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Squash Growing

Squash growing with fruit
Squash Growing: Zucchini, summer squash, winter squash, and pumpkins grow best once the air temperature averages 65ºF (18ºC).

Native Americans called it isquoutersquash. The British call it marrow. Squash is the American English term.

Zucchini, summer squash, winter squash, and pumpkins grow best once the air temperature averages 65ºF (18ºC). That means squash can be sown in late spring just about everywhere, and if you live in a long growing season region where the weather turned warm six weeks ago, you may be on to your second planting of squash, perhaps a second variety.

Most summer squash require 50 to 65 frost free days to mature. That means you can safely plant squash in the last week or two of spring. Winter squashes take a bit longer: 60 to 100 frost free days to mature. You can still sow winter squash seeds in late spring and get to harvest before the first frost in most regions.

Tender summer squash can be eaten raw or cooked. If you got an early start on your squash this year, you may already be adding sliced raw young squash to salads. Winter squashes are drier and more fibrous than summer squashes. Winter squashes are harvested when fully ripe and require cooking. Get them growing before the official start of summer arrives.

The requirements for planting and growing summer and winter squashes are the same except for the time required to harvest.

Site. Squash require full sun, warm weather, and good air circulation to mature. Squash grows best in growing zones 3-10. If your growing season is short, choose a bush variety squash which will mature more quickly.

Soil. Plant squash in humus-rich, well-drained soil; work in organic compost the autumn before planting or spread compost in the growing bed during the growing season. Bush-types varieties can be grown in containers.

Squash Planting. To get a jump on the season, start summer and winter squashes indoors 3–4 weeks before the last frost. Sow squash outdoors or set out seedlings when the soil temperature reaches 70ºF (21ºC). Sow seed ½ inch–1 inch (13mm–2.5 cm) deep. Thin successful plants to 36 inches (90 cm) apart in all directions.

Squash is often planted on slight mounds or hills. Sow 4–5 seeds 2–3 inches (5–7.5 cm) deep, 3–4 inches (7.5–10 cm) apart in hills raised 12 inches (30 cm) spaced 6 or more feet (1.8–2.4 m) apart. Thin to 2 successful plants per hill. If plants are supported on wooden tripods space hills 4 feet (1.2 m) apart.

Watering Squash. Squash requires regular and even watering. Keep the soil just moist. Avoid overhead watering.

Feeding Squash. Squash are heavy feeders; apply lots of compost to the soil and they should do well. You can feed squash with compost tea every couple of weeks during the growing season.

Companions. Grow squash with celeriac, celery, corn, nasturtiums, melons, onions, radishes, peas, and beans. Avoid growing squash with potatoes.

Squash Pests. Aphids, cucumber beetles, squash bugs, squash vine borers, and other insects can all attack squash. Use rows covers to protect young plants from cucumber beetles and squash borers; remove covers when the plants bloom. Clean up refuse at the end of the season, and turn the soil in spring to bury insect pupae.

Squash Diseases. Bacterial wilt, mosaic virus, mildew, blight, curly top are viruses and fungi that can plague squash. Control disease-spreading pests; plant disease resistant varieties, and remove and destroy infected plants.

Squash Harvest. Tender summer squash can be harvested when the rind is tender and before the seeds have developed. Summer squash should be harvested 2–3 times a week once plants begin bearing. Break fruit from the plant, or use a knife. Clean your knife after each use to avoid spread of disease to other plants.

Allow winter squashes to mature fully on the vine until their skins are extremely hard before harvesting. Harvest winter squash before the first frost. After harvest, winter squash should be allowed to cure outdoors; dry and toughen the skins by exposing winter squash to sun for 5–7 days or place the squash in a cool, dry ventilated area for 5–6 months.

Summer Squash Varieties. Summer squash varieties include scalloped squash or patty pan, yellow crookneck, straightneck, cylindrical, green or gray zucchini, and Italian squash.

Winter Squash Varieties. Winter squash varieties include acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, cushaw delicious, hubbard, marrow, spaghetti, turban, and pumpkins.

More tips: How to Grow Squash.

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20 Comments

  1. Potatoes can be space as close as 12 inches apart in rows; allow 3 feet between rows. In a wide or intensively planted bed, give them a bit more room. Summer squash is best planted 2 to 3 feet apart. Assuming your soil is well drained, give your squash enough room to spread and then plant your potatoes as close to the squash as you like. Squash require more water than potatoes, so if the soil is not well drained your potatoes might suffer from the abundance of water you give your squash. Plant both in raised wide beds or mounds and you should have no problems planting them relatively close. Planting each in separate beds would be optimal. Potato flowers do not need to be pollinated for the production of potatoes. There is no need to worry about cross pollination.

    • Squash pollination will occur when both male and female flowers are flowering at the same time–and bees or other insects transfer pollen from males to females. (the alternative is hand pollination, but you still need both male and female flowers). Male flowers usually appear a week or two before the female flowers. Stagger the planting of your crop so that males and females will be in bloom at the same time; plant 3 seeds today and 3 more in 10 days.

  2. Can you grow more squash from a fresh cut leaf from another squash plant? Mine was over growing and a friend wants to grow some so I wanted so if that would work!

    • It is unlikely a squash leaf will root, but you can try. A quicker way to create a new squash plant from your mother plant is to select a runner and peg a leaf node toward the end of the vine. Cover the peg and vine with soil; the node will root in 7 to 10 days; you can then cut from the mother plant and replant the newly rooted plant.

  3. Can you help me understand why the section of the plant dies after cutting mature fruit off it? I read that you should cut all the fruit off at one time, but the fruit matures at different times.

    • Harvest the squash one at a time when each fruit is large enough to eat; don’t wait for them to get large and old; harvest as soon as they are large enough to eat. If you harvest on a regular basis, the plant will produce new flowers and continue to produce young squash. If you allow all of the fruits to mature, the plant will believe it has produced enough seed for offspring; it will consider its job done and die.

  4. I would like to have a summer squash in the children’s garden at preschool. I want to o graph it from an existing bush and plant a bucket and provide a vine for it to grow on . Will this work? In September in Texas? Guess plenty of water, sun and help train the vines up? Any suggestions? Lateral garden space is a premium but these little large veggie sub are irresistible and great sensory with their prickles etc.

    • The easiest way to grow squash is from seed starting indoors. You can train the squash up a trellis. Choose a squash variety with the fewest number of days to maturity. The plant will grow but you may run out of warm weather and the fruit may not mature; this would be the same for a pumpkin. A mature squash will need a space 10 by 10 feet.

    • Blossom end rot is the name of the malady; it can happen to early forming fruits on the squash, tomato, or pepper. The fruits that follow should be fine. The cause is the erratic uptake of water; keep the soil evenly moist, not too wet and not dry–even. A fertilizer that includes calcium and magnesium will help–such as Lily Miller Mor-Crop.

  5. I live in central Georgia, USA.
    My squash and zucchini plants aren’t really flowering anymore. I keep reading that i can start new squash plants in July/August. Is this to replace the squash plants i put in the garden in the spring? Are my plants not flowering because they have run their life cycle? Or, are they not flowering solely due to the heat here in Georgia at this time of year? If so will they start to produce again when the heat dies down?

    • If temperatures are greater than 90F, the plants are taking a break; they will resume flowering and setting fruit when temps fall into the 80s. If you allowed fruits to grow larger than 6 to 8 inches long before harvesting, the plants may not bear fruit again–they believe they have produced seed and will now wait to die when the frost comes. You can sow seed now if frost does not come until late October; that will give you plenty of season for new plants.

  6. How do you tell the difference between when a winter squash has come to the end of its natural life or showing signs of disease/stress? I have a Cushaw pumpkin that is now 100 days since transplanting out, and the harvest date is at about 125 days. The fruit is all large and well formed, but the longest vines are yellowing and wilting. It seems to start near the base with a segment of stem that is withering and soft. All the vines below this point seem fine. There isn’t any other sign of insect infestation or disease (I’ve checked for a vine borer and gooey sap). The water is on drip and the soil is moist. Could this just be it’s natural decline?

    • You may be overwatering; the soil should be evenly moist, not wet or dry. It’s best to water outdoor plants deeply every 2 to 4 days depending on how hot the weather is. If your plants are in containers, you may want to get a moisture meter to see how moist the soil is at 4 inches deep (you can also use the meter outdoors). The soil should stay moist, but not wet as fruits mature. Get an organic fertilizer with magnesium and calcium added such as Lily Miller Mor-Crop; magnesium and calcium will help the cell walls grow strong and may prevent rot.

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