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I did it again.

The row of winter squash in the kitchen garden is overrunning its neighboring rows, and their neighboring rows.

Its collective members are a vegetative monster.

About 40 feet of onions on either side will have to wait until after a hard frost to be pulled.

Various greens are buried in the canopy. Even the tomatoes several rows away are in jeopardy.

An entire row of beans is now covered by the Amazon jungle made from the vines and enormous leaves of a variety of winter squash plants, never to be seen again.

Maggie wants winter squash in the kitchen garden for good reason. It comes at the expense of another block of sweet corn, though.

A few years ago, a pumpkin patch on the back forty was obliterated by a pack of ATVs. As far as I could tell, it was a nighttime excursion by a few riders who, let us say, lacked judgment skills at that particular moment. It was quite a complete mess.

In recent years, deer have taken a liking to the pumpkins we grow away from the house. So, if a tree falls across a fence, the deer will pile in and feast. Deer do not waste time. They know how it goes.

If they don’t jump in and take advantage of the situation, I will have repaired the fence. Then they will have to go back to just staring forlornly over the fence at those luscious leaves and pumpkins.

One year they got into a patch that had a scarecrow in it. They respected the scarecrow for a radius of eight feet, and obliterated the rest of the garden. The eight feet around Mr. Scarecrow remained lush and green and orange.

Several years ago, a groundhog decided to move in next to one of the pumpkin patches. He did a lot of damage before I caught him in a cage trap and relocated him to a meadow far away from anyone’s gardens.

So, yes, there is good reason to grow winter squash near the house, where we have a better chance of protecting them. It means even if we don’t have many to sell, at least we have plenty for ourselves to get us through the winter.

They do take a lot of space, though.

This year we have contracted to have two really big branching white pine near the house removed.

That will mean we can expand the kitchen garden, because there will be less shade.

Hopefully that will also mean I will allow more room for the winter squash and pumpkins. I’m thinking I will need a minimum of 12 feet on either side of the plants.

That really seems an extravagance for a kitchen garden. I told myself to do the same thing last year, but at planting time I just couldn’t.

In the spring when you’re looking at how small a garden is, even if it’s a hundred feet long and 40 feet wide, it’s easy to think eight feet on either side will be enough.

It’s always a temptation to plant everything too close. Years of experience will finally teach you otherwise.

Those cabbages you plant 16 inches apart in the row will be touching each other by August. If you plant tomato rows four feet apart, they will be an impenetrable thicket come late summer.

It’s no fun to pick tomatoes and end up crushing plants, and getting tangled up.

But every year I seem to end up telling myself, “I did it again.”

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Forrest Hartley lives in Hadley. You can leave a message at And, in response to one message, no I do not have trouble with Bigfoot eating my goats.


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