How To Grow Pattypans
When planning your vegetable garden, pattypans are probably not the first vegetable to come to mind. To be honest, they’re probably near the bottom of my list and a vegetable I normally avoid in the grocery aisle. But in the garden, they can be incredibly rewarding plants that deliver impressive harvests with very little effort.
This summer, consider adding pattypans to your squash patch for some added variety without the extra maintenance.
Late spring or early summer is the perfect time for pattypan planting. Seeds can be sown directly into the ground or into small pots for later transplanting. Amend soil with compost before planting but avoid adding too much nitrogen if you’re looking for a full harvest. Don’t plant in compacted soils that don’t drain well as this can lead to blossom drop and withered fruit. Germination is quick, with the first greenery popping up within two weeks.
Thin the seedlings out to a spacing of around half a meter to a meter – these plants have a large spread. When growing several plants at once, it can help to add markers after planting to indicate where the centre of the plant lies for watering. Alternatively, install drip irrigation to completely saturate the soil without getting any moisture on leaves and fruits.
For strong fruit development, regular watering is key. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings while the plant becomes established, watering more often as flowers emerge and fruits start to develop. When the weather is warm, you may need to water as often as two or three times a week to prevent wilting and to improve harvests. Feed with a low-nitrogen fertiliser once per month (depending on type and concentration), beginning just before flowering, to increase yield.
Keep an eye out for fungal issues in wet weather, especially in humid regions of the country. Like other squashes, pattypans are prone to problems like powdery mildew that can quickly spread throughout a patch if not controlled. As these issues are difficult to get rid of, its best to plant early and harvest before the bulk of the rainy season kicks in. Also avoid watering overhead to keep droplets off the leaves and fruit and space correctly to improve airflow.
Your plants will be ready for harvest in around two months from planting. As good as the colours look in your vegetable patch, it’s best to harvest often to encourage more fruit production. Trim the fruit off the stem with a pair of sharp shears and bring indoors for a delicious summer dinner.
For a colourful harvest, plant different types of pattypans together. This provides more interest not only in the garden, but also in the dishes you use them in. There is also variety in size between hybrids, allowing you to tailor your choices to your garden and kitchen needs.
Frikkie Janse van Rensburg is Starke Ayres’ Product Manager specialising in lettuce, indoor pepper, cucumber, scallops and zucchini.
Pattypans are a member of the cucurbit family and are grown throughout the world. The ideal soil temperature for germination is between 20 – 25°C (minimum 16°C) and the ideal temperature for growth is between 18 – 24°C.
Best results are obtained with well-drained soils. Low salt levels and high organic matter are preferred with a soil pH of 5.8 – 7.0. The soil should be thoroughly prepared and deeply loosened before planting. Any residue from previous crops should be well-rotted.
All marrows are sensitive to cold temperatures and frost will kill young plants and damage older ones. The crop can be planted anywhere there is no danger of frost during the growing period.
Most pattypans are planted directly into the soil. Seedlings must be transplanted before they become root-bound in seed trays.
Pattypans respond well to organic fertilisation but will often also need supplementary inorganic applications to obtain best results. After a few years of building up the soil with organics, the inorganic component will become less important.
Water requirements will vary with soil type, season and growth stage. Avoid over-irrigation and waterlogging. The amount of water needed is generally 25 – 40 mm per week. Drip irrigation is preferred as the leaves remain dry. Plastic mulching is often used in winter to increase soil temperature and speed up growth. Weed control is also facilitated. A sharp knife is used to cut the fruit from the plants. Fruit should be washed thoroughly before eating. Look out for Starke Ayres pattypan variety Squash Patty Mix available at retailers countrywide. www.starkeayres.com