Vegetable gardening is in my blood on both sides. My mother’s father had a farm in Norway and my father was raised on a farm in Texas. We had vegetable gardens and berries at our house and I love to eat food that grows in the yard. One of the first things I put in my garden when we bought the house we are in now was a rhubarb plant I bought at our town garden club plant sale. It has provided many stalks for crisps and pies, goes well with strawberries, and is currently on track to take over the entire garden.
Last year I decided to save some seeds for this year’s garden. I saved delicata and butternut squash seeds that had been locally grown by an organic farmer (Upswing’s Brittany Overshiner) as a hopeful experiment.
Meanwhile, and unrelated to that decision, I bought some carving pumpkins, decorative pumpkins, and winter squash to eat last fall.
The seeds, much fussed over and occupying a place of honor on the dining room table, were stored in envelopes. We enjoyed the squash, pumpkins, and jack-o-lanterns, and like good diligent homeowners we composted the uneaten bits of squash and post-season decorative pumpkins, including the seeds.
When spring came, we added compost to my garden and planted tomatoes, carrots, peppers, leeks, bush beans, cabbage, lettuce, radish, cucumbers, marigolds, nasturtium, delicata squash and butternut squash.
And all of those things grew.
But also there were many squash plants appearing. They popped up in all the beds, and even in the walkways. I started pulling them since I didn’t want them to shade and choke out what I’d planted. Apparently, our compost pile had not heated up enough to kill off the seeds we’d composted and they were everywhere; clearly we did a good job of mixing the compost since it appeared no square foot in the garden was without a squash plant!
After the first week or two of pulling them out to protect my delicate new seedlings and sprouting seeds, I decided to leave a few. Some part of me just couldn’t bear to pull them all out. I started to notice that they were not all the same: the leaves were slightly different from one plant to the next, which piqued my curiosity, and so I watered them along with everything else, cut back what was untenable, and waited.
It’s August as I write this. My garden has pathways through it… they are narrow. It’s like a jungle in there. I have a range of winter squash – the same kinds we ate last year, there are decorative pumpkins, big carving pumpkins and there are even some delicata and butternut squash, though it’s not clear they are the ones I intentionally saved and planted. I’ve also read that cross-pollination results in hybrid/mutant type squash so there will likely be squash that aren’t exactly like anything I bought last year.
I’m rolling with it, viewing this as an exercise is humility and a lesson in letting go. After all, it’s rare to get more than you asked for.