Squashes are tender, warm-season, and easy to grow garden vegetable. You can grow two main categories (summer and winter squashes) of these veggies, based on the harvest time.
The best thing is that you need just a few plants in the garden, and they will produce enough fruits for the whole family.
What Should You Know about Squash Plant
If you decide to grow these generous plants, you can use the traditional ‘Three Sisters’ Native American technique for growing vegetable. That means that you should plant squashes (to prevent weeds by covering the ground), sweet corn (to provide support), and beans (as a natural fertilizer) together, to get the best yields.
They come in various colors, sizes, and shapes, but all of them grow in almost the same way. The most popular are:
You should harvest them in summer while they are not mature completely. Their skin is edible, and you need to use them as soon as possible.
You will harvest these varieties in fall when they are entirely mature. Since their skin is not edible, you need to peel it off before using. However, you can store them for a while.
It is a hard-shelled plant we can grow as food or ornamental crop.
Pumpkin is a native American plant grown in North America for 5,000 years. We usually use it as a crafting material during Halloween.
All of these varieties have a common ancestor. Nowadays, most squashes belong to three species, despite the wide diversity of these veggies. They include:
- Cucurbita pepo
- Cucurbita moschata
- Cucurbita maxima
How Many Seeds is Enough for an Average Garden?
It is pretty hard determining the right number of seeds of squash you need. Regardless of the chosen type, you can always expect these plants spread out around. Count on your squashes to take as much area as they can get. That means that you need to provide a lot of space for this veggie.
How many fruits you will get doesn’t depend on the space they occupy, but on the type of this plant, you decide to grow. For example, butternut can produce approximately 6 pounds (2.7 kg) of fruit per vine while acorn squash will surprise you with a fantastic 24 pounds (11 kg) per every vine.
Therefore, you should pick out the most productive squashes if your garden is small. Otherwise, you can enjoy a wide variety of this favorite veggie. In average, only one squash plant is enough for an average family of four per season.
How to Plant Squash Plants in Your Garden
It’s on you to decide if you want to sow your squashes directly from the seeds or prefer transplanting seedlings grown indoors to your garden in late May.
Since seeds need 7 to 14 days to germinate, you should start seeding indoors at the beginning of May. Transplant them into the garden when the temperature of the ground is at least 60 to 75 F (15.5 – 24 C).
Squashes often don’t transplant well, and the general recommendation is to sow seeds directly into the ground. Sow seeds approximately 0.5 to 1 inch (1.2 – 2.5 cm) deep, and place three seeds in each hole. Once plants grow, you should thin them and choose the strongest one to stay.
Summer Squash Varieties
|Winter Squash Varieties|
|Patty pan (scalloped squash)||
Zucchini (green or gray)
How to Care Squash Plants
How much space your squashes will need directly depend on its type. Keep in mind that you definitely need to provide more space for traditional vining types than for the bush varieties.
Pick out a hilly spot if it is possible and create the mound of the ground approximately 24 inches (61 cm) in diameter.
Provide 35 to 45 inches (89 – 114 cm) of space between pumpkins and winter squashes while rows should be 4 to 6 feet (1.2 – 1.8 m) apart.
Summer varieties require less space, and you should provide about 15 to 20 inches (38 – 5 cm) apart in rows 35 to 45 inches (89 – 114 cm) apart.
To grow lush and vigorous, your squash plants will need full sun without shade during the day. The only thing you need to take care of is to keep plants’ foliage away from water. Sun and moist leaves are not the right combination and usually cause leaf burn.
Prepare the soil
Squashes are not too demanding plants. Plant them in humus-rich, sandy, and well-drained soil with the pH from 6 to 6.5. Remove debris and rocks from the surface of the ground, add 2 to 3 inches (5 – 7.6 cm) of compost, and keep the soil moist.
After planting seedlings, you should place some mulch around each plant to protect its roots and keep the area weed-free.
Water your squashes daily, but irrigate the soil deeply once a week. Providing approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water is the best way to let it reaches the plant’s roots. Since squashes love water, water them regularly early in the morning at dry periods, to help them thrive.
Don’t irrigate this vegetable during the night to avoid the occurrence of root rot and mold. Also, keep in mind that you need to water more often if the ground is sandy than when you have heavy clay in your garden.
The right time to add a high-quality fertilizer to the soil is the moment when the first bloom appears. Keep feeding your plants with 2 to 3 pounds (0.9 – 1.4 kg) of fertilizer per 100 sq ft (9 m2) once in every four to six weeks. In general, if you make an excellent mix of the ground and compost, your veggies will get enough nutrients for lush and vigorous growth.
Whatever type of squashes you grow, try to keep them free of weeds. Do it by hand picking or by using a hoe depending on the area size. While hoeing, you should take care not to damage the tender roots.
It is crucial never planting summer squashes at the same place two years in a row. In this case, crop rotation will help the soil to replenish essential nutrients and will decrease the risk of common diseases and pests.
How to Harvest Squash Plant
The best time for harvesting summer squash is while they are still small and tender, and the seeds are not developed. It’s up to you if you choose to harvest ‘baby squashes’ or more mature fruits approximately 6 to 8 inches (15 – 20 cm) long.
Avoid large squashes since they are not tasty. Some connoisseurs claim that most delicious are those 4 to 5 inches (10 – 13 cm) long.
Once your squashes are sweet and soft, collect them two to three times a week by cutting stems off the vine with a sharp garden knife about 2 inches (5 cm) above the fruit.
Never separate fruits directly from the stem to avoid possible bacterial infection. Also, take care to finish that job before the first fall frosts.
When the rind of your winter squash is hard, and fruits are of full size, you can harvest them. The right time is from late September to the end of October. Even though the first, light frost can’t damage fruits, it is a better option harvesting them before it.
Don’t forget that you can eat first squash blossoms too. Since these early flowers are males, you can pick them without damaging the plants or any adverse effect on production.
On the other hand, you can use vines after collecting fruits. Pick up them, and add the entire amount to the compost pile.
How to Store Squash Plant
You can’t store your summer squashes for an extended period. Put their fruits into the refrigerator for seven to ten days, and try to use them as soon as possible.
The other option is to freeze pieces of summer squash after blanching them for approximately five minutes in boiling water.
Your winter varieties will be edible throughout winter if you store them in a dark, dry, and well-ventilated place with the average temperatures of 50 to 65 F (10 – 18.5 C). If the temperature is too low, your squashes will rot quickly.
Take care to cure your winter squashes outdoors by exposing them to the full sun for a week before placing in the chosen room for the next five to six months.
Keep in mind that acorn squashes are an exception, and you can keep and use them for just a few weeks after harvesting.
Squash Plants Pests and Diseases
When your squashes have blooms, but fruits can’t form, your plant is not pollinated adequately. Solve this by planting flowers that attract bees around your veggies or pollinate them manually with a Q-tip.
These unpleasant black changes at the ends of ripe fruits occurs when there is not enough calcium in your soil. The other reason can be its uneven moisture levels. Solve this issue by sprinkling powdered milk around your plants.
When this disease attacks your squashes, you will notice a white powdery layer on foliage. As a result, leaves will become shrivel and stunted. Prevent this issue by keeping the ground moist.
This fungus causes pale patches on foliage when your plants grow in humid conditions. They often damage ripening fruits. There is no remedy for this condition. You need to remove damaged squashes, find a way to decrease humidity in a greenhouse, and avoid overcrowding seedlings.
Squash Vine Borer
These little bugs lay their eggs at the plant’s base. After hatching, young insects chew foliage until kill plants. Regularly clean up garden beds after harvesting to prevent overwintering.
If you spot eggs before you start planting, sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the surface of the ground, around the base of your veggies. Unfortunately, once you notice bugs, it is probably too late for your squashes.
These small bugs suck plant’s sap and release a toxin which kills squashes eventually. You can prevent this condition by rotating crops every year.
Once bugs appear, you need to destroy them with insecticides or with a trap made of a piece of shingle. Put it among your squashes in the evening. When bugs collect there during the night, you just need to kill them early in the morning.
These horrible creatures will nibble on your squashes and destroy them eventually. The practical solution is an insecticide, regular weeding, and breaking up every place these bugs can overwinter.
Those little insects will eat your squashes’ stems and leaves causing brown changes on them. The best way to prevent the occurrence of these creatures is appropriate companion planting. Once they appear, you can get rid of them with splashing plants with cold water.
These creatures are a common problem for your squashes, and you should use one of the proven methods of control to keep them away.
Mice and rats
In some conditions, these rodents can nibble the fruits. Use traps or rodenticides to kill them.