GardenZeus Quick Tip for Your California Garden: Grow Your Cucurbits (Summer Squash, Zucchini, Winter Squash, Pumpkins, Cucumbers, Melons, and Watermelons) in a Mature Compost Pile
If you’ve had trouble with low yields from cucurbits, try planting pre-germinated seeds directly into a mature compost pile. If planning well in advance, construct a compost pile inside a wire cage that is about 2-to-3-feet wide and about 3-to-4-feet tall beginning in fall. With sufficiently small openings in wire mesh and closure at the top and bottom, this can also help to eliminate rodent and mammal-pest activity in compost piles, including the family dog(s).
Example of wire cage with lid partially filled with compost.
Refresh the compost pile for a-few-to-several months with new organic matter before your cucurbit growing season. Once you have a layer of rich compost at least a foot or two high, ideally well-populated by earthworms, plant winter squash or pumpkins directly into the cage or just outside the cage in late winter or spring (depending on your growing season). The wire cage will then provide trellising or support for vining plants. If planting into a finished compost pile without installing a wire cage in advance, you may need to add trellising or support for some cucurbit varieties.
Nutrient-rich soil in and under compost piles will help to produce vigorous, healthy squash plants that yield abundantly if their cultural needs are otherwise met.
Other articles of interests include: Timing for Growing Halloween Pumpkins in Hot-Summer Areas of California; Growing Winter Squash and Pumpkins in the California Home Garden; and Saving Pumpkin Seeds: It’s Complicated.