Pruning Squash Leaves for Plant Health

I plant close, I’ll admit it, too close for some.  I am a chronic over planter, but I have my methods.  One is making sure that, as one farmer summed,  ” feed the heck out of your plants.” Yes, I do.  Exactly.  I set those plants up for success by giving them a lot of micronutrients, worms lolling about, mulch to hold it all in, and you cannot forget my beloved homemade fish emulsion.  Like all good things, success comes from a layering method giving a strong base to grow just about anything.  DSC_0409

So it is mid July, it is now finally hot and sunny in upcountry Hawaii, and my May plantings are beginning to sprawl.  What do I do?  Prune the inner leaves and let the air circulate.  Let the other plants like corn, tomatoes and flowers get to see the light, by removing the squash leaves that are very close to each other.  A healthy squash plant will have “choke” (Hawaii slang for a lot) leaves.  So cut off the ones dusted with mildew, give the bed a good soak with diluted fish emulsion, and let ’em sprawl.  In the weeks ahead, they will smother the entire area where I shot this video.

Bear with the video, it is hot and mid day as I deliver this squinty, yell at the camera squash tip.  But it is sent to you now, so that you can fully benefit from it.  The extra fish emulsion will give it a boost of energy at week 6, a heavy vining time in the squash’s life cycle.  So prune, put the leaves in hot compost so to rot it down.  Don’t leave the leaves in the garden or you will encourage the powdery mildew.  Bag the leaves and remove them to your compost.

I happen to breed varieties that are naturally resistant to Hawaii’s bouts of mildew, they are often unaffected, when a new trial plant is suffering in it’s first season.  Only the strong survive.  Powdery mildew is common here, even in dry up country Hawaii.  I mean common.  If a plant is getting a lot of natural nutrients, good air circulation, sun and water, don’t fret, maybe try a different species or variety.  Only a percentage of the squash I trial even like their VIP care.  Hawaii and our little bit of everything pests and disease, with the highly unpredictable growing conditions for plants, is not welcomed by many squash here.  I tried to grow the super dependable Hubbard, and it didn’t like the farm at all.  Now that the soil is really soil instead of half rotted compost, it may like it.  Sometimes it is the time of year that you plant, or even the day that you choose to plant on.  If at first you do not succeed, try again.  You will be a better farmer or gardener if you fall on your face a few times.  Trust me. I do it all of the time.

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