Planting and Growing Summer Squash

by David Schulze

This page gives tips on planting and growing summer squash with many helpful tips and advice based on David's own experiences.

Before beginning read our pages on germination, soil testing and soil temperature.

Then read our page on CowPots.

Before thinking about growing squash, we need to understand that there are two primary squashes: Summer Squash and Winter Squash.

Summer squash is broken down into summer and zucchini. We will do a separate page on growing zucchini.

Winter squash mainly refers to the size and shape. It is not grown in the winter. It does not like the cold. Winter squash will usually store on the shelf for months where you only have a few days to use summer squash.

All squash plants need insects to pollinate them. There is only one self pollinating squash and it is a zucchini hybrid. So you will need lots of bees or do it by hand. There are many good videos on YouTube that explain how to do this.

Start summer squash in doors about one to two weeks before transplanting outdoors. You will need to follow some sort of harden off procedure before planting out. But squash grows fast enough that I think you can direct sow when the soil warms up to 70 to 76 degrees. 

Plant the seeds or plants three to a hill or in a row one foot apart. I like the hill method best. Plant the seeds about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Some say plant the seeds one inch deep but that is not really necessary.

If possible, wait about two months before expected first frost or July. This will help with the squash vine borer. There is no treatment for this nasty bug. The best thing is to pick them off as you see them and their eggs. If you are only growing two or three plants this should be possible. 

You will get about 15 to 20, or more squash per plant.

Fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.8–6.8 is best. Plastic mulch and fabric row covers can aide plant establishment and exclude insect pests during the seedling stage.

Row covers should be removed when plants begin to flower.

Poor fruit development may indicate insufficient pollination.

For highest quality fruit, succession plantings every 2-3 weeks may be needed.

Common cucurbit diseases include powdery mildew, downy mildew, bacterial wilt, and phytophthora. Avoid problems with adequate soil drainage, good air flow, insect pest control, and crop rotation. If necessary, check with your local Cooperative Extension Service agent for specific control options. The best prevention is to start before you see any diseases. 

There are a number of organic fungicides on the market. But even with these, sometimes the disease will still get your crops.

For some varieties, it is common for the first fruits to be malformed, wither, or blacken, which indicates poor pollination and is usually remedied as more male flowers appear or hand pollination.

Harvest regularly, 2-3 times a week, once plants begin to produce. Cut or gently twist off fruits when they have reached the desired size. About 4 to 6 inches long for summer squash. About 2 to 3 in diameter for patty pan. If left unharvested, summer squash can get very large. While this is good for saving seed, it is not good for eating. You will want to harvest the squash when it is young and tender.

Tatume is the only squash that has resistance to the squash vine borer. 

When the season is over, if the plants are bug ridden or disease, dispose of in the trash. If not then grind up and put in the compost pile.


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