As vining plants, winter squash and melons sometimes seem to have a mind of their own. Carelessly growing out of beds and into pathways, up fences, even up other plants, they can not only hurt themselves, they sometimes harm others. Really, be careful with them around your corn. We learned that one the hard way.
So what can you do to make their lives, and yours, a little better?
1. Give them a good place to land.
Both fruits and vegetables have tender skins, especially when they are young. Helping to prevent any scratching will aid the fruits’ development. Likewise they need a spot with good drainage, to ward off rot. One of our winter squash (pictured) has grown out of its bed and onto the gravel pathway. A little hay will keep its skin safe and keep too much water away. We have also seen gardeners use smooth, flat rocks and even wooden boards to keep their melons and winter squash off the ground and safe. In a pinch we have even used plastic buckets with drain holes.
2. Give them some direction.
Most of our squash and melons, along with some of the other plants, tend to grow in the direction of the greatest amount of sun. For our roadside garden, this is southeast. Knowing this can help you plan where you want your vines to head. As we mentioned, you don’t want them going after your corn. Even a small melon can easily take a corn plant down. Similarly you also don’t want them going after structures, such a bean poles or tomato cages. So head them through the potato patch or past the nasturtiums, where they will be safe.
3. Give them support.
If you are encouraging your vining plants to grow up, be well aware of how much their fruit will weigh. Be especially concerned about their combined weight. A small melon can be 5 to 7 pounds, while a large one can top 45 pounds. Be sure the structure you are growing them up can handle it. You can also help take some of the weight off the fruit’s stem by providing a sling and attaching that to the support structure. Be sure it will allow air and water to pass through. Many gardeners like nylon hose for this purpose, as it stretches as the fruit grows. Tie the nylon to the support so the fruit’s weight will no longer be completely on the stem.
So melons and vining squash really just need what any growing thing needs: a safe place to land, a little direction and all the support you can provide. Nature’s always giving us life lessons like that.
Gardening Jones is a master gardener in Pennsylvania. Learn more atgardeningjones.com/blog.
The Native American Three Sisters collection of seeds includes packets of squash, corn and beans. According to Iroquois legend, theses are three sister who thrive best when grown together.
The 3-D Trellis A from H. Potter will easily support vines and bring style to your garden.
Learn all about vegetable gardening in The Everything Grow Your Own Vegetables Book.