Getting the spacing right for indeterminate cucurbits

Variety plays a huge role when determining optimal cucurbit spacing.
Issue date : 28 November 2008

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Variety plays a huge role when determining optimal cucurbit spacing. Varieties with strong vines may differ widely as to how far from the crown they’ll set the first fruit. Boer pumpkins set them quite far away. Once the first fruit is set, female flowers will be far closer together than the distance from the crown to the first fruit. If the rows meet soon after the first fruit set or even before, there’ll be an enormous yield loss. T he really productive zone is from the first fruit setting until the vines meet in the middle.

This gap should be wide enough for enough fruit to be set to provide a full yield. In normal summer growing conditions, the minimum distance between Boer pumpkin rows should be 5m or wider. his will lower your costs and give you more control over weeds between rows and a higher yield. G overnment recommendations to private seed companies used to use an amount of seeds per hectare far exceeding the possible highest yield, if each seed produced one fruit.

In fact, they’d recommend two seeds per pumpkin produced, even at the highest yield potential suggested. As each plant could produce several pumpkins, clearly the trade was thumb-sucking. W hen the hybrid Crown Prince was introduced to the market, the seed was incredibly expensive. The lowest number of seeds per hectare for a full yield potential was calculated – 500g, a time when farmers were planting about 3kg to 4kg for Boer pumpkins, or even up to 10kg. S ince the plants compete for light, it’s clear that row width is more important than the plants’ distance apart in the row, as the bearing vines will still be growing into light.

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That needs to be calculated is how much one can open up row spacing without losing yield – important when working with expensive hybrid seed. We need to determine the lowest number of seeds required to produce a full yield. Growing conditions must also be taken into account, as fewer seeds are required in more favourable conditions. Y ou’ll need to do some trials to determine the ideal spacing for your conditions – Bill Kerr ((016 366 0616 or e-mail [email protected]). |fw