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5 Tips for Growing Summer Squash

Summer squash is easy to grow and prolific. A couple of plants provide plenty for a family to eat all summer long. Learn how to grow summer squash and provide your friends and neighbors with fresh produce too!



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Squash are separated into two main groups – summer and winter.  

Summer squash (mostly Cucurbita pepo) are harvested immature before skin has time to harden and used fresh. Skin is easily pierced with fingernail. (Think zucchini and yellow squash.)

Winter squash (Curcubita maxima, C. mixta, C. moshata, and some C.pepo) are allowed to mature on the vine and can be stored for several months. The skin is thicker and tough to pierce. (Think butternut and spaghetti.) This post describes how to grow winter squash


5 Tips for Growing Summer Squash


1. Plant several types of summer squash

Popular varieties of summer squash range from white to dark green and yellow, striped, solid, round, long, and disc-shaped. Although they are similar, some differences exist in flavor, texture, and use. 

  • Patty pan squash has a tougher texture and holds up better in soups and stews. 
  • Zucchini is medium textured, and some cylindrical squash (such as Lebanese) have a more tender texture.
  • Other types of squash are excellent stuffed or have larger than average blossoms which are also edible. 
  • There are also disease-resistant cultivars worth trying.

Plant a variety of cultivars to keep things interesting in the garden and the kitchen. 


5 Tips for Growing Summer Squash

Lebanese squash – Mild tasting; short-season variety (50 days); tender; good baked or fried. 


5 Tips for Growing Summer Squash

Yellow squash – There are as many varieties of this type are there are of the color yellow. Firm flesh. Good grilled, roasted, or baked. Early variety (45 days). Prolific and good for small spaces or containers.


Young Luffa Gourds, Growing Luffa in the Garden How to grow luffa sponges #luffaseeds#lifecycle#howtogrowluffa#luffa#loofah#howtogarden#gardening#growingluffa#howto

Luffa is a delicious variety of summer squash when harvested young (before insides become fibrous).


5 Tips for Growing Summer Squash

Black beauty zucchini – Very easy to grow; has good flavor. 


Summer squash varieties - 8 types to grow and enjoy

Looking for more summer squash varieties to try? This post shares 8 of my favorite.


2. Plant squash at the right time for your climate

Summer squash varieties grow best directly sown from seed or very young transplants. If you use transplants, handle carefully to avoid damaging roots.

If starting seeds indoors, sow seeds 2-3 weeks before the last spring frost. Seeds sprout in 3 -10 days. Plant transplants outside when they are very young for best results. Squash seeds are available on Seedsnow.com

Check local planting guides for your planting dates. It will be after your last frost date, squash prefer warm soil (70-90°F).

Check local planting guides for your planting dates. It will be after your last frost date; squash prefer warm soil (70-90°F).

In the low desert of Arizona, planting dates are mid-February through the beginning of April and again from mid-August into the beginning of September to take advantage of monsoon moisture. (Start seeds indoors January 15 – March 15 and July 15 – August 15.) 

Thin young seedlings to one plant while they are still young. You may be able to carefully transplant the thinned plant.
Thin young seedlings to one plant while they are still young. You may be able to carefully transplant the thinned plant.

3. Plant and care for growing squash correctly

Plant summer squash seeds 1/2 - 1 inch deep in well-draining soil that has been amended with compost.

Choose a location that gets plenty of sun. (Afternoon shade is preferred in hot summer areas.)

Plant summer squash seeds 1/2 – 1 inch deep in well-draining soil that has been amended with compost.

If using square foot gardening allow 1-2 squares for each plant, depending on the variety. I like to plant squash on the ends or corners of the beds, to allow them extra room.

If using square foot gardening, allow 1-2 squares for each plant depending on the variety. I like to plant squash on the ends or corners of the beds, to allow them extra room.


For hill planting, plant six seeds ¾ to 1 inch deep in hills spaced 3-6 feet apart. Thin to 2-3 plants per hill.

For hill planting, plant six seeds ¾ to 1 inch deep in hills spaced 3-6 feet apart. Thin to 2-3 plants per hill.


For row planting follow the spacing guidelines on the back of your seed packet. Generally space plants 12-24" apart.

For row planting, follow the spacing guidelines on the back of your seed packet. Generally space plants 12-24″ apart.


Water squash deeply and often. Squash plants require plenty of water. Mulch area well to prevent moisture loss. Squash plants grow well with an oya.

Water squash deeply and often. Squash plants require plenty of water. Mulch area well to prevent moisture loss. Squash plants grow well with an oya (olla).


Fertilize summer squash when the first blooms appear. I use this fertilizer from Amazon.

Fertilize summer squash when the first blooms appear. I use this fertilizer from Amazon.


5 Tips for Growing Summer Squash #summersquash #gardening#summergarden#howtogarden#howtogrowsquash#growingsquash#growingsummersquash
Female squash that were not pollinated

If female fruits are withering and not getting pollinated, you may need to hand-pollinate. To hand-pollinate, transfer pollen from the male stamen to the female pistil.

If female fruits are withering and not getting pollinated, you may need to hand-pollinate. To hand-pollinate, transfer pollen from the male stamen to the female pistil.

Tips for Hand-Pollination 

  • Blossoms open first thing in the morning; check plants daily for new blossoms.
  • You can remove the male blossom; pick off or pull back the petals and rub the stamen against the pistil of the female blossom to transfer the pollen.
  • Or keep the male flower attached and use a cotton swab or paint brush to transfer the pollen from the male flower to the female flower.

4. Check summer squash plants daily for pests and disease

Squash plants are susceptible to pests and diseases. Daily vigilance can prevent small problems from getting out of control.

Check undersides of leaves for squash bug eggs, and dispose of leaves. Pick off adults by hand. Other effective treatments for squash bugs include: row covers, crop rotation, vertical gardening, board traps, and planting resistant varieties.

Check undersides of leaves for squash bug eggs and dispose of leaves. Pick off adults by hand.

If powdery mildew is present, pick and dispose of (not in compost) affected leaves. Use a baking soda solution, milk solution, or sulfur spray to prevent and treat powdery mildew. I use a hose-end sprayer (dilute according to directions) once a week until no new powdery mildew appears. Pull severely infected plants; they will not produce well. 

Powdery mildew on a squash leaf

Spray infestations of whiteflies or aphids with water. Sticky traps can also be helpful for aphids. Pick and destroy heavily infested leaves.

Read here for more tips to prevent pests and diseases organically in the garden.


5. Harvest summer squash early and often

  • Squash grows quickly. What is small one day is often ready to harvest the next day.
  • Summer squash tastes best when small and tender.
  • Harvest squash by cutting through the stem, not the main vine, with a sharp knife when fruits are 4-6 inches long. 
  • The seeds and skin will become tougher as they get larger.
Learn how to grow summer squash in this comprehensive guide that tells you what you need to know to grow squash like a pro.

Picking the fruit often also encourages production.

  • Summer squash will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.
5 Tips for Growing Summer Squash #summersquash #gardening#summergarden#howtogarden#howtogrowsquash#growingsquash#growingsummersquash
Yellow squash and zucchini are delicious grilled

Freeze-drying summer squash is a simple way to preserve extra harvests. Learn more about freeze-drying in this blog post.


If this post about how to grow summer squash was helpful, please share it:


Holly

Monday 11th of July 2022

When you start summer squash indoors by seed, how long do you keep inside until you can plant it outdoors?

Angela Judd

Tuesday 19th of July 2022

Squash does best if you can transplant it when pretty young. I like to plant it out before it gets more than 2-3 sets of leaves.

Donna

Wednesday 29th of June 2022

Great tips! How long do squash plants live? Growing season?

Angela Judd

Wednesday 29th of June 2022

Squash plants prefer warm weather and typically live for a few months. They don't like extremely hot weather or when it gets cold. Both of those will kill the plant.

Carolyn

Thursday 23rd of June 2022

Hi!! So our yellow crookneck squash plant is doing pretty well, producing more than we can eat. BUT.... the fruit is pretty 'seedy' with a thin layer of edible flesh. Is there a way to affect that seed to flesh ratio?????? thanks for any insight

Angela Judd

Wednesday 29th of June 2022

Harvest earlier and see if that helps. If not, plant a different variety next time.

Brandi

Sunday 26th of September 2021

Hi Angela, I have really enjoyed watching your monthly garden videos for us here in Az. I have started a small patio garden in my apartment. I was wondering if you can help me diagnose what is happening to my zucchini leaves? I have a few photos, if I can share them?

Angela Judd

Sunday 26th of September 2021

Sure, send me an email.

M.H.

Saturday 18th of September 2021

At what point can I pick the squash blossoms to consume? I dont want to pick too early or too late. Would picking the blossoms stop pollination and further growth? This is my first time gardening and I see I have blossoms, but no zucchini yet, thanks!

Angela Judd

Sunday 19th of September 2021

There are two types of blossoms, male and female. Pollen from the male needs to be transferred to the female blossom (by pollinators or by hand) the female blossoms are what turn into squash. If there are no females present you can pick the males at any time. If there are females present you can pick the males and hand pollinate the female when both flowers are open. If you want to eat the male blossoms they are best tasting when still in bud form.