Growing Squash (Summer Squash):
How to Grow Squash Organically

Growing squash – either winter or summer squash - is ideal for the beginning gardener. It's easy to grow and comes in many varieties. This page focuses on summer squash... for winter squash, see our Growing Butternut Squash page.

Full sun and moist, well drained soil that has been augmented with organic matter will help assure high summer squash yields. These plants are also perfect for container gardening.

Growing Squash: Plant Snapshot (Cucurbita pepo)

Growing Squash
  • Family: Cucurbitaceae (Gourd family)
  • Annual or Perennial?Annual: Ready to harvest 55 to 65 days after planting.
  • Recommended varieties: Zephyr, Rampicante-Tromboncino, Sunburst, Raven
  • Cold tolerance: Warm Season – Will not survive frost and their seeds will not germinate in cold soil. Plant them at about the average date of the last 32 degree F (0 degree C) temperature in spring
  • Required Sun: Full sun (at least 6 hours each day)
  • When planning vegetable crop rotation, group with crops from this family: Cucurbits: courgettes, marrows
  • Companion plants (see Companion Planting Charts for more info):
    • Companions: Corn, Eggplant, Marigold, Nasturtium, Onion family, Radish
    • Avoid: Potato
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Growing Squash: Planting the Seed

Where to Find Planting Supplies...

The following resources offer effective, healthy and/or well-rounded options. Click the links to go there now...

Squash seeds for transplanting into the garden should be potted about three to four weeks before the last frost is expected. Plant three to four seeds per pot, one inch 2.5 cm) deep. It is best to use a container that can go into the ground to avoid disturbing the roots. Keep the containers' soil moist to aid germination, but do not overwater squash seeds.

If you sow squash seeds directly into your garden, be sure to wait until your soil is above 70 degrees F (21 C). Otherwise, the seeds won’t germinate. You can plant your summer squash in rows (at least 6 inches/15.2 cm apart) or hills (two or three seeds or seedlings per hill, one inch/2.54 cm deep with 12 to 18 inches (30.5 to 45.8 cm) between hills).

For a longer harvest, plant succession crops in one month intervals.

Snapshot: Planting Summer Squash

  • Planting depth: about 1 inch (2.54 cm)
  • Spacing in rows: 6 inches (15.2 cm) minimum (rows); 12 to 18 inches (30.5 to 45.8 cm) (hills)
  • Germination soil temperature: 70 to 95 degrees F (21.1 to 35 degrees C)
  • Days to germination: 6 to 15 days
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Growing Squash: From Germination to Pre-Harvest

Where to Find Growing & Plant Care Supplies...

For effectice, healthy and/or well-rounded options, click the following links...

For transplanting squash, once squash seed have sprouted, thin the plants, leaving two seedlings in each container. Harden off the plants in a protected outdoor location for several days, then plant in hills at least one foot (30.5 cm) apart.

Remove garden weeds by hand and water plants once a week during dry weather conditions. A layer of compost used as mulch will help to nourish the growing plants. An organic nitrogen fertilizer is also helpful for foliage, but only when added before plants bloom. Once blooms have set, nitrogen can interfere with their development.

As their name implies, summer squash like it warm. If the temperature in your region falls below 65 degrees F (18 C) at night, consider covering your plants with row covers to keep them insulated.

Snapshot: Growing Summer Squash

  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 6.0 to 7.5
  • Growing soil temperature: 70 to 80 degrees F (21.1 to 26.6 degrees C
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Growing Squash: Harvesting Time

Squash is ready for harvest when it's about two inches (5 cm) in diameter and/or six to eight inches (15 o 20 cm)long, although many find smaller fruits to be tastier. Early removal of young squash also allows the plant to keep producing and provides gardeners with a bounty of tender and delicious squash.

Snapshot: Harvesting Summer Squash

  • Time to harvest: About 6 to 10 weeks after planting
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Storing Summer Squash and Freezing Summer Squash

Freshly harvested squash should be carefully washed to remove any soil. Handle carefully, as young squash will bruise easily. Squash can be stored in the refrigerator, preferably in a crisper drawer, for no longer than two to four days.

To prepare squash for freezing, cut into one half inch (1.3 cm) slices and water blanch for three minutes. Cool promptly, then drain and package for the freezer. Frozen squash is good for up to two months. Any leftover squash seed you may have will be viable for up to four years.

Snapshot: Storing Summer Squash & Freezing Summer Squash

  • Storage temperature: 40 to 50 degrees F (4.44 to 10 degrees C)
  • Humidity: 80 to 90% relative humidity
  • Storage life (unfrozen in above conditions): 2 to 4 days
  • Storage life (frozen): About 2 months
  • Seed longevity: About 4 years
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Growing Squash: Pests & Diseases

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Summer Squash. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.

Pests

  • Aphids
  • Armyworms
  • Crickets
  • Cucumber beetles
  • Cutworms
  • Darkling beetles
  • Driedfruit beetles
  • Earwigs
  • Flea beetles
  • Grasshopper
  • Leafhoppers
  • Leafminers
  • Loopers
  • Nematodes
  • Seedcorn maggot
  • Snails/slugs
  • Spider mites
  • Squash bug
  • Stink bugs
  • Thrips
  • Whiteflies
  • Wireworms

Diseases

  • Curly top
  • Damping off
  • Downy mildew
  • Fusarium crown and foot rot
  • Powdery mildew
  • Root Rot
  • Verticillium wilt
  • Viruses
  • White mold
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