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Starting Squash & Cucumbers Early & All Cool Weather Crops Planted! (4/16 – Zone 5)


By the time I finish shooting today’s video, our zone 5 garden will be about 75% planted, even though our last frost date is still a week and a half away. I started planting cool weather crops back in February under low tunnels and cold frames. Now it’s warm enough that those crops no longer need protection, but I can use those season extension tools to get an early start on summer crops. Today I’ll plant zucchini, cushaw squash, and cucumbers under cold frames. Then I’ll plant the last of our cool weather crops. We usually plant zucchini just after our average last frost date, but this year we’ll plant it about a week and a half before under a cold frame. Zucchini prefers full sun and germinates best when soil temperatures are above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. So, we picked a sunny spot in our garden and we covered it with a cold frame last weekend to warm the soil up in preparation for planting. One of the challenges we face when growing any kind of squash or pumpkin is that there are so many squash and pumpkin seeds already in our soil that it can be hard to tell if the plant coming up is something we intentionally planted or a volunteer. To make sure that doesn’t happen when I plant our zucchini this year, we’re going to plant it in a cow pot, which is a bio-degradable product made of cow manure, and something my wife gave me for my birthday. I also filled it with soil that I know contains no seeds. That way when a squash plant comes up, I know it’s our zucchini. Before planting, I add a thin layer of vermicompost to the soil. I plant 3 zucchini seeds in the biodegradable pot and bury it in the soil as shown here. If more than one plant emerges, I’ll keep the biggest healthiest plant and snip the others. I need to get the soil temperature up over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The ambient temperature is nowhere near that, so I’ll keep the lid closed until the plant emerges. Then, I’ll vent the cold frames on sunny days to prevent the plant from overheating before removing the cold frame sometime in May. Soil can quickly dry out under a cold frame, so I’ll make sure to keep the area well watered. Now, you may be thinking that this space is too small to grow zucchini. Zucchini needs about 9 square feet to grow successfully. But what I plan to do to make this space work is to grow the plant vertically on a stake. This will keep the leaves up off the ground and hopefully not shade out the garlic. It will also increase air circulation around the leaves and maybe reduce powder mildew. If you’ve grown zucchini vertically before and have any tips, please let me know in a comment. Next I’ll plant cushaw squash under this cold frame. The plant and fruit will get very large and heavy but this metal trellis will have no problem supporting them. If you’re unfamiliar with cushaw squash, here are some pictures of cushaw we grew a few years ago. They’re a winter squash that can be planted without protection a couple weeks after the last frost, and we usually harvest them just before the first frost in the fall. They’re excellent roasted and in soups, but our favorite cushaw recipe is cushaw pie, which is very similar to pumpkin pie. As with the zucchini, we’re starting our cushaw in buried cow pots in a sunny location under a cold frame amended with vermicompost. The warm microclimate provided by the cold frame allows us to start the seeds 3 to 4 weeks earlier than we would without protection. The cover will remain closed until seedlings emerge. Then we’ll vent as needed to keep the plants from getting too hot before removing the cold frame some time in May. We’ll also keep the area well watered. The last summer crop I’ll plant today is cucumbers. We usually start them about 2 weeks after our average last frost date. But under the much warmer micro-climate provide by a cold frame, I’ll start them 1 1/2 weeks earlier than our last frost date. As with the squash, I’ve placed this cold frame in one of the more sunny spots in the garden. After applying a thin layer of vermicompost, I plant the cucumber seeds ½” deep. I’ll thin them to about 1 plant every 6 inches after they emerge. Cucumbers germinate best when the soil temperature is between 80 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, so the lid will stay on until plants emerge at which point I’ll start venting the cold frame. After removing the cold frame some time in May, I’ll install a trellis for them to climb. Next I’ll transplant onions, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and collards, and I’ll direct sow Swiss chard and strawberry spinach. To transplant kale, collards, broccoli, and cauliflower, I brushed aside the leaf mulch, dug a hole deep enough to bury the plant up to its first true leaves, added a handful of vermicompost, and buried the plant up to its true leaves. After watering, I returned the leaf mulch. Kale, collards, broccoli, and cauliflower are all related and attract similar pests, so to make it more difficult for pests like cabbage moths to find them, I planted them all over the garden next to unrelated plants instead of planting them all together in one place. After brushing aside leaf mulch and applying a thin layer of vermicompost, I transplanted our Walla Walla onions in a variety of sunny locations in the garden. I made planting holes deep enough for the roots and planted them about 3 to 4 inches apart with just the bottom of the bulb under the soil level. After watering, I returned some of the leaf mulch. Planting onions in a variety of locations next to unrelated plants confuses pests and reduces pest damage. Finally, I planted a square foot of Swiss chard and a square foot of strawberry spinach, both of which can be directly sown before the last frost. I followed the square foot gardening spacing of 4 per square foot for the Swiss chard and simply broadcast the tiny strawberry spinach seeds. I’ll thin them later if I need to. I applied vermicompost before planting, but I won’t add leaf mulch until the plants are at least a few inches tall. Well, that’s all I’m going to plant today and for the next couple of weeks. 2 weeks from now I’ll plant potatoes in grow bags, and 3 to 4 weeks from now I’ll finish spring planting when I transplant tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, and I direct sow beans and squash. And here’s a quick look at what our garden layout looks like now. It’s only mid-April, but all of the green areas have already been planted. Planting out the rest of the garden between now and mid-May will be a breeze. To see more of our spring planting videos for 2016, please see this link or the link in the description below. Well, that’s all for now. Thank you very much for watching, and until next time remember you can change the world one yard at a time.

45 Comments

  1. Kit DuBhran Author

    Walla walla onions are so good. I have some that survived our winter here in the Pacific Northwest that are growing up nice and big. But they are from here so that shouldn't have been such a surprise. :p

    Reply
  2. omfug Author

    The weather has been so warm here in WA state this winter that I have direct seeded zucchini and beans for an experiment, and I am transplanting my tomatoes already–it should be about 70 today, amazing to think that when I moved here 26 years ago that we would have the heater going into June some years.

    Reply
  3. Fernando Romera Author

    I like the small greenhouse that you built for the zucchini seeds, it's even slightly oriented to the sun (zenith angle). By the way, thanks for the unit conversions 🙂

    Reply
  4. 1975Jdonov Author

    Have you thought about adding a Goji berry (wolf berry) to your garden? From what I have read they can be fairly hardy up to zone 6 and with the tactics you employ I believe they could survive the winter.

    Reply
  5. In the garden with Papa - Harold Author

    Okay now your making jealous Patrick. We are having 23 C today and tomorrow and for the rest of the month we will above mid 20's C day and above zero at night. So we are behind the eight ball.  Great update   Cheers Harold

    Reply
  6. ty eres Author

    Zone 5 and a last frost day end of April!?!!?? Jeez, I'm in zone 8 and my last frost date is mid May :S

    Q: how does the Claytonia perfoliata peform? I mean, does it readily self sow until the point it becomes a weed? And what are it's growth requirements?

    Reply
  7. Seedaholic Gardens Author

    Happy 19th birthday((again!:)), Patrick. Thanks for another cool, informative video, We direct seeded a bunch of things in the chuch's community garden plot.  Good timing as i got ordained as an elder today.  Hope you enjoy the rest of your birthday week, and, as a gardener, what else was she going to give you?

    Reply
  8. Canadian Gardener Author

    Last year I used 2x4s for the zucchini. 1 post was pounded in the soil, the other was pounded in 8' away. I then attached the two posts with a 2×4 across the top, then made a nylon mesh. Worked fantastic! I just started video taping my garden experience, once my weather warms up I will have videos of the zucchini. Your garden looks wonderful!

    Reply
  9. Barry Weigle Author

    Always helpful ,informative and easy to relate.I got my radishes, black and Siberian kale in ,planted 5 lbs of Yukon gold potatoes yesterday BTE style hopefully it works. Also discovered such a good population of worms

    Reply
  10. dakotabob10 Author

    I see by your chart that you planted haskap (Honeyberries). I planted several last spring and bought four more that I planted in the fall. Let me know how you make out with yours.

    Reply
  11. Great Provider Author

    Great video. Wonderful garden PatrickTry Tatume or Mexican squash, it loves to climb and is very productive. Harvest young and enjoy.

    Reply
  12. motocephalic Author

    great job, Your far ahead of this zone 5. Planted 500 onions yesterday, under agribon for 1 month. Potatoes will go in the ground May 1st, which is 4 weeks before last frost date for this zone 5. My hoop is being used for starts mostly. All tomatoes and peppers will go outside this year. happy homesteading

    Reply
  13. The Simple Aussie Author

    I love the way your cat is always trying to steal the show. 😛
    Jealous that you're heading into warmer weather! We're heading into winter down under. At least I managed to can some summer produce. 🙂

    Reply
  14. Matthew Writt Author

    I've used small tomato cages (the cone looking ones that are NOT good for tomatoes) and just train the zucchini plant inside it. Example pic: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-iHINbwgoy8s/UYaRT5HvGPI/AAAAAAAAEpA/cMC6FClLJPo/s1600/P2100014.JPG

    Reply
  15. Sabine RiverAuthority Author

    Patrick, yeah powdery mildew really sucks! I get it bad here in Z9. It spreads like fire across my cucumber, melons and squash. Ive had success with preventive spraying with neem/copper/soap mix.

    Reply
  16. helle hansen Author

    Silly question probably, but do the cold frames also warm up without much sun, i.e. do they trap the temps in the soil? We get a lot less sun than you seem to do, so I was wondering if they would work here.

    Reply
  17. John Ambrogio Author

    Patrick, I've been subscribed to your YouTube channel for awhile and have a problem. I have been planting broccoli for about five years but this year two of my plants leaves are turning white and shriveling up. Any suggestions? Thank you

    Reply
  18. Dennis Dingemanse Author

    Thanks for the interesting video. I started using mulch (leaves, cocos, hay and stuff) in the outdoor garden and in tomato pots. With the latter I put a little pot with watered compost in the middle for food. Can't believe how lively they look :-). This season I will continue with (strawberry) towers and drip irrigation for watering plants.

    Reply
  19. Suzanne Ramoundos Author

    Looks awesome and great tips about starting early.  During the hot days, how often do you have to shower the beds?  Our sun has been piercing and drying out the mulch in the beds…had to resort to cardboard with cut outs in some and bamboo/lacey curtains over others.  The shade has not hurt growth..seems moisture dominates over adequate sun.   Great job!  Grew squash up a pine tree truly by accident..it was a volunteer but the effectiveness of the growth was interesting.  Know there are no pine trees in your yard but one of the videos we shared with you showed a couple growing their squash off their roof with phenomenal success, LOL.

    Reply
  20. Rob Bob's Aquaponics & Backyard Farm Author

    I tried to grow the last zucchini up some twine here but it got a way from me most of it ended up growing along the pavers next to the bed 😃
    The main stem didn't like being manipulated after it got about as thick as a thumb & split easily I found. That my be due to the variety or nutritional factors though but thought it worth mentioning.
    Looking forward to seeing how yours go Patrick.
    Cheers mate.

    Reply
  21. Edelina Bacani Author

    The movable cold frames look fantastic. Can you share in a video how you made them, put them in the flower bed and remove them? I have learned a lot from your videos. Thank you.

    Reply
  22. ohhowhappygardener Author

    Looks great! We started some swiss chard, cucumbers, squash, and rhubarb today. Looking forward to seeing your vertical growing squash this year.

    Reply

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