Growing Summer Squash
Bountiful Harvest for Novice Gardeners
Subspecies: Cucurbita pepo
Summer squash is different from later season squashes due to summer squash being harvested when the ‘skin’ is soft. Fall and winter squash are harvested when the rind has hardened and the squash is mature.
Summer squash plants have a bush habit and do not spread like fall and winter squash, including pumpkin. Summer squash plants produce high yields and a few plants will easily provide enough squash for a family.
Because it’s not difficult to grow and can be a highly productive crop, growing summer squash is a good and rewarding choice for novice gardeners. Read on for a guide on how to grow summer squash.
Squash seeds should be planted directly in the ground. Soil needs to be around 60°- 100°F for adequate germination to occur within 5 – 10 days.
Plant after last frost, from early spring until the middle of summer. Plant 2 – 3 seeds at a distance of approximately 30 inches if you will be growing single plants. Plant 4 – 5 seeds in hills with 4 feet between them for multiple plants. Cover with 1 inch of soil. When seedlings reach a height of 3 inches, they should be thinned to a rate of 1 or 2 plants per mound or hill.
Nearly any type of soil, if there is good drainage, will produce healthy summer squash. Since the roots are close to the surface, mulching may help support plant hardiness in adverse conditions.
Summer squash is ready for harvesting while it is still small in diameter. If they are left on the vine too long, the squash will suffer in quality and tenderness. The longer varieties, yellow and zucchini, are picked when they reach 2 inches or smaller in diameter and are 6 to 8 inches long.
Patty Pan squash is harvested at 3 to 4 inches in diameter.
Inspect plants every 2 days, as the squash grow quickly and are ready for harvesting 4 – 8 days after they flower.
Exercise care when handling summer squash and use fresh squash as soon as possible after harvest.
Take care when harvesting summer squash; the leafstalks and stems, particularly of zucchini, can scratch, and and be an irritant to exposed skin. Use a gardener’s knife or sharp scissors to remove squash from the plant, and wear gloves.
Yellow summer squash have long fruits and can be smooth or bumpy, cylindrical or crook necked.
Scalloped, or patty pan squash, are a type of summer squash that look like a flying saucer. They have scalloped edges and their colors range from white to a greenish yellow.
Middle eastern varieties bear shorter and thicker fruit than yellow squash.
Zucchini are the most popular and most prolific of the summer squashes.
Squash Vine Borers can be picked off the plants manually and destroyed. It is important to destroy any leftover plant debris if borers are present.
Striped Cucumber Beetles may attack new seedlings. These beetles can be prevented by tenting the plants with a netted material. Be sure to remove the tents before temperatures climb above 80°F.
After growing summer squash and harvesting it you can store it for later consumption. Summer squash can be frozen if the squash are cut into small pieces and the pieces frozen. Squash can also be grated before freezing. Work in small portions when grating to maintain the right moisture content of frozen squash. An amount that equal to half of a sandwich sized plastic bag works well and leaves room for the frozen squash to be frozen at a thickness of one ½ inch.
The female squash blossoms are edible and may be picked before fruit develops. Blossoms should be battered and then fried.