Tag Archives: All-America Selections

Winter Squash Outperforms Summer Squash in My Garden

Immature Sweet Jade Winter Squash

For years I have grown zucchini and yellow summer squash from seed and every summer the dreaded squash vine borer decimates them. I have tried all the tricks but to no avail. This summer, I tried one last time and I also grew a winter squash. True to form, the summer squashes are half dead, their guts spilling out like seppuku. My winter squash, however, is happily wrapping itself around tomato and basil plants and running amuck across the grass.

Take a look at ‘Sweet Jade’. This is one plant, grown from seed sowed in May (thank you Johnny’s Selected Seeds). Under the large green leaves are several green squashes. I had no idea ‘Sweet Jade’ would get this large but we have been blessed with plenty of rain this year.

One Sweet Jade Plant Taking Over the Garden

Kabocha is a Japanese type of winter squash. Sweet Jade is a green type, a 2023 national All-America Selections winner. It is relatively small — a single serving –that can be carved into a soup bowl or “vase” for floral arrangements. Similar to acorn or butternut squash, the flesh can be roasted, baked, or pureed plus the skins are thin enough to eat. When mature, Sweet Jade is dark green with lighter green stripes with stump-like, corky stems and bright orange-yellow flesh.

All squash plants are warm season annuals, requiring full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. I have not had any pest or disease issues with Sweet Jade so far.  The wilted yellow summer squash and zucchini plants are nearby indicating that squash vine borers are in the vicinity but seemingly uninterested in Sweet Jade.

The kabocha squash belongs to the species Cucurbita maxima. Zucchini and yellow summer squash belong to a different species, C. pepo. According to Amy Goldman’s The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower’s Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes and Gourds, which covers several species, C. maxima has “mild flavor, high solids (starches and sugars), freedom from fibers, and a brilliant orange flesh. Choosy canners choose maximas.”

Mature Sweet Jade Winter Squash, photo courtesy of All-America Selections

Winter squashes are grown in the summer like summer squash, but they can be stored for months. This type needs to be harvested before a hard frost, preferably when the stem gets corky, dry, and brown. Then the squash must be sun cured for about a week or cured indoors at 80 to 85 degrees. Afterwards, if stored at 50 to 60 degrees, the squash can last for 4 to 5 months. The flesh gets sweeter during storage, so it is best to eat the squash in the fall/winter.

I am looking forward to harvesting mine later this fall. There are plenty of recipes online for this one in particular but any winter squash recipe will do. Try growing winter squashes next year but make sure you have plenty of room!

Save Your Geraniums for Next Year

Red geraniums in a large container in May

When my mother lived in Vienna, Virginia, she grew red geraniums in large containers by the front door. Every fall she would pull the plants out of the containers, knock off the excess soil, and place the plants on a shelf in the basement. There was one small window allowing very little light but these plants would come back to life the following summer. She did this because her mother, who lived in Wisconsin, also saved geraniums in the fall. However, her mother had a sunny foyer. Every fall, she would cut her plants back, repot them in smaller containers, and treat them as small indoor plants in the foyer. Both methods worked well. Geraniums can take quite a bit of dryness which is what makes them ideal for overwintering.

This year, I received a geranium from All-America Selections. Calliope is a 2017 AAS ornamental vegetative winner (not grown from seed) with red flowers. It has bloomed all summer in a large container, in full sun. I added Osmocote when I originally planted it in May but I have not needed to water it. The rain has been enough. Every time I see this pretty plant I think of my mother and grandmother and how gardening wisdom passes down from generation to generation. Before winter hits, I want to save my geranium too. Since I do not have a brightly lit room in my house, I will try my mother’s technique.

Calliope in October, ready to be overwintered

This month, before frost, I will lift the plant out of the container, shake the soil off and cut off or back diseased parts and the flowers. Then I will let it dry for a few days in the shade on the deck so that excess moisture will evaporate. I will then place the plant in a large paper grocery bag, upside down, and close with a binder clip.  I will store the bag in the coolest place in the basement, which will be around 50 degrees.

Periodically, I will check the plant to see if it is getting too dry or, conversely, moldy. If moldy, I would just cut and throw away those parts.  If too dry, I would soak the roots in water for a few hours and then dry and put back in the bag. Of course, the foliage will die off eventually but that is okay.  In the beginning of April, I will put the root structure in a small container with drainage holes. I am assuming the plant will look like a dead stump but I have no doubt it will come back to life. I will water and place the container in the living room where it is warmer and lighter than the basement. This will trigger the plant to leaf out again. After the average last frost date (Mother’s Day here), I will put the container on the deck. It will be in shade at first which actually will be more light than the living room. Gradually, I will move the container to a sunny location and probably in late May, I will plant it back into its large container with another dose of Osmocote.

If you have geraniums, now is the time to think about saving them so you can enjoy them again next summer. This method should enable you to enjoy your geraniums for many years to come.

Pink and red geraniums in the landscape in August