Growing squash will not be a hassle to grow. It is a very versatile one. There are many different options to choose from for your own garden at home.
This type of plant is easy and comes with high yields. It comes in a lot of varietals.
Winter squashes like delicate, butternut, and acorn can be very versatile. You can use them as a decoration on the table.
They can also be used as part of your dishes. Besides those squashes, there is also a summer version of the squash.
Summer and Winter Squash: The Difference
Before growing squash, you may know more about this vegetable plant. It is actually the most commonly grown plant in the garden.
It is easy to grow and it establishes quite well all over the United States.
Winter squashes grow slower. It needs about 80 to 100 days. The mature stage will give a rich color before harvesting time.
The winter variety has thick skins and becomes more protective. That is why it could last longer in the storage space.
For example, Pumpkin, Butternut, and Hubbard.
While Summer squash will grow quickly. It only needs 60 days. The fruit will be harvested during the summer season while it is still young.
It has thinner and tender skin. The squash tends to be a prolific producer. One of the most common types of summer squash is Zucchini.
Squash Varieties to Grow
Knowing more about this plant will get it easier in growing squash in your vegetable garden. Here are the common types of squash plants available to grow :
There are still a lot more varieties available at the store. So, which one is recommended to grow in your garden?
Well, that would be according to your level of gardening. For a beginner, Pumpkin will be the best choice to begin.
Everybody is familiar with this Jack ‘O Lantern wannabe.
The plant starts small and green. It pops out on enormous vines. It will slowly fatten up. Eventually, it will transform into a bright orange fruit.
It is really recommended for a beginner since this variety is hard to go wrong in growing squash.
Additionally, it comes in several varieties. Some are better flavor and texture for cooking, the other are great for carving.
There are also some varieties with the color white.
Besides Pumpkin, Zucchini is also perfect for beginners. It can be a joy to grow this vegetable plant. The vines will quickly be filling on the garden which is followed by flowers.
It needs cross-pollination between female and male flowers.
If you only have limited space in the garden, consider having trellises so the vines would grow on them. Zucchini plants are space hogs.
That is how you should manage it.
Planting Guide to Growing Squash
Squash plants can grow really well in mounds. To begin the planting, you have to hill up some soil. Then, plant three to five seeds on each mound.
You can buy the seeds from the store.
The seeds should be an inch deep in mounts. Set them about 4 feet apart. You should do this step after all frost danger has passed.
You can start the plant indoors about three to four weeks before the last frost. The squash will also be a good potted plant.
After planting, you will focus on growing squash. So, start thinning to two or three per mound after the seedlings occur.
Full sun is the best treatment for squash. The planting site should be on a south or southeast which facing slope.
Water the plant at least once a week for about one inch deep. The best soil will be a pH of 6.0 to 6.7. to deter weeds.
According to experience, the squash plant does not fall victim to weeds but prevention should always be done.
A light layer of mulch will be very helpful to retain moisture.
In short, the Squash growing stages begin with seed germination. Then, it continues to the vine growth. After that, the squash will begin its flowering and fruiting stages.
When to Harvest
When it is harvesting time, you should check it based on the varieties. Summer squash would have a different treatment than winter squash.
For the summer squash like zucchini, you can harvest it when the fruit is young and tender. There is also an option to wait until it reaches its full size.
Generally, zucchini will grow about 6 to 8 inches long. The green skin of the fruit shows a healthy sheen. How about the winter squash?
Well, acorn, butternut, delicate, and many others will be ready to harvest when the outer rind will resist the pressure or a stab from the fingernail.
For harvesting, use scissors or pruning shears to take the squash off the vine. Avoid twisting and pulling the fruit from the plant.
It will ruin the plant and the squash itself. You should harvest the plant frequently because it will grow more squash.
When you see the overripe squash, just remove it from the plant as soon as possible.
It will encourage more yields to come. Besides the fruit, the blossoms or flowers can also be part of your dish.
Pick the first blooms to avoid affecting the plant growth. You can toss it into your veggie salad by removing the interior of the flowers before adding it to the dish.
What to Feed
Growing squash properly will need some kind of fertilizer. This type of plant has high yields which is why it is a heavy feeder.
You can encourage the growth of the plant by fertilizing prior to planting the seeds. You should also apply it in the growing season.
Prior to planting, you can combine up to 3 inches of compost into the soil. You can do composting before that.
Instead, just use a 5-10-10 fertilizer. Then, you can spread a tablespoon per mound before planting. Throughout the growing season, apply the fertilizer monthly.
Common Pests and Diseases
Just like any other crop, squashes are susceptible to several diseases and pests. Here are some of the common ones:
Squash Vine Borers
This one is common in home gardens that are located in the middle of the eastern US. It tunnels through the stems.
It deprives the leaves and fruit of moisture. To prevent this, you should rotate the squash crops. You can also cover the bases with aluminum foil while the plant stems are still young.
This disturbing creature will eventually destroy the plant. Setting the traps can also be one of the physical control for growing squash.
It is just another common pest in the garden that can feast on squash. The lowly aphid is easy to notice because these pests travel in colonies.
Watch out for discoloration on the stems of the plant. When the plant turns green, black, or purple, those are the signs of aphids.
If it is getting out of hand, you might start spraying the affected stems with a water jet. You can try neem oil to control the aphids.
This type of pest attacks the leaves. It will cause them to turn wither, brittle, blacken, and eventually die.
This harmful pest will appear throughout Central America. When you notice brown marks on the leaves, that is the first sign.
Try placing large cabbage leaves around the ground of the plants. The bugs will gather under there. You can get them all and destroy them.
Besides, growing squash will face blossom end rot, powdery mildew, mosaic virus, Alternia leaf blight, and some other common diseases.
Growing Squash in Pot
Growing squash in pot or other containers might be possible. To begin, you will need one or two seeds in small pots of at least 3 inches.
It allows the seeds to germinate. The soil needs to be moist evenly. Place it in a bright, warm location. Wait about a week for the germination process.
For two weeks, feed the plants with fertilizer. Do not overfeed because it only needs a quarter of strength. Transfer the squash plant into a larger container with soil that is rich in organic material.
The size should be at least 24 inches. Place the plant under a spot that receives plenty of sun.
Those are the steps for growing summer squash. So, what about the winter ones? You are definitely able to grow winter squash in a pot or other containers.
The plant can produce just as much fruit as they do on the ground.
First of all, you need to sow the seeds. After that, transplant them into the right size container. Then, you can begin the similar growing steps to other squashes.
The size of the pot should be at least 24 inches in diameter and 12 inches in depth.
Is it possible to grow squash in a smaller space? Yes, it is possible. You can grow it vertically instead of horizontally on the ground.
Set up a trellis to allow the vines to climb up. It definitely saves a lot of space in the garden.
This guide will definitely make you ready for growing squash in your own garden. If you do not have a space in your backyard, you can always use a pot.