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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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5 Tips for Growing Summer Squash #summersquash #gardening#summergarden#howtogarden#howtogrowsquash#growingsquash#growingsummersquash

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:

5 Tips for Growing Summer Squash #summersquash #gardening#summergarden#howtogarden#howtogrowsquash#growingsquash#growingsummersquash

1. Plant squash seeds directly in the garden

Summer squash varieties grow best directly sown from seed. If you use transplants, handle carefully to avoid damaging roots. Plant six seeds ¾ to 1 inch deep in hills spaced 3-6 feet apart. Thin to 2-3 plants per hill.

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.) 

Check local planting guides for your planting dates. It will be after your last frost date, squash prefer warm soil.

Most varieties take 45-60 days from planting to harvest.

If starting seeds indoors, sow seeds 5 – 6 weeks before the last spring frost. Seeds sprout in 3 -10 days. Squash seeds last about 4 years. Squash seeds are available on Seedsnow.com

Yellow Squash Plant

2. Plant several types of summer squash

Popular varieties 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. 

  • For example, 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. 

3. Help the bees

Hand pollination isn’t required, but if you are finding that female fruits are withering and not getting pollinated, give Mother Nature a hand. To hand-pollinate, transfer pollen from the male stamen to the female pistil.

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

Tips for Hand-Pollination 

  • best done early in the morning
  • remove the male blossom, pick off or pull back the petals and rub the stamen against the pistil of the other flower.
  • alternatively, use a cotton swab to transfer the pollen from the male flower to the female flower.

4. Check summer squash plants daily

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

● Check undersides of leaves for squash bug eggs and remove by hand. 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. You can also spray remaining leaves with Neem Oil. 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. 

5 Tips for Growing Summer Squash #summersquash #gardening#summergarden#howtogarden#howtogrowsquash#growingsquash#growingsummersquash
Powdery mildew on a squash leaf

Spray infestations of whiteflies or aphids with insecticidal soap.  I make my own using 1 teaspoon Dawn dish-soap mixed with a spray bottle filled with water.  (Be sure to rinse plant off afterwards – soap left on leaves can burn leaves exposed to sunlight) Pick and destroy heavily infested leaves.

Rotate where you plant squash each year so the bugs don’t get a head start.

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.

Picking the fruit often also encourages production.

  • Store in the refrigerator for about a week. Extras can also be frozen or left on an unsuspecting neighbor’s doorstep.
5 Tips for Growing Summer Squash #summersquash #gardening#summergarden#howtogarden#howtogrowsquash#growingsquash#growingsummersquash
Yellow squash and zucchini are delicious grilled

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5 tips for growing Summer Squash
5 Tips for Growing Summer Squash #summersquash #gardening#summergarden#howtogarden#howtogrowsquash#growingsquash#growingsummersquash

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.

David Shurtliff

Sunday 25th of April 2021

My squash plants have a common problem. Some sort of insect bores into the stalk and kills the plant. This is normally close to the soil Any suggestions?

Angela Judd

Sunday 25th of April 2021

Squash vine borer. Here's an article with tips that may help: https://growinginthegarden.com/organic-pest-control-that-really-works/