Get Protection for Delicate Seedlings

Get this easy-to-grow seed kit and get into heirloom veggies this season. Still available at Lehman's in Kidron or via Lehmans.com.

Get this easy-to-grow seed kit and get into heirloom veggies this season. Still available at Lehman’s in Kidron or via Lehmans.com.

Last year I bought some heirloom seeds for Oregon Sweet Meat Oregon Homestead Squash from Carol Deppe, author of The Resilient Gardener. But due to drought and squash beetles, there wasn’t any produce.

It was disappointing, as I’d sampled the squash before, and loved it. It fed my family for two nights, and the leftovers froze well.

The Great Squash Experiment
This season, I’m taking extra care: I have only five more Oregon squash seeds and you can bet I’m taking no chances with them.

To get a good crop in this year, I’ve planned ahead. I don’t usually treat my squash with kid gloves, but my resources for the Oregon are limited.

Custom-build your own greenhouse! In stock now at Lehman's in Kidron or at Lehmans.com.

Custom-build your own greenhouse! In stock now at Lehman’s in Kidron or at Lehmans.com.

First, I started my seeds in the greenhouse. I don’t generally do this as squash is pretty reliable Down East, but I wanted to give my Oregons every chance for success. I also gave each squash mound a big helping of well-composted sheep manure.

Now that it’s time to move the seedlings outside I decided to take one more step and protect my seedlings with some Wall O’ Water seedling guards. These rings of funny-looking tubes that are filled with water and then placed over seedlings. The water absorbs heat during the day and keeps plants from succumbing to frost on these cold nights. In general, squash can take a light frost but I’m not willing to risk these last, precious seeds. It will also serve as a way to harden off the young plants without moving them inside at night.

Protect seedlings from chilly spring nights! Available in set of 6. Order now from Lehmans.com.

Protect seedlings from chilly spring nights! Available in set of 6. Order now from Lehmans.com.

I have used the Wall O’ Waters before. Each tube must be filled individually from the hose and then the whole heavy cylinder lifted over the plant if, as is the case for me, the hose doesn’t quite reach the spot in the garden that I’d like the Wall O’ Water to sit.*

Bruce and I worked together and came up with a good, workable system. We first covered each plant with an upturned bucket, making a framework that allowed us to position the cylinder without damaging the seedings. I opened each tube and Bruce filled it with the hose. Then we lifted the cylinder together and set it over the bucket. We could then remove the bucket and move on to the next plant. We finished the lower garden in no time. We were wet and muddy but that actually felt good in the heat of the afternoon.

Northern gardeners know the calendar's no guarantee! Keep tender plants safe with FrostGuard, available at Lehman's.

Northern gardeners know the calendar’s no guarantee! Keep tender plants safe with reusable FrostGuards, available at Lehman’s.

Why Take The Time? Heirlooms Are Worth The Effort
I’m sure that any number of people would question the economics of going to such lengths for some squash. Squash is cheap and readily available in any supermarket. However, the selection is limited and the seed may not be viable for replanting either.

Having my own seed to both store for personal use and to add to my community’s seed bank is important to me so spending some extra time and money to ensure the continuation of this wonderful heirloom squash is a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

With my careful starting, I’m hoping for a good crop at harvest. The flavor and texture of the Oregon squash are amazing. It’s rich and buttery and sweet, even without any additions. It’s an excellent keeper too. The one drawback was the thick shell on this monster squash.

I could not get a cleaver through it. I finally resorted to dropping it from the deck on to the driveway! That split it neatly into several large pieces. My neighbors can be forgiven for assuming I have lost my mind some days.

*Note: Lehman’s says: For solo Wall O’ Water installation, try to place the Wall O’ Water where you’d like it. Using a watering can with the sprinkler removed, fill each tube–a funnel may be helpful here. Then, you won’t have to tote the filled Wall O’ Water from the hose. That’s less stress on your back and the Wall’s construction!

Kathy Harrison

About Kathy Harrison

Kathy Harrison is the author of Just in Case, Another Place at the Table, and One Small Boat. She is a national spokesperson for both foster parenting and family preparedness and has appeared on The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and National Public Radio. She lives with her family in western Massachusetts.