Getting Massive Harvests OF Summer Squash


OK – let me admit right up front that I eat and enjoy growing summer squash but I'm no huge fan of them.

I cut zucchini up for stir fries but that's as far as I'm prepared to go despite the huge encouragement from friends who simply adore this plant. My taste buds don't go there. Even when harvested quite small (which by the way is when you're supposed to harvest – when the squash are in the 4 to 8 inch long range) and not giants. Those pictures you see of huge fruit in the seed catalogs are generally woody and not worth the eating (even my squash-eating buddies won't eat those.)

basil citriodora boxwood

A variety of summer squash types

Eat Fresh


When we talk this family, we're talking about those squash plants that do not store well and should be eaten fresh. Zucchini, butter crookneck, marrows, spaghetti and scallop types of squash plants are all grown in similar ways. And if you harvest them regularly, they'll keep producing all summer. Oh joy – squash all summer!

Grow From Seed


Growing summer squash from seed is so easy that you should never consider purchasing them as starter plants. Sow after the ground has truly warmed up and all danger of cold weather and frost have passed. Sow 4 seeds per foot of row and approximately one half to three quarters of an inch deep. The rows should be 4 feet apart if you're growing a lot. Mind you, two zucchini plants are enough for the average sized invading army so why anybody would want a row of them is beyond me. (seriously folks – you'll get a squash a day from two plants.)

Small Hills


If you grow them in hills (slightly raised circles – approximately 18 inches across) you can put 4 seeds in a hill. Construct your hills three feet apart in all directions. Thin to only 2 seeds in a hill and pick the strongest seedlings to leave when the seedlings reach two to three inches tall.

Even Moisture


Rapidly growing summer squash really like even moisture (they don't appreciate drying out) and soil that has been enriched with organic matter. Adding compost heavily to this section of the garden will almost guarantee you a good return. You'll also find that adding a mulch around summer squash plants in July will 1) even out the moisture levels and 2) keep the soil at a steady temperature to increase your yields.

Pests


You may find squash bugs and cucumber beetles chowing down on the leaves and these pests can defoliate squash plants almost overnight. While it is a good idea to NOT spray during flowering (you kill off the predators as well) a dusting of rotenone or diatomaceous earth will slow them down. Handpicking is a very useful exercise as you're sure to see and find a ton of pests (drop them into a bucket of soapy water to drown).

Book cover Vegetable Gardening

And remember, the more you pick – the more you get.

And you don't need to invite me to dinner when summer squash is featured on the menu. :-)



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