Growing squash from seed or from a start is the best introduction to growing vegetables I know of. It’s easy, fast and incredibly satisfying.
Before I grew a squash plant I truly had never kept a single plant alive. After mentioning that I would like to grow things, Kevin bought me a trio of herbs as an “I like you” gift when we first started dating which I promptly killed (and hid) two out of the three within two weeks. The rosemary clung on for an additional week or two and then it was toast.
Needless to say when he suggested that we try raising a garden a year or so into our marriage I was more than a little intimidated. He took care of ALL of the plants when we first got married and our home was filled with lush greenery that I loved.
When we moved onto my parents property he suggested that I start with a squash plant and a few fresh herbs. It started as a teeny little plant.Note: These are not all the same plant or variety of squash
But it grew…
and then it got baby squash on it!
and then they died….
I was a more than a little crestfallen when this was when these and shriveled up baby squash were all I walked away with for weeks….
Kevin announced he had never seen this problem before…..great. I can’t even get a squash to grow right!
A few weeks later we went over to the Valley to visit his grandfather who was ill and we asked him if he knew what was wrong. He promptly told us that we didn’t have enough bees and that our squash weren’t being pollinated properly. Oooooh.
Squash sex. Got it.
Quick tutorial. This is a girl: See the little fruit before the flower?
And this is a boy:
See how they just have a stem?
That little pollen covered bit inside? That’s called a stamen. That’s the important part.
It’s a bit rough and not nearly as beautiful a love dance as bees pollinating them but you are going to rip its petals off….
And then. Well. You get the idea.
And then you get this!
Squash Planting Depth: 1 inch for seeds, container depth for seedlings (if they are leggy you can sink them under a bit)
Squash Light Needs: Full sun
Squash Spacing: Refer to seed packet- can be up to 4 feet or more across!
Squash Maturity: 45-55 days
Squash Plant out date: Plant after all risk of frost has passed.
Squash Frost Tolerance: Not frost tolerant
Tips for Growing Squash
1. Squash hate cold weather. When they freeze they look like this:
So plant out once its warm and protect from frosts vigilantly. If you get hit with frost cut off all the damaged leaves and harvest all the fruit on the plant. It’s highly possible it will recover if protected from additional freezes.
2. They grow really REALLY fast and they don’t like their roots being disturbed. Thus either wait for the ground to be warm enough to plant in the soil or start then 1-2 weeks before planting out. If they are leggy and/or starting to flower already they will die once transplanted. If you absolutely can’t get them outside get them into a LARGE container and be gentle with the roots as you transplant.
3. They are heavy drinkers and feeders. Water deeply several times a week and fertilize monthly with composted (or fresh rabbit) manure or a medium grade fertilizer. Sprinkle fertilizer lightly around base DO NOT pile up fertilizer around the base or all the roots will fry.
4. Pick squash when they are small and tender. This helps keep production high and prolific.
5. Give them enough space. They get BIG. 4 feet wide is not uncommon.
6. Interplanting radishes around the base is a great way to use up that open space while they are maturing. Apparently they also can keep away squash vine borers if you let them go to flower!
7. Squash vine borers are brutal and can take out your whole crop. Cover with row cover if you’re area is prone to them and/or be prepared to replant if needed. More info on them here. I unfortunately think I have seen some this year so I’m praying they haven’t gotten to them yet.
8. The package says you can plant in hills of 2 or more. I always just do a single plant in each location.
We have had great success with Ferry Morse’s seeds, which we use because its what we can get with our food stamps (didn’t you know you can buy seeds and plants with food stamps? It’s true!). But we really want to move all of our seeds over to heirloom or at least non hybrid plants so are starting to try to find as many as we can locally and through seed swaps.
Zucchini, yellow crooked neck and straight yellow neck all do very well. Straight yellow necks are very fast growing for those with short seasons. We also highly recommend finding a Mexican Grey Squash (sometimes just called Grey Squash). It’s the earliest and fastest growing plant we have grown so far!
Tell us your tips for growing squash. What varieties do you love? What didn’t work so well?