Friday, July 27, 2007

Continued Seedling Growth

This morning I counted 51 hills of the 58 with at least one set of cotyledons up. Some seem to be taking their time coming up. In some cases the first true leaf is up, and even the second leaf. The top photo is a hill of a zucchini type of squash, with the first true leaf coming to a point. The bottom photo is a patty-pan type of squash, with a more rounded first leaf. The zucchini leaves also have some whitish patches that are lacking in the patty pans, but they are hard to see in this image.

In a few weeks there will be squash for sale at the Nampa Farmers' Market!

I've done a little work in the squash bed since planting the seeds. First, I scattered sulfur pellets and rock phosphate pellets on each hill. I should have scattered them around the garden when we put the compost on, but I forgot, or didn't have time. It's OK to get them on late. The sulfur dissolves with irrigation into sulfuric acid which temporarily decreases the soil pH. Our soil is very alkaline, about 8.3. By adding sulfur, I can lower the pH for a while to something closer to a neutral 7.0 which is most plants prefer over the high 8.3 alkaline soil. It's a temporary fix; I'll have to add sulfur again once or twice this season to keep the pH low.
The lower pH also helps make iron more readily available to the plant. Iron binds with soil particles at high pH, preventing the plant from using it. The leaves start to yellow. Lower the pH and the plant can absorb more iron, and they leaves are a richer green color.

Phosphorus is not a problem in our soil generally, but I like to add a little to crops that have fruits. Once tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and squash start to flower and set fruit, they use more phosphorus. You don't want to give the plants too much nitrogen or they get very leafy and don't produce as many fruit.

I've also spread some straw over the ground around some of the squash hills to help keep in moisture. This may help bring up the seedlings that have been slow to sprout. I need to spread more straw this weekend. The straw may also hold down weeds some, but the weeds seem to grow through anyways. So, my main reason for the straw mulch is to conserve soil moisture.

Time spent so far on the squash patch:
20 minutes spreading sulfur and phosphorus
20 minutes spreading straw
15 minutes planting three additional hills, and replanting 3 hills with no seedlings yet.

Total so far: ~10.5 man hours

No comments: