Planting Guide - Squash Seeds
Growing Squash in Your Garden
We carry both winter and summer varieties of squash. Summer squash produces thin-skinned fruit and is best suited for immediate consumption as they do not store well. They are wonderful eaten raw, Bar-B-Q’d, or added to stir fries, soups and even bread. Summer squash is usually eaten without peeling the skin. Winter squash produce fruit with thick skin that is not edible. They can be stored for long periods, well into the winter months if properly stored. We usually broil or bake winter squash, adding them to soups, and casseroles.
When & How to Plant Squash Seeds
Squash is a warm-season crop, so squash grows best where the summer is hot, dry and mostly sunny. Squash needs 50-65 days of soil and air temps between 60-75F, so take advantage of stretching your warm growing season out as much as you can. Either direct sow in your garden 2 weeks after all danger of frost has passed, or get a head start on the season by starting plants from seed indoors, 2-3 weeks before the last frost, then transplant your seedlings to the garden 4 weeks later.
Squash Growing Guide
Plant squash in full sun using loose, well-drained soil. Prepare planting beds by working in plenty of compost. Dig a hole 12” deep and 24” wide, fill with compost, manure and several handfuls of sand – this will create an area that is both moisture retentive and well-draining. Use the soil that was removed from the hole to create the mound and then sow your seed or transplant there.
Sow Squash seeds 2-3” deep, planting 4-6 seeds (or transplanting 2-3 of your strongest seedlings) in mounds that stretch 24” across. Planting on hills or mounds ensures that roots stay warm and the soil is well-drained. If direct sowing, wait until your young seedlings have developed two to three true leaves and choose to keep your strongest 2-3 plants by cutting the thinned out seedlings at soil level with scissors. If you pull out your weakest seedlings, you may disturb the tender roots of your remaining plants, so use of scissors or clippers is advised. Build mounds 4-5 feet apart.
Inverted hills – which can be used to retain moisture in dry regions – can be made by removing soil from an area about 20” across and using the soil to form a ring or circle. Plant 4-5 seeds in each inverted hill.
Squash grow best in soil that is kept evenly moist, and they require a lot of water in hot weather. Plants may wilt on hot days as they use water faster than the roots can supply, but as long as water is regular and deeply applied, wilted plants will liven up as the day gets cooler. Squash that is wilted in the morning needs immediate water. By adding aged compost to the planting beds prior to planting and then side dressing with more compost in mid-season, you’ll give these plants what they need to provide you will squash all season.
Summer squash will produce plants that contain both male and female blossoms. The first flowers to appear are male which will not provide fruit. They are usually on longer stems that reach out above the foliage. Female flowers appear slightly later and are pollinated by the male flowers with the help of bees and other insects. If this doesn’t happen, use a soft paintbrush to dust inside a male flower then carefully dust inside the female flower. Sometimes we have to help mother-nature along here!
Keep in mind that squash flowers are edible – you can stuff them or dip them in batter and deep fry them. I would use only the male flowers so as not to reduce the productivity of the plant!
Companion plants that do well with squash include borage, corn, marigolds, melons, nasturtiums, onions and radishes. Do not plant with Irish potatoes.
Possible Problems with Growing Squash
The cucumber beetle is the dreaded pest of all members of the Cucurbita family. Cucumber beetles are either striped or spotted and feed on the leaves of the plant and can cause even greater damage.
Most squash are susceptible to a variety of bacteria and fungus diseases. The most common are powdery mildew and bacterial wilt.
Squash belonging to the same species cross-pollinate easily, so if you grow them close together, their seeds won’t come true next season.
When and How to Harvest Squash
Harvest Summer Squash about 50-65 days from sowing. Pick when they are young and when rinds are still tender, usually 5-10 inches long. You can break them clean off the stem by twisting, or use a knife if you have one handy. Summer squash grows quickly, and before you know it you can have squash the size of your thigh, so check on your plants and harvest regularly! If left to grow too big, it zaps the plant of energy and just reduces your total yield.
Preparing for Next Season
Cucumber Beetles over-winter in plant debris. Make sure you remove all plant debris in the fall so as not to provide these harmful insects a home.