Thursday, August 12, 2010

Zucchini Hale

"The first zucchini I ever saw I killed it with a hoe."
                               John Gould, 'Monstrous Depravity' 1963.

It's how they treat zucchini in some parts of the country i suppose. Ditching it in doorways and unlocked cars. Not that i am judging, no. I might act the same way if i lived somewhere else. Somewhere zucchini grows effortlessly, accidentally even, with reckless blind abundance. I have heard that there are such places. But here, in the land of the melon fly and the pickle worm, zucchinis must be grown on purpose.

Last winter 'on purpose' meant growing parthenocarpic zucchini and building a house of PVC and tulle. The PVC and tulle  are widely available and not too expensive. The zucchini seeds had to be sent for and arrived in the mail only after i promised a ridicuous sum for postage to a certain company doing business west of the Cascades. In time, zucchini were harvested.  The house was not pretty but it was a success! Still, i felt i could do better.

I trolled the internet for ideas and then ordered some Agribon-15 from Johnny's and picked up a CRW panel from Home Depot. Agribon 15 is the lightest weight of row cover and lets in water and light without too much heat build-up. It also makes me feel very professional. CRW is wire mesh with 4x4 inch openings. It is used in concrete work and usually sold in rolls but you can also find handy 4x6 precut panels. It's common to see hoop houses framed with pvc or metal conduit formed into semicircular supports but it's windy here and CRW provides a better undersupport for the Agribon. The edges of the CRW panel are anchored by pushing a few lengths of rebar into the ground. The Agribon is draped over the top and rocks anchor the excess fabric at each end of the tunnel. 

I like this design a lot but the wire stubs at the ends of the CRW panel have poked holes in the fragile Agribon. It doesn't look bad in this picture but after a few weeks of tugging wind the holes are much larger. Next time i will trim the wires flush with bolt cutters and mount some old drip line along the edge for protection. 

I harvested my second zucchini of the season today. I'm dreaming of masa harina zucchini crepes with tomatillo salsa, cheese stuffed zucchini boats, zucchini tart, stuffed zucchini blossoms, zucchini galette and zucchini noodles. And after that? Well, you might want to start locking your car doors...


A Kitchen Garden in Kihei Maui said...

WOW!!! That's a wonderful solution and it turned out beautifully! I feel the same way about zucchini...I just planted seeds AGAIN...maybe this time...or maybe next time...? Or maybe I better build one of these too!

Susan said...

I haven't tried zucchini (or several other veggies) because of the fruit fly, but your little house looks like the solution. I live on only 1/2 acre oceanfront on the BI and started my veggie garden in May. Not sure if I have the room for a little zuch house, but I will give it some think time! Way to go!


Julie said...

Thanks Jane! I'd love to be growing Ronde de Nice or Benning's White Tint but all things considered i'm pretty happy to be harvesting Cavili.

Susan those fruit flies make so much humbug for me. Feels good to be getting one over on them!
So lucky you live on the Big Island-that Sonia is always blogging about some fun event. Looks like you are having some fun of your own over there ; )

Pomaika`i said...

Aloha, Julie,
I plan to build a windbreak like yours (is that 1.5 inch schedule 40 PVC?) for my garden, but I think Agribon would shred in the blasts we get - I had only 2 zukes last year, stubby little excuses for a squash, but I didn't see any pickleworms, probably because those moths can't land and lay eggs on vines that are thrashing around in the wind. I looked up some information on a suitable control, at , which lists Safer's "BioNEEM". It is nontoxic to bees and lady beetles, they say. Another source advised the floating row cover at night, since that's when the moths fly, but they are not flying during the day, when bees can do their thing. I wonder if BioNeem is approved for use in Hawaii.

Julie said...

LOL, tradewinds aren't as romantic as they sound, are they ; )

Barry, i used 1/2" PVC. Cheap and easy to find fittings. It doesn't need to support much and has held up fine. I used the frame in another part of the garden before moving it to the raised bed. It actually blew up and over an adjacent three foot high basil hedge and then across the lawn before i anchored it. After that i sank 4' sections of rebar halfway into the ground and slipped the PVC legs over the top. Worked like a charm.

In the post picture the legs are just pushed into the soil. Looks crooked because there are posts in each corner so the legs are a little out of square.

Peaceful Valley farm supply has a variety of PVC fitting and clips available but only for 1/2" dia.

Good research on the pickle worm. Yes, neem is pretty widely available here. Bt might also control the pickle worm. Truth is i am a little bit lazy and row covers seem easier than spraying.

I read a UH melon trial recently that talked about growing the melons under cover. The cover was removed for a few hours a day, once or twice a week, for pollination. Presumably this occurred during a time bees are active and melon flies are not. If i was here more often i'd give it a try.

Barry, i'd like to hear more about your building plans. One long windbreak or one for each bed? What are you going to use to cover the PVC frame?

Pomaika`i said...

Aloha, Julie,
I guess I flubbed an earlier reply to your question about the windbreak, so here's another try:
I think it will be heavier PVC, scedule 40, maybe 1.5 inch, 20' x 20' x 8' tall, with a center 6' x 6' raised to 10' high, sort of a truncated pyramid, anchored on the corners over 1/2" rebar. I'm still researching the fabric, since I don't want too much shade (or do I need more?), but I am thinking Tufbell might work, perhaps putting a 3/4" nylon birdnetting under it for reinforcement. I'll have to make some provision for opening it to allow da bees in and da kine. I still have time to "re-design" it a lot. Any comments you have, I'd love to har.

Julie said...

Wow, that sounds like a serious project! When you said 'windbreak' i pictured a line of something along the windward side of your garden. What you are describing sounds more like a screenhouse. I haven't heard of Tufbel, i'll have to ask my friend google about that. I have heard of Haiku gardeners who use mosquito netting to protect plants, maybe another option for you. You can buy large sheets online, even have it fabricated i think, and it's UV protected. Seed savers use similiar structures and there is a company that sells pretty nice screen covers for that application, too. I don't have the website handy but i can maybe look it up if you're interested. Kind of spendy, if i recall correctly.

If i was going to build what you are describing i probably would forgo allowing any kind of insect access and just grow crops that don't require a pollinator to produce~greens, peppers, tomatoes, parthenocarpics, beets, radishes, etc. You might even want to try hand pollination.

I'll be interested to see what your structure finally looks like.

Pomaika`i said...

Mahalo, Julie - mosquito netting over birdnet might be just the ticket,too. Those gusts are enough to shake the whole house at times, and my first little windbreaks broke down fast. That's why I'm over-engineering. I'm always trying to hand-pollinate the garden, since there are only a few bees anymore (Hmmmm, maybe I sneak in plans for an apiary?).