Here are some of the best tips for growing squash plants so you can enjoy them in abundance, from your home garden to your kitchen table. With a little knowledge and care, your yield will be ample enough for you to cook, freeze and even share with friends.
Squash is one of the most commonly cultivated plants around the world. It’s no wonder, because it’s easy to care for, and by the time peak season rolls around, you should be able to harvest several squashes every day.
Which squash varieties should you choose?
There are many varieties of squash, which mostly grow in the form of a bush or vine. It’s important to pay attention to the growing season, and accordingly, choose between a summer or winter variety. Summer varieties are mostly large and shrub-like, while winter varieties are vine-shaped and spread throughout the garden.
Acorn, buttercup, and butternut are the most popular winter squashes. Apart from these varieties, there are also scallop, Hubbard, crookneck, and spaghetti squashes. Zucchini, yellow summer squash, and pattypan are among the most popular summer varieties.
7 Tips for Growing Lots of Squash Plants
Growing squash is easier than you might think. Find out more about the process in the tips following.
Tip #1: Pay attention to the spacing and number of seeds
There are two different ways to sow squash — directly in the garden soil or indoors. Here you can find out how to grow squash in a pot.
Both summer and winter varieties are most often planted in mounds about 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep. Experts advise you to wait to start until the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up.
There’s no need to put more than 4 to 5 seeds in one mound, nevertheless thinning to 2 or 3 plants per mound after the seedlings develop their true leaves is also a good idea.
Tip #2: Be careful if transplanting
If starting the plants indoors, it’s best to do so 3 to 4 weeks before the outdoor planting date. Experienced gardeners recommend planting seeds in peat pots, but it’s important to take care not to endanger the roots of the seedlings when transplanting. Be patient and wait until the plant is sufficiently established before transplanting.
Tip #3: Choose the variety that will best suit your growing conditions
Most squashes will thrive in growing zones 3-10. If you have a short growing season, it would be better to choose a shrub variety, because, unlike the vine varieties, they tend to ripen faster. Finally, the soil also plays a big role as these plants enjoy humus-rich and well-drained soil.
Tip #4: Plant them in direct sunlight
Seedlings aren’t big fans of direct sun, so after transplanting, it’s advisable to cover them with an upside-down flowerpot or some other type of shade cover for just a few days to help prevent wilting. But once the squash plants are established, they need plenty of sun and heat. In addition, they require good air circulation to mature.
Tip #5: Water regularly and thoroughly
Squash plants like regular and even watering. Avoid overwatering; instead; keep the soil evenly moist but not saturated.
Tip #6: Don’t forget fertilization
Squashes are heavy feeders, so for best growth and a big harvest, it’s best to provide your plant with a steady source of nutrition by feeding it with a continuous release fertilizer. Experts suggest feeding with compost tea every few weeks during the growing season. You can find more information on fertilizing squash plants here and here.
Tip #7: Keep an eye on pests and diseases
Unfortunately, this plant is also susceptible to various pests and diseases. Aphids, cucumber beetles, squash bugs, squash vine borers, and other similar insects are its worst enemies.
You can use row covers to protect young plants from cucumber beetles and squash borers, one important thing is to remove them as soon as your squash blooms.
In addition, it would be a good idea to turn over the soil every spring to bury the insect pupae. Furthermore, your plant can suffer from bacterial wilt, mosaic virus, mold, mildew, blight, and curly top. Precisely because of its susceptibility to diseases, keep an eye on it and monitor it regularly in order to react in time.
Fun fact: did you know that squash plants bear both male and female flowers?
Contributed by Tony Manhart, the founder and editor-in-chief at Gardening Dream. Tony’s enthusiasm and rich experience in all things related to growing plants have led him to share his knowledge with gardening aficionados all over the world. When he is not working around his garden, Tony spends his time writing tips and tricks on various subjects related to plant cultivation and soil maintenance.
More by Tony Manhart on this site: