Squash is one of the most common plants gardeners love to have in their gardens, and understandably so. It’s effortless to grow and typically grows well without any problems. Plus, there are both summer and winter varieties, so you can enjoy squash all year.
First, decide whether you want to grow winter or summer varieties of squash. Summer squash is large and bushy, while winter squash is a vine plant. Sow the seeds in late spring, provide at least 6 hours of sunlight, and give them 1-1.5 inches of water per week.
So whether you plant zucchinis, patty pan squash, or buttercup, how do you ensure a good harvest? So now, let’s look at when you should plant your squash, how much sun and water you need to give them, and how to harvest them.
When Should You Plant Squash?
Both summer and winter squashes, zucchinis, and pumpkins grow well once the temperature reaches around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. So you can sow a squash nearly everywhere in late spring. If you live somewhere where the growing season is long, you can even plant a second round of squash (like another variety) in early spring.
It usually takes about 50-65 frost-free days for summer squashes to grow, so you can plant them somewhere around the last two weeks of spring.
Meanwhile, winter squashes take slightly longer and start to mature after roughly 60-100 frost-free days.
But you don’t need to worry about winter squash not being ready in time. In most cases, you can sow the seeds somewhere in late spring and harvest them before the first frost hits. But, of course, winter squash can also be planted in the middle of summer.
You can plant squash indoors 3-4 weeks before the actual planting date. To do so, sow your seeds in peat pots, but make sure you plant them, so their root isn’t disturbed during transplantation. Start by plating off 3-4 seeds in one pot before reducing them to 2.
Make sure you harden the plants before you plant them in the garden to minimize the shock of transplanting.
Also, don’t transplant the seeds until the danger of frost passes. You should also mulch the squash generously since it helps reduce weeds and maintains moisture.
Summer vs. Winter Squash
You can find numerous varieties of squash. While some are vine plants, others are bush varieties, so before planting the seeds, make sure you know the type of squash you have and then plan your garden according to that.
How They Grow
Squash can be divided according to their growing season, i.e., winter and summer. Summer squash varieties are bushy, large, and don’t spread like vine types. Meanwhile, most winter varieties are vine plants that typically spread throughout the garden.
Many kinds of summer squash available differ according to color and variety, but the most common ones include zucchini, scallop, crooked neck, and straight neck squash.
Winter squash are typically organized according to the fruit’s size, but numerous shapes, colors, and sizes are available. Some common winter varieties include Hubbard, spaghetti, butternut, and acorn.
Summer squash is tender; you can cook it or eat it raw, like in salads. Meanwhile, winter varieties are more fibrous and drier.
The method of planting and growing both types is the same; the only difference is the time needed to harvest them.
How Much Sun Does Squash Need?
Like other vine-growing plants, squash also grows well in heat, but it’s hardier than cucumbers and melons.
Therefore, you should grow your squash in an area that receives at least six hours of full sunlight daily, along with well-drained soil, good air circulation, and warm weather.
However, when putting the seedlings in sunny weather, you should use some shade cover, like an inverted flowerpot, for a few days to prevent wilting.
How Often Should You Water Squash?
Squash needs even, regular watering, and the soil should also be moist. However, you should avoid overhead watering and try not to wet the leaves. Ideally, you should give 1-1.5 inches of water per week.
How to Harvest Squash
When it’s time to harvest squash plants, check for them daily since they tend to grow very fast, particularly in hot weather. Harvesting the crop frequently is good since it promotes a better yield.
Try to harvest the fruit while it’s still tiny. Overly ripe squash is seedy and hard and tends to lose its flavor. If you’ve grown summer varieties, you should harvest them before the seeds ripen, and the rinds are soft. But avoid picking winter varieties until they’re well-matured.
If you don’t want to harvest summer squash when they’re big enough to eat, you can wait until they reach their full size, which is around 6-8 inches long. Then, use a pointed knife to harvest the plants every other day while producing.
If you miss a few days of harvesting, ensure you get rid of the overripe squash as soon as possible to lessen the burden of nutrients and moisture on the plant. If you have a surplus of squash, you can make squash slices or grill slices before chucking them away in your freezer.
Harvesting Squash Blossoms
Since they’re edible, you can harvest squash blossoms and add them to different dishes. Just pluck the first blossoms of the seasons, get rid of the inner parts, and add the petals to different salads and appetizers to add a pop of color to them.
Don’t worry about harvesting the first flowers coming in the way of the plant’s fruit production. Early squash flowers are males, so they only bear pollen and not fruit.
Storing Harvested Squash
You can store summer squash in a cool and moist area for roughly two weeks and freeze them or can them. Meanwhile, you can store winter squash for 1-6 months in a cool and dry place like the basement. Just make sure you wipe them with a damp cloth first.
Once the rinds of winter squash become so hard that they can’t be punctured with your nail, cut them but make sure you leave a little vine attached. You’ll have to be patient since only completely ripened squash can last in storage.