You can keep your winter squash producing longer by mulching them to protect the soil through the cold weather. You have harvested all of your summer vegetables, but you still have some fruit on the vines that are starting to shrivel. They are hard and dry enough for storage, but you want to continue gathering their delicious crop.
How to mulch winter squash
The following treatment will improve your chances of getting more out of winter squash keeps in storage:
- Cover with black plastic or some other type of mulch after harvesting and just before a killing frost is expected. Use staples or U-shaped pins to fasten the plastic securely around the stems near ground level.
- Be sure to remove the mulch carefully when spring arrives so it doesn’t suppress new plantings next season.
- Black plastic mulch is not necessary for winter squash grown in containers. These can be removed and stored indoors where they will continue to ripen.
- You may want to try this system with your summer squash and cucumbers. You’ll probably get more and better-tasting fruit throughout those seasons as well.
Remember: This treatment should be used only on fully mature, hard fruits with good coloration before the first frost risk.
The best way to avoid dying from either of those diseases is to plant resistant varieties. That’s true for both powdery and downy mildew resistance.
An important aspect of managing these two diseases is that you want to maintain high humidity in your squash patch. If you remove the leaves as instructed below, be sure to leave some kind of mulch on top of the soil surface where the vines grow. Straw, grass clippings, shredded paper, etc. will all do a fine job – provided it stays relatively dry.
If you prefer not to remove the leaves, there are several alternatives that can help preserve your crops. The easiest is to water in the morning rather than the evening, so that the vines and foliage have time to dry out before evening arrives. There are also some fungicides that will give good control of powdery mildew, if applied preventatively before infection becomes severe (and it’s too late). Be sure to ask at your garden supply center for something appropriate for vegetables .