Growing squash is a good idea if you’re looking for a low-maintenance, high-yield vegetable. Squash has its requirements – particularly moist soil and complete sun exposure – but varieties like butternut squash plants require virtually zero cultivation.
There are a lot of summer squash varieties. Zucchini, in green, golden and black form, is a hybrid form of squash that’s among the more cylindrically shaped kinds of squash. Scallops (patty pans) are rounder and typically whiter, while crooknecks and straightnecks grow thinner near the stem.
Among the major challenges of growing a summer squash plant, are pests and the narrow window of time for harvesting. We’ll show you how to overcome that, and why squash is perfect for growing vegetables indoors.
When to plant a squash garden
There are two excellent times for growing zucchini and other types of squash. Planting in late spring will help you avoid the squash bugs and cucumber beetles that generally populate during late summer.
You can also begin your seedlings indoors and replace them when the frost disappears. Be careful not to disturb their roots, as summer squash plants are extremely sensitive in this area. You can also use raised beds to start, as they’re typically warmer earlier on and drain moisture faster.
The next best time to plant squash is directly after, for two full harvests. Sow the seeds an inch deep, leaving about 35 inches of space between each plant. Remember when placing your seeds, that a squash plant can feed each person for an entire season.
Squash plants are highly resourceful, in terms of extracting minerals from the soil. When your soil is prepared with a robust compost, there is no need for fertilizer in the beginning.
Giving your baby squash plants some tender loving care
As you know, the spaghetti squash plant is reliant on its roots, which tend to grow deep. Water liberally throughout the process of growing spaghetti squash (and all types of squash), and ensure that the soil is thoroughly moist several inches down.
Your yellow squash plant will sprout in about 1-2 weeks. When growing in colder seasons, it can be helpful to transfer the pollen from male to female flowers (the ones nurturing a squash bulb) manually. A q-tip or paintbrush work effectively for this, in the place of a high bee population.
Another handy tip is to use mulch to protect the squash plant from overheating and dehydration. Green organic material (like lawn clippings), newspapers scraps and hay can be applied conservatively to the soil during particularly hot periods.
Protecting your squash garden from pests
You can protect your squash plants throughout the growing season by scattering ashes from wood. Brush them lightly from base to stem.
Covering your seedlings with garden fabric will help protect them from invading moths that lay their eggs on them. This only works until they begin pollinating. In fact, lack of pollination early on may cause the first crop to produce wilted fruits, and weaker squash.
On the other hand, squash vine borers, are nearly impossible to overcome once your squash is infected. They’re more popular during mid to late summer, and you can test for their presence by filling any solid yellow-colored container with water and placing them at the base of your plants.
Once you spot adult borers in your ‘yellow traps’, it’s time to consider immediate pest treatment. One option is to cover your plants thoroughly with floating row garden fabric until the borer population decreases, which will reduce pollination. You can also use insecticide if necessary.
Completely remove any infected squash plant immediately. This, along with growing nearby cucumber, melon, watermelon and butternut squash, will deter borers from invading your more susceptible vine plants.
Harvesting and storing your squash plants
All squash varieties should be harvested before maturation. Using a sharp knife or gardening sheers, cut the stem directly, about an inch from the fruit, as the squash will still be soft, and the plant will continue producing. Regular harvesting will allow the plant to grow stronger and produce in greater abundance, as well.
You can also use a fruit dryer machine to preserve your summer squash for up to a year!