There are two categories of squash; winter squash and summer squash. Summer squash likes hot weather, matures rapidly, and does not store well. The compact plants produce an abundance of fruit. Winter squash is so named, not because it grows in the winter, but because it has a thick skin or shell and stores better. The plants are quite large and vine like their close relative the gourd. The fruit takes longer to mature than summer squash. We treat the two separately.
Plant summer squash after all danger of frost is past. Nurseries sell squash plants but the seed do just as well. There is no significant advantage in harvest time. They are available in different sizes and shapes from bright yellow crookneck and straight neck varieties to flat white “Patty Pan” with its distinctive scalloped edge.
Plant summer squash in “hills”. Mound up the soil to a gradual height of about ten to twelve inches above the surface with a diameter of at least three feet and a flat top. Plant three or four seeds in the top of each hill one inch deep and water thoroughly. Most varieties mature in about forty-five to fifty-five days.
Thin to one or two plants per hill. Mulch the plants with two inches of Nature’s Guide Hardwood Mulch. Its texture and ability to resist washing holds in moisture, keeps weed growth to a minimum and keeps the forming fruit off the soil.
The nemesis of summer squash is the squash bug. They use their piercing mouth parts to suck sap from the leaves leaving yellow spots. An infestation can lay waste to the entire crop. They are secretive and hide under the leaves and fruit making it difficult to control them with toxic insecticides without completely soaking the plants to cover the underside of the leaves. Dust Nature’s Guide Diatomaceous Earth on the plants early and often to prevent and control them. Because it is finer than some other dusts it is easier to cover the entire plant for effective control.
Female flowers sprout from infant fruits and male flowers grow from stems. Be careful as the squash forms, it can grow very rapidly. In a thick stand it is easy to miss some of the crop until is too large to be palatable. Provide plenty of water as the fruit forms and remember to re-apply the Nature’s Guide Diatomaceous Earth to replace any you wash away.
It might seem like a lot of trouble to grow summer squash but the high yields make it worthwhile. The fruit can be pickled when small or sliced and frozen.
Winter squash is planted in hills like summer squash but it has a vining habit. The plants grow close to the ground and produce a lot of leaves making it virtually self mulching. The vines are large and can be invasive. Only the largest garden spaces make growing winter squash practical.
The fruit takes reaches maturity in 90 to 110 days. It lies on the ground and has to be inspected frequently for insects. Lift each squash gently and apply a dusting of Nature’s Guide Diatomaceous Earth below it to prevent insect damage. Be very careful not to step on the stems or detach the fruit.
In southern climates heat is a problem so careful watering is necessary. Water well at base of the plants where they are rooted and keep water off the leaves where it might scald.
Yellow Crookneck Squash