PUMPKINS AND ITALIAN SQUASH/ZUCCHINI

PUMPKINS AND ITALIAN SQUASH/ZUCCHINI

Large pumpkins, also known as Cucurbita maxima, are relatives of the squash, Cucurbita pepo, but not too much. In fact, in the ancient history of the European continent, large pumpkins were used for millennia while the squash, native of Central America (Mexico) was introduced only after 1700. Both belong to the cucurbitacee family, like the melon, watermelon, and cucumber. There are many varieties of pumpkin that over thousands of years have been used both for food as well as other purposes: musical instruments (maracas), containers and flasks for liquids, sponges for cleaning the body (luffa), and lastly, for ornamental purposes. Regarding this last use, hundreds of varieties have, over the years, caught the attention of a vast number of collectors. Another curious custom is the use of orange pumpkins for the celebration of Halloween. From a nutritional perspective, the pumpkin's pulp has little value, only 18 Kcal/100g, but contains elevated quantities of vitamins A, C, and B9 and has a high content of potassium as well as a low quantity of sodium, not to mention its naturally detoxifying properties. It is also rich in fiber and, like all orange fruits, rich in beta-carotene. Its cultivation occurs during hot periods, from late spring and into the summer. During this period, the pumpkins and the squash can be cultivated in open field, obtaining, in the first case, fruits that will mature toward the end of summer, while in the second case the still unripe fruits will be harvested as they develop.

CULTIVATION

Pumpkins and squash are transplanted on soils placed in prose (strip of land between two furrows) to avoid dangerous water stagnation, usually beginning in late April when temperatures exceed 12-15 ° C. One should avoid planting the seedlings on the same ground already used to grow cucurbits. These crops take advantage of soils rich in humus and organic matter. Fertilization must take into account that the ratios of removal of the main elements (NPK) are 1: 0.3: 2.6, demonstrating the soil's great need of potassium and a good nitrogen supply. A good basic fertilizer, prior to tillage, should provide 10 kg / sqm of compost, in addition to 100 g / sqm of potassium sulphate and 30 g / sqm of ammonium nitrate or 50 g of guano. In the case of squash, during production—at intervals of 2-3 weeks—sprinkle the ground with 20 g / sqm of guano or any other nitrogen-based fertilizer. Regular irrigation is extremely important for both the squash's and the pumpkin's growth. Throughout the cycle, the crop should be irrigated thoroughly to avoid developing wilting symptoms. The transplant, in the case of the squash, should be covering some 1.20 m between rows and 0.80 m - 1.00 m on the row, for a density of 0.8 to 1.2 plants / sqm.

ADVERSITIES

The pumpkin fears continuous cropping, or prolonged plantation on the same land or on parcels that have hosted other cucurbits. This is because such land, during cultivation, is enriched with pathogenic fungi such as fusarium and verticillium, which attack the plant (easily penetrated by the rootage or the collar). The foliage can be attacked by pseudo mildew, but it is also very sensitive to attack by powdery mildew. To contain these parasites, it is opportune to intervene with copper and sulfur- based compounds, repeated every 2-3 weeks. With regard to the insects, aphids are particularly harmful but can be easily contained by spraying natural pyrethroids or by launching predatory insects. A final warning should be given with regard to the attacks of the red spider mite, distinguished by the fine cobweb woven on the vegetative apex and below the leaves. These can be fought using the predatory mite Phytoseiulus persimilis.