Summer Crops: How to Boost Squash

New to vegetable gardening? Start with squash. This easy-to-grow plant is all but sure to thrive and produce an abundant harvest, even in the event that you’ve never put a hand at the dirt before. Experienced gardener? Branch out from recognizable zucchini and croockneck kinds and experimentation together with the literally tons of other varieties out there.

Are you currently a cook that wishes to experiment using home-grown produce? Few veggies offer such a range of options, from blossoms to nibble to rapidly grilled fruit in summer; squash also stores well long-term following the harvest for cold and soups dishes, not to mention quick breads, relishes and desserts.

All squash varieties are warm-season edibles, but you’ll sometimes find the terms “summertime” and “winter” utilized to define them. These titles refer to when that wide variety of squash is harvested and how well it retains. Summer squashes are harvested and eaten, all, when they are still young, during the summertime. Winter squashes are not harvested until late in the summer or early fall, when the skin is tough and inedible. These kinds can be kept for some months, hence the “winter” designation. Whichever you develop, the planting and care requirements will be the same.

Squash is traditionally known for its enormous growth. But if your space is limited, then you may search for more available compact or bush varieties.

More summer crops to start in spring

Jocelyn H. Chilvers

Days to maturity: 45 to 65 for summer squash; 60 to 110 for winter squash
moderate requirement: Total sun
Water necessity: Regular


Summer squash: Early Yellow Crookneck, Pic-N-Pic Hybrid and Sundance (crookneck); Benning’s Green Tint, Peter Pan and Sunny Delight (patty pan); Historical Prolific and Zephyr (straightneck); Black Beauty, Cocozelle, Costata Romanesco, Eight Ball and Green Tiger Striped (zucchini)

Winter squash: Honey Bear, Table Ace, Table King and Table Queen (acorn); Banana; Blue Hubbard (hubbard); Bon Bon Buttercup and Historical Buttercup (turban/buttercup); Burpee’s Butterbush, Pilgrim Hybrid and Waltham Butternut (butternut); Cornell’s Bush Delicata; Lakota; Spaghetti

Ecocentrix landscape design

Planting: Look for a warm, sunny site with well-drained, fertile soil. Sow seeds about two weeks after the last frost date when soil temperatures reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). You can start seeds indoors about one week before that date.

For the vining varieties of summer squash, which may sprawl to 4 feet across, sow seeds 2-3 inches deep and 12 to 18 inches apart, in rows that are 6 to 8 feet apart. When seedlings emerge, thin to 4 to 5 feet apart. Set out seedlings with this same spacing.

You can also construct hills or tiny mounds and sow four or five seeds per hill, in rows 7 to 2 feet apart. Thin to 2 plants per hill or set out two seedlings per hill. Sow “bush” skillet 1 foot apart, in rows 3 to 5 feet apart; thin to 2 to 4 feet apart or put out seedlings at the same spacing. Summer squash is also grown in a pot; choose a large container to find the best results.

Ecocentrix landscape design

Leave more space for the largest winter squash, such as banana squash and melon squash, whose fruits can reach 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 feet in length. To conserve space, consider growing skillet on a very hardy framework or trellis. This works for most skillet, though zucchini appears to be an exception.

Caution: Do not overplant. Too many squash plants will result in you creating midnight runs to leave your extra produce on the doorsteps of unsuspecting neighbors … and they’ll hunt you down.

Amy Renea

Care: Water profoundly following planting and water regularly during the growing season; approximately 1 inch per week is best. Either flood the soil beneath the plant or use a soaker hose; water on the leaves, stalks and flowers could result in mold. Fertilize once flowers have formed and the fruit is starting to set.

Once the fruit strains, put a board or piece of foam under winter squash to prevent corrosion. Support fruit onto a trellis using a cloth bag or netting. The fruit will be heavy, so make sure that your service is sturdy.

Aphids, cucumber beetles, cutworms, mites, nematodes and the aptly named squash borers and squash bugs can cause problems. Powdery and downy mildews could be a problem as well. Row covers may protect young plants from cutworms, slugs and squash bugs. Remove them after the plants start blossoming to ensure pollination. If squash borers are a problem, look for resistant varieties.

Julie Ranee Photography

Harvest: Summer squash are often ready to harvest about two months after planting. Crookneck and scallop varieties should be approximately 2-3 inches, while zucchini and straightneck varieties should be 4 to 6 inches. Cut the stem close to the fruit using a sharp knife or shears. The stalks can be bothersome, so you might need to wear gloves. Once the fruits start to grow, you’ll want to stay on top of harvesting; overnight that miniature zucchini can become a monster.

Harvest winter squash when the vines have dried and skin is tough enough that you can not dent it with a fingernail. It may survive light frost but should be harvested prior to heavy frost. Cut the stem with a knife approximately two inches above the fruit. Let the fruit sit at a cool area outside until the stalks shrivel, then keep in a dry basement or garage using a temperature of approximately 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius). Winter squash keeps for two to six months.

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