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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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