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How to Grow Vining Vegetables

You need lots of room when you grow vining vegetables like cucumbers, melons, squash, and pumpkins. Don't have the growing space for vining vegetables? No worries; you can plant the smaller, bush (nonvining) varieties of some of these plants.

The vining vegetables belong to the cucumber family (Cucurbitaceae) of plants. They all love heat; grow long stems; have separate male and female flowers on the same plant; produce lots of fruits; and take up a great deal of room in the garden.

First, choose a full-sun area of your garden. Plant seeds about 1 inch deep in the soil, and space them so they have room to ramble. For vining varieties, plant hills at least 6 to 10 feet apart. For bush varieties, plant seeds about 2 to 4 feet apart.

Here are some other growing tips:

  • *Fertilize: Add a 3- to 4-inch layer of compost to each planting bed. To increase fruiting, add a side-dressing of 5-5-5fertilizer after the plants begin vining.

  • Water: To get the best-sized and best-tasting vining crops, give your plants a consistent supply of water. The general rule is to water so that the soil is wet 6 inches deep.

Hand-pollinating vining vegetables

Proper pollination is a key to growing cucumber-family crops. Poor pollination can cause problems; for example: zucchini rotting before it starts growing, too few fruits on squash plants, and misshapen cucumber fruits.

Pollinate the plants by hand to ensure a bountiful crop yield. Just follow these steps:

  1. Identify the male and female flowers.

    Male flowers are long and thin, whereas female flowers are short and have a minifruit behind their
    Male flowers are long and thin, whereas female flowers are short and have a minifruit behind their flowers.
  2. Before noon on the morning that the male flower opens, pick the male flower and remove the petals to reveal the stamen, which contains yellow pollen.

  3. Swish the stamen around inside a female flower that has just opened. Repeat with other female flowers, using the same male flower.

    Stay awake for some cuddling.

Enemies that target vining vegetables

Here are a few diseases and pests that love vining crops:

  • Anthracnose: This fungus loves cucumbers, muskmelons, and watermelons. During warm, humid conditions, the leaves develop yellow or black circular spots, and fruits develop sunken spots with dark borders. Space plants a few feet further apart than normal so the leaves can dry quickly. Destroy infected leaves and fruits and rotate crops yearly.

  • Bacterial wilt: Sure signs of the disease are well-watered plants that wilt during the day but recover at night. Eventually, the plants wilt and die. To control this disease, plant resistant varieties and control the cucumber beetle, which spreads bacterial wilt in your garden.

  • Cucumber beetle: This 1/4-inch-long, yellow- and black-striped (or spotted) adult beetle feeds on all cucumber-family crops. The adults eat leaves, and the larvae feed on roots. To control cucumber beetles, cover young plants with a floating row cover or apply a botanical spray such as pyrethrin on the adult beetles.

  • Squash bug: These 1/2-inch-long, brown or gray bugs attack squash and pumpkins late in the growing season. They can quickly stunt your plants. To control these pests, crush the masses of reddish-brown eggs on the underside of leaves. Also, rotate crops and clean up plant debris in fall where the squash bugs overwinter.

  • Squash vine borer: In early summer, the adult moths lay eggs on squash or pumpkin stems. After the eggs hatch, white caterpillars tunnel into the plants' stems. They can cause well-watered vines to wilt during the day and eventually die. Look for entry holes and the sawdust-like droppings at the base of your plants.

    To control these pests, slit your plant's stem lengthwise from the entry hole toward the tip of the vine with a sharp razor, and remove the caterpillar. Then cover the stem with soil; it will reroot itself.

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