Asked June 5, 2013, 7:40 PM EDT

My veggie starts are struggling. Am in Ashland and it is hot. Is the only solution shade cloth and mulch? Or am I missing something. I planted a zuchini in almost total shade and it is doing the best. But I thought squash needs lots of sun to fruit...And my pumpkins are barely alive. They get lots of water. Thanks!

Jackson County Oregon

2 Responses

Thanks for checking with Ask an Expert. Many vegetable "starts" or transplants need a period after planting to adjust to the great outdoors--shade cloth is one great way to provide the environment they need to get acclimated for the first couple of weeks. Another factor may be what happened before planting: if you started your own plants, you may not have "hardened them off" by providing an indoors at night and outdoors during the day acclimatization period before planting. And it's sad to say, many commercial growers' plants go straight from a greenhouse to a refrigerated truck to the store shelves. The same is true for plants purchased at farmers' markets, etc. Always ask the farmer if the plants are hardened off when purchasing them.
Mulching is always a good idea , not only to prevent weeds, but also for water conservation. Use an organic mulch such as straw, grass clippings, shredded leaves around, but not touching the stem of, the plant. Two to three inches is plenty. Ashland is notorious for decomposed granitic soils---are yours? If so, water tends to go right through the "soil". Your best bet is to garden in raised beds or containers. You can get information on both methods by checking the many publications on vegetable gardening in raised beds at extension.oregonstate.edu/publications. Squash and pumpkins are best started by seed, incidentally, as they do not transplant well. (Why do the stores sell them, especially big ones?) You still have time to purchase some seeds and get them going--in the sun, yes. you can seed directly into soil or into a container. Keep the seeds evenly moist. After germination, squash and pumpkins need to be watered regularly --probably daily when it's hot, every other day when it's reasonable.Apply the water at ground level as those big leaves mildew easily if they are allowed to get wet, especially in warm weather. Don't despair: there are ways to have a wonderful garden even when it's hot, even when the drainage is too good, and even when we have to learn some different ways to do things!

Thanks so much!