I want right now to disenfranchise each and every one of you from trying to grow pumpkins for your Thanksgiving Cornucopia. You cannot grow pumpkins, gourds, cucumbers, zucchini, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, or any other cucurbits that are displayed on November calendar spreads across the land.
'Winter squash' is a huge misnomer that understandably throws many a gardener off on the regular. All cucurbits need warm weather to germinate and to thrive. Cucurbits, for the record, include, among other things, all of your squashes, cucumbers, zucchinis, pumpkins, and gourds.
In our climate, it’s actually a bit of a challenge to make any of these things really take off, but it’s a challenge worth taking on if you do it at the right time. Starting seeds for winter squash simply will not end well if you get started in September or later.
So why winter squash? Why did the naming powers that be play such a cruel trick on our ever-trusting literally predisposed minds? And why do we worship kittens in witch hats wrapping themselves around green speckled goblin gourds in the Autumn? It is beause these fruits are harvested in the Autumn. We pick our pumpkins in the Fall, we don’t start growing them in the fall. Pumpkins don’t take weeks to grow, they take months to grow, and their time to shine comes when the cold and darkness prevail.
Winter Squashes are also harvested in the Autumn, making its name all the more misleading. They are named such because they have hard shells that preserve the yummy foodstuffs within them very efficiently, and in the old times winter squashes could be stored for many months in the cellar to be eaten as needed through the meager Winter months.
So to summarize, Winter Squashes are planted in Summer, harvested in Fall, and eaten in the Winter.
While we are on the topic of Seasonality, I would like to remind you that you can’t just grow whatever you want whenever you want to here in New Orleans just because we have a year-round growing season.
The following plants will definitely not grow well if you start them now:
Anybody selling you these plants or seeds is knowingly or unknowingly trying to bamboozle you. Be informed. Do not be bamboozled.
The good news is, you can grow damn near anything else this time of year, including but certainly not limited to:
Greens, all the greens.
Fall is finally really here. It is the best time to grow food in New Orleans. better still, you can pretty much get things started anytime between now and Mid-January if you want a solid food garden throughout the Winter and into the Spring. So get to it whenever. See ya in the dirt pit.
Ian writes these. Fearlessly.