Growing Tips for Summer Squash

Growing Tips for Summer Squash
Picture attribute: Pixabay.com

When people think of summer squash, they usually think of Zucchini. But there is more to summer squash than Zucchini. Other types of summer squash are:

  • Yellow Squash: yellow, long, some with curved necks
  • Zucchini Squash: Club-shaped, green fruits
  • Pattypan Squash: Small, shaped like small flying saucers with scalloped edges. Colors from green to yellow to white
  • Round Squash: Single-serving sized fruits on compact bushes
  • Tromboncino Squash: Large curved light-green fruit, grows best on a trellis

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Planting:

Plant summer squash in early spring, after the soil has warmed up. You can also plant in early summer until mid-August in order to avoid early-season squash bugs. Seedlings emerge in 6-12 days, and harvest is approximately 50 days.

Plant the seeds in a sunny site with fertile soil. Amend the soil with compost and a balanced fertilizer. Plant 1″ deep, 36″ spacing for vineing varieties, and 18″ for bush varieties.

Growing Tips:

Squash have two types of flowers-male and female. Don’t be alarmed if some flowers fall off without producing fruit-they were probably the male flowers. Female flowers, with a small bulb at the base of the flower, will produce the fruit.

Attract bee pollinators by planting flowers like daisies, sunflowers, cosmos, zinnias and cone flower, and herbs like mints bee balm, sage, oregano and lavender.

Insect Pests:

Squash bugs, squash vine borers and cucumber beetles are the main pests of squash.

Protect your plants from egg-laying insect pests by using row covers. You will have to remove the cover so bees and other insects can pollinate the flowers. However, you can also hand pollinate using a small paintbrush to move the pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers.

Squash vine borers infect the stem of the plant, causing the whole plant to wilt. If you catch them early enough, you can remove them from the stem. Feel for the point where the stem goes from firm to mushy–that is where the borer is. Slit the stem open lengthwise to remove or kill the borer. There are probably more than one in the stem. Then close the wound back up, and cover with soil to encourage root production.

If you are too late, and the plant dies, pull it out and replant new seeds. The new plant will mature after the borers have moved on.

Cucumber beetles can be deterred by planting radishes. Also plant predator-attracting plants such as Nasturtiums, Tansy or Dill.

Beneficial insects like braconid wasps, trichogramma wasps, or tachinid flies can be attracted with alyssum or yarrow, goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, lavender, mint, dill, sage, fennel or lemon balm.

Check often for bugs and eggs on the underside of the leaves. Pick bugs off, and drop then into soapy water. Scrape the eggs off with a butter knife or your fingernail. Eggs hatch in about 10 days.

Harvesting:

You can harvest summer squash throughout the season, both mature and immature fruits. Frequent harvesting increases yields.

Harvest Zucchini when the fruits are young, about 4-6″ long. For stuffed Zucchini, wait until the fruit is about 8″ long. Crookneck and straight neck squash are best at 6 to 8 inches long. Pattypan are best harvested when fruit is about 3-5″ in diameter.

Saving Seeds:

Squash readily cross-pollinate, so saving seeds is a little bit more complicated. To save seeds, plant two plants in a plot. When they begin to flower, keep the pollinating insects away by using a row cover securely attached to the ground. Remove the cover briefly in order to hand-pollinate the flowers; then replace the cover. After three fruits have set on each plant, remove the cover, and pinch off any further flowers buds. When the fruit is ripe, indicated by hard rinds and brown stems, save and dry the largest seeds from each fruit.

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