Squash Disaster

Those of you who follow this blog may recall last summer’s “squash baby” fiasco.  This year I planted a few Marina di Chioggia squash plants (technically a pumpkin) in one of my vegetable beds located in a more secure location. Instead of some homo sapien making off with my squash bounty, it looks like the neighborhood raccoons are having a gnocchi party somewhere. All I’ve got to show for three Chioggia plants is one small squash and the one pictured above.

Household animal tracking expert Mrs. Homegrown assures me that the nearby scat pile belongs to some raccoons.

My thoughts after another year under a squash curse: winter squash takes up too much room to devote precious vegetable bed space if, like me, you don’t have a lot of room. In previous years I’ve tucked it in unused corners of the yard and let it sprawl around. That’s what I’ll do next year.

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16 Comments

  1. Try “Tromboncino” or “Zucchino Rampicante” (dubious spelling). They are vining squash and make a long weird looking fruit. You can eat ‘em young as a zucchini or let them ripen into a butternut-type of thing. They grow really well up a wall, saving space in a city garden. And they’re bizarre enough to really impress people…

    Here in L.A. next to LAX airport, I have overwintered them. They began fruiting really early in year 2, before my other squashes had even flowered. And in year 2 I’m getting far more female flowers, which means far more fruits than in year 1. They are a Good Thing!

  2. 1) Dilute hot sauce in water and spray on veggies to give unwanted snackers an unpleasant surprise.

    2) We have solar nite eyes for our chickens but they supposedly work for veggies as well. Place a pair of red blinking lights at eye level for the varmint (12-18 inches off the ground) and they will think another critter has already gotten there. The brand name Solar Nite Eyes are kinda expensive, but I have seen people rig up homemade versions with red xmas lights.

    3. Dried coyote urine. Supposed to repel raccoons but I’ve heard people say the critters will get used to it and get bold again. Might be worth a try or effective with other methods. Our local feed store sells it.

  3. Mine always seem to be divas, wanting the best most open spot in the garden, not performing well when I’ve tucked them in to a spare spot.

    I’ve never tried Trombocino rampicante though I have a pack of seeds for it that I’d be happy to share with you. There used to be a nursery named Hortus located in Pasadena that had a small arbor of Trombocino Rampicante during the summer which was beautiful.

  4. Tromboncino has done really well for me in the hot hilly area of East LA. Like Joanne P it overwintered for me this year, setting early fruits, with no male flowers present. Other squash have suffered here, even zuchinni.
    Tromboncino is in the same species (c. moschata) as butternut, but highly outperforms it for me. This year, three out of the four types of squash i planted came down with squash mosaic virus. Only one is left standing strong, can you guess which one? Tromboncino shows strong resistance this year, and hopefully every year!

  5. I have had very good luck with Burgess Buttercup and Waltham Butternut winter squashes. I trellis them on bamboo tepees so they don’t take up so much room (also probably makes it harder for the critters to reach them). But something (my guess is rats or raccoons) is merciless in stealing my melons (watermelon and cantaloupe) long before they are ripe. I am a pacifist vegetarian, but the idea of creatures stealing my food makes me want to sit outside at night and shoot them!

  6. I’ve been having a similar problem but with my melons and my dogs. my dogs keep finding a way into our melon patch and stealing our dang melons before they ripen! we’ve lost so many! at least 5 so far.

  7. I’m trying something new this year: training my winter squash to grow up a teepee. As far as space-saving, all’s working great, and I think the squash is enjoying the increased air circulation.

    I’ve had some pest problems lately, though, which I’ve been writing about on my blog. Winter squash is turning out to be pretty high maintenance.

  8. Have you tried peeing around that which you want to protect. I have got the raccoons to stop eating the cat food in my garage with a male pee perimiter and a light on overnight.

  9. Sorry, nothing but sympathy to offer as regards the squash. I had no idea that raccoon were such a pain. I’ve read about their tenacious chicken predation but I didn’t realise they ate the veg too.

    I really just wanted to say that I live in rural England and I’d love to be able to walk into my feed suppliers and ask for dried coyote urine!

  10. I have heard that human urine works just like coyote urine, maybe better since it can be applied fresh daily, *shudders*, human hair clippings are supposed to work as well. We are after all large imposing predators.

  11. I’ve planted a bunch of winter squashes in my front yard in seedling flats, though my seed ‘map’ got tossed and I have no idea what was what! I don’t have that much room, so I tried to plant what I thought was a variety. Two of the known plants, ‘squash babies’, are not doing so great. The one that has great leaf growth is not putting out any female buds (they fall off). The other seems permanently stunted (the leaves are hardly the size of small maple leaves and it’s sprawled but a foot and is covered in just male blooms. Very strange. There’s a smooth pumpkin that seems stunted also, I can’t seem to pollinate it in time for the fruit to set. I have some kind of pumpkin REALLY sprawling (the only one doing really great!!), and it has a head-sized fruit on it. I think it’s a zucca tonda padana, it has the big ‘ribs’ on it. I think whatever could have been the spaghetti squash got devoured by my chickens in the back yard… I can’t believe how much a zucchini fruit can grow in a day!

  12. So, i walk out to the garden this morning, and my almost ripe, 8inch canteloupe is gone witout a trace. No mistaking it…it was a potted staked plant. Are dogs/raccoons that saavy…no trace at all!!

    • I’d suspect a raccoon. They are plenty savvy.

      Ah, the heartbreak of gardening. Critters always get your produce the day before you pick it. It’s like they know the schedule.

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