This year I know a lot of folks had trouble with their squash plants. Between the extreme drought and squash bugs, entire squash crops failed across the state.
I had trouble with my squash as well, but with my new watering system (deep pots) I was able to minimize water use without water stressing my plants. Since they weren't stressed, they also did not get decimated by squash bugs. I had thriving, healthy plants all season long.
But I still did not get many squash fruits - why?
My best guess is the temperatures negatively affected the pollination process. We had some fairly cold temperatures late into spring and then the temperatures shot up to the 90's+ and stayed there, often barely getting into the 80's at night
Squash plants have a narrow pollination window; the female flowers open and are receptive to pollen for just a couple hours in the morning. Temperatures above 90 start to kill off a lot of the pollin. If the temperatures are already that high when the flowers open, there is going to be really poor fertilization.
I noticed this poor fertilization with all my plants that rely on pollination, but the squash had it the worst, followed by the corn.
I believe that the garden had adequate water sonce everything continued to grow well-- the flowers just never set fruit. That is, up until things finally started cooling off in the fall -- then everything set fruit at once and it was a race to beat the first frost.
I wanted to share since this may be something others were not able to observe if squash bugs killed off the plants before the cooling fall temperatures arrived. There are certainly options to help cool off your garden area but those options are resource intensive, and one of my garden goals is to produce more food with LESS work not more.
So, I think the solution for me is to continue to save seed from my successful plants so that my garden has regionally adapted seeds. I think also I will be letting go of trying to preserve heirlooms and instead work on creating my own varieties.
After reading a bit about Joseph Lofthouse's work with Landrace varieties in Carol Deppe's book "Breed Your Own Vegetables Varieties" (her other books are fantastic as well), and following his work on social media I am inspired to try that path to see where it takes me :)
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