How to Use Squash Pits for Bigger Garden Yields

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What is a Squash Pit?

If you’ve already read David the Good’s book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting, then you might already be familiar with his ideas about “melon pit composting.” In this video, Marjory adapts his idea to create a rich planting bed for squash this spring.

You can learn more about this simple method for increasing your veggie production, and lots of other cool, innovative ideas from David the Good, during the upcoming Home Grown Food Summit. During the summit, David is presenting his new “feature film” Extreme Composting – The Movie.

If you’re already a member of the [Grow] Network, then you’re already signed up for the event! So keep an eye on our newsletter each Tuesday and Friday for upcoming announcements. If you don’t receive our newsletters, you can sign up for the Home Grown Food Summit here: Register Now

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Michael Ford


Contributor

Michael has been the resident editor at The [Grow] Network since January 2015. Michael grew up in St. Louis, where he became a lover of nature - hiking and fishing his way through the Ozark hills in Missouri. He attended Baylor University in Waco, TX, and he currently lives in Austin. Michael has background experience in small-scale farming, commercial growing, vegetable gardening, landscaping, marketing, and software development. He received his Permaculture Design Certification from the Austin Permaculture Guild in 2013.


37 Comments
  • Joe

    So, –> <— that much equals 6 inches… cool! No wonder my wife is happy!
    Also, you must be one tough chick to dig holes with a shovel in BARE Feet. Note to self: "Don't mess with Marjory!" I used to live in Texas, but i don't remember the ladies being so tough.

    Thanks for the tip!
    Joe

    • Fayette

      I also noticed the bare feet. I can dig a good hole but not barefoot! I noticed at the end you put the stick in it to mark it for spring, what then is the time of year to do this pit?

  • CaptTurbo

    What a woman! Diggin’ while barefoot!

  • Marilyn

    Thank you for all the information that I have received. I’m praying and asking GOD for a place where I can call my own to bless others and be a blessing to work for him.

  • GB

    just wondering if i can do this with shredded papers as well
    i tend to keep colored glossy papers separate, always fearing the colors might not be good in the garden – then again, nature breaks down a lot of junky stuff
    card board should soak up water well too… oh the possibilities !
    my phone books however, are still needed to make booster seats for the little ones

    • Sandy

      Glossy paper is often colorful.

      When I studied graphics technology in a previous century, we were informed that ink pigments had been reformulated to soy based inks. I think there was some understanding that heavy metal pigments were a problem, but I don’t know if workarounds have been developed for all colors.
      Since only a small percentage of the soy crop is non-GMO, I figure adding colors, and maybe any ink is going to add GMO’s to my soil.

    • CARRIE LONSDALE

      Shredded paper is a YES. Note to all I compost I have one outside near a wood fence and one in my self made greenhouse. I have also started using my composting scraps in flower pots I have outside. This provides nutrients to your plants as they decay instead of waiting for the compost. I also have red wrigglers indoors to compost all year and use that for indoor plants. I use my coffee grounds for my hydrangea and tomato plants outside since they like more acidic soils. Also my compost piles sprout amazing plants from the seeds tat go into it. Last year I got tomato and squash plants so cool to watch them sprout. Also as I move the compost around the yard to enrich the soil plants start to sprout which is hilarious! Keep those eggshells and crunch up around your plants to help with invaders. can’t wait for this season all of my red romaine made it through the winter some carrots and beets did as well in my unheated greenhouse with PVC and plastic wrap and clips.

  • Jacqueline

    Looks like a plan to me, great idea. Two birds with one stone sort of thing.
    You should be this animated more often…
    By the way…I loved your measurement guidelines! Perfect!

  • Amy

    I am just concerned about all the dyes and chemicals, ink etc.?

    • Juan Jorge

      Me, too. I like the concept though. So, I think I’ll be picky about what I compost, such as cardboard, plain paper, etc. Definitely, don’t want to use that thermal paper that they print receipts on.

  • George

    I like the technique to hold more water below the top soil. I do have concerns about Marjory teaching this while digging barefoot. She is a big example of permeability and common sense advice,however I feel in teaching these values she should also encourage safety . Digging with a shovel while barefoot si not a good example of digging safely. .

    • Profile photo of George Horsley

      Depends on where you were raised…bare foot is normal at my house. Safety is more about common sense. If you are not used to working on a farm perhaps you might need steel toed boots.

  • Pam

    Sort of a minihugelculture 🙂

  • Joan

    I guess it don’t get more down to earth than barefoot women, and she is funny too, but don’t you get stickers in your feet?

  • DeborahAnn

    So, I have someone near and dear to me that insists that the inks from anything printed would be bad in the garden, and ultimately us, since we eat the food from the garden. Is this a real concern?

  • Jackie Macgirvin

    I’ve heard you aren’t supposed to use any flyers with color on them, or anything other than plain black and white newspaper in the garden because of the chemicals in the colored ink.

    • tom

      digging barefoot, wow… Colored ink in newsprint used to contain heavy metals, so i’ve always avoided putting them in the garden — but i believe i read somewhere that they were reformulated without the ‘bad’ things – either for landfill issues or because heavy metals tend to be expensive and the new substitutes were cheaper…. i probable should have investigated!…lol

      • gb

        news print i read that quite some time ago, but i do not trust those glossy advertisements.

  • Juan Jorge

    That was a cute video! Love the concept, too, of making use of junk mail, phonebooks, etc. to retain water through the season. I was also impressed with your tough feet, lady! Wow! I like going barefoot through the grass once in a while. I think I’ve only ever used the shovel while barefoot, maybe couple times. Anyway, love to see country folk in action and in their bare feet! LOL

  • Sully

    Hahahaha Marjory, you have been my hero since day 1, but that 6 inch joke brought you straight to Goddess status. Well done.

  • Valerie

    The squash pit sounds like a great idea, but I am concerned about the toxic inks made from petroleum products that are on all the paper you are putting into the soil, which will in turn end up in the plants.

  • Tag

    Will the squash pit also work well for cucumbers and melons?

  • Ellen

    How wonderful was that? Can’t wait until the Summit.I am trying to be as self sustaining as I can on my city lot. All this information is all new to me and wonderful!! Thanks!!

  • leigh

    “old photos” “junk mail” chemicals much?

  • Thomas

    I do NOT think this is a good idea. So many different toxins could be in the inks and such from the old mail. I would NOT want that in my growing soil. Makes no sense to me…

  • Jim

    New inks are mostly made from soy. Hopefully that is not harmful.

  • Kelly Hebert

    Majory–Starting at about the 2:45 mark, you mentioned not knowing what it was about sand, but there’s never enough sand to go back in the hole…I’m guessing that sand is just like dirt…I thought my husband was joking, but it has been proven true, time & time again…If you dig a hole during a full moon, there’s generally dirt left over, after you fill the hole back in…& if you dig a hole during a new moon, there’s usually not enough to fill the hole back up…One of nature’s mysteries; I have not idea how this happens, but I’ve witnessed it with my own eyes!

  • Sandy

    Love the squash pit idea!
    And loved watching how easily your shovel sank into your soil!
    Where I am, top soil is very thin, so I dump it on a flattened cardboard box so as much as possible feeds the veggies, rather than the weeds!
    Looking forward to seeing what happens when the squash meets the remains of the phone books!

  • Profile photo of Boyd Badten

    I’ve done this and it works great!! I have a south-facing side-hill which had nothing but wild grass on it. I dug two big holes in it, 4 feet wide and 3 feet deep in the fall and filled the bottom half of each hole with wood, kitchen waste and dried leaves. I filled the top half with compost and let it sit this way over winter. In the spring I planted several kinds of winter squash on each hill and we had a huge bumper crop of over 400 lbs of squash from those two hills. The squash plants covered the entire side-hill and I found some vines that were over 30 feet long. I’m in southwest Montana at 4500 feet elevation so we need every advantage we can get. They were watered for 15 minutes twice a day via timer which also helped. This is a great technique for heavy feeders like squash.

  • I’m digging today to try this even though I won’t be waiting months later to plant… I figure even without breaking down, if I soak the stuff with water, it has to hold moisture better than the soil could do without it! Nothing to lose anyway, right? I will try a few squash pits and a few traditional hills to compare….. I expect a two year trial would be best as next year after the paper breaks down better could be my best harvest…… LOVED the joke and the bare feet! Stay silly! I love to see fun and humor! I keeps us all young and happy!

  • Profile photo of Teddy Plaisted

    Folks, I definitely would not use phone books, printed material or other items which have chemicals you do not want in your food supply. I live with sand for soil, so love the idea of retaining water in the ground, but I don’t love the idea of eating my phone book or junk mail or …. Please remember that if you put stuff in the ground and plant on top of it, you will have the “pleasure” of eating that stuff. Loved the video and the enthusiasm other than that.

  • Love this. I have built some huglekulture beds with fallen wood. They work very well. Now, I can try some “paperkulture beds”! Think I will try raised paperkultur beds. I do have a hardpan problem. And at age 74, a 3 foot deep hole in hardpan is not do able! Chronicle of my adventure to permaculture. http://www.steps2permaculture.com

  • I love working in the garden barefoot, especially with soft, cool grass under my feet! My soil has more clay than sand, but that’s great that you’ve been able to retain more water in Sandy soil through “recycling.”

    I remember taking that squash photo. It was one of my early gardens, before I learned the importance of mulch. I planted squash in trenches to prevent water run-off. We also get strong winds occasionally, and the trench helped prevent the plant from blowing over.

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