One Of The Most Rewarding Crops
Squash are notoriously vigorous and productive garden plants. For fresh consumption, most families only need one or two plants. Planting a whole row or garden bed with squash will pretty much guarantee a year’s supply for you and the rest of the neighborhood. If you’ve never grown squash, here are a few considerations and suggestions for growing them.
What Kinds Of Squash Can You Grow?
Summer squash are harvested young and eaten with the skins on and immature seeds inside. The three main categories of summer squash include scallop (aka patty pan or flying saucer), yellow squash (crookneck or straightneck), and zucchini. Because they are harvested at an immature state, these types continue to produce and are all highly productive. They are perfect for making Summer Squash Quick Bread.
Winter squash are harvested when they are fully mature and the skin has turned tough and leathery. Pumpkins (Curcubita maxima, Curcubita pepo, and others) are included in this group. The skins and seeds are generally removed when preparing these types of squash. There are several categories of winter squash to choose from, with amazingly varied appearances, including: acorn, butternut, cushaw, dumpling, Hubbard, kabocha, spaghetti, and others. There are significant differences in texture and flavor among these varieties, well worth a bit of exploration in another article…
How To Plant Squash
Squash are fruits that grow on sun loving vines. As a warm season crop, squash (summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, etc.) may be planted in the garden when the soil warms and after all danger of frost is past. In most temperate areas, the seeds may be sown directly into the garden but they also may be started indoors a few weeks in advance if preferred. Planting them on broad mounds, or “hills”, 6-10 inches high and 2-3 feet across will help provide good drainage and air circulation. Space the plants according to the individual variety’s needs (see the seed pack or plant label). Some support system, like a trellis or cage, may be helpful for keeping the longer trailing types in bounds.
Summer squash are relatives of cucumbers and melons. When planning a crop rotation, either keep these crops together in the same part of the garden or space them three or more years apart in the rotation.
The two main insect pests of squash are squash vine borers and squash bugs. Learn more about these pests and how to deal with them here. Cucumber beetles can also be a bother to these cucumber family members. Using row covers until the plants begin to flower can stem most of the damage, allowing a good crop to develop.
Another problem for squash is powdery mildew. Prevent this fungus by providing good air circulation, watering deeply (when needed) early in the mornings only, and removing affected leaves when they appear. If the problem gets too far advanced, spray with a fungicide rated for powdery mildew in vegetables (sulphur, copper, neem oil, etc.).
Add Color And Flavor
Growing squash is an easy way to add another dimension to your garden. They bring bright colors in the forms of both flowers and fruit. They are delicious in a wide range of recipes from pasta to pumpkin pie. The roasted seeds of winter squashes are a treat too. You can even use your ripe squash for autumn decorations before consuming them. This year, add squash to your garden mix.