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Growing Squash
It's Fun, and Delicious!

For me, I love growing squash – it is one of my favorite vegetables.

Nothing is more of a comfort food on a chilly fall night than a serving of steaming hot squash!

With so many varieties of squash to choose from and so many ways to prepare it, it's practically the perfect vegetable!

What makes it even more enjoyable is that it’s a lot of fun to grow! For years it has been a part of my garden.

Choosing what to plant 

Right about the first of January I start flipping through the latest seed catalogs, stalking out the latest varieties of vegetable seeds as I plan my garden for the upcoming year.

I have before me my list of "hits and misses" from the year before.

Some years I have more misses than hits. Sometimes wildlife beats me to my crop.

But to me, gardening is all about the learning process and the enjoyment I get out of it.

Variety is the "spice of life

I always try out something new.

Last year I ordered a totally different kind of “squash”. I got some Luffa seeds.

They are a member of the squash family and once the fruit is ripe, harvested and allowed to dry you have a natural sponge!

Definitely a fun addition to the garden!


Growing squash needs lots of room

Squash needs growing room, so I place my hills a minimum of 8 to 10 feet apart.

Since I love to grow two or three varieties of squash, the added distance helps to minimize cross pollination.

If you have a small garden with only enough room for one variety of squash, why not convince a friend to plant another variety, and trade?

Planting squash

Squash can be grown in two ways - started from seed, or purchased as starters from your local nursery.

Squash is very sensitive to frost so it is best to wait until any chance of frost has passed and the soil temperature has reached a minimum of 65 degrees.

Then you can safely sow squash seed directly into the garden

Preparing the soil

When planting squash seeds I always include two things: 

1.  Some fresh compost to help hold the
     moisture in the soil

2.  Some slow release fertilizer to help feed my newly establishing plants

Editor's note:

To condition the soil, bathe it with
some humic acid and sea minerals.

This adds wonderful nutrients for great
flavor, and helps to improve the soil.

Direct sowing squash seed

I generally plant my squash in small hills, as the hills warm quicker than the ground around them and give the squash a bit more room to grow.

I recommend tucking 5 to 6 seeds about one inch deep into each hill.

As long as the soil temperature is at least 65 degrees, seeds generally take less than a week to emerge from the ground.

The soil needs to stay moist during this time, so I usually water daily.

Planting squash seedlings

If I get busy and forget to pick up seeds, or my seeds just don't take, I purchase starter squash plants from a local garden store and transplant them in my garden.

However, I prefer growing squash directly from seed. I enjoy the thrill of watching those little plants emerge from ground.

Thinning out the crop

Once the plants begin to sprout and are a few inches tall, I go back and thin out the weaker plants to allow the best plants to be my crop producers.

I always cut off the weaker plants rather than pull them.

This way I don't disturb the roots of the plants around them.

The benefits of mulching

Once my plants are established, it is time to lay down some mulch.

This helps to keep weed growth at bay so that my squash plants aren't competing with weeds for water and nutrients.

If I didn't use mulch, weeds could quickly overrun the garden.

Mulch also helps to retain moisture, giving plants a stronger root system during times of drought.

Plus, mulch gives me a great place to walk or kneel when I am working in the garden!

Dealing with Problems

Cucumber Beetles and Squash Bugs

Cucumber Beetles and Squash Bugs can be problem pests when growing squash, so I always keep my eyes peeled for these critters.

When they appear I work quickly to remove and dispose of them.

FYI, they like to hide under the leaf.


Dealing with Squash Borers

These bore into the base of the plant.

Unfortunately, you don’t see them until you see their hole at the base of the vine with a little of their white excrement around it.

To prevent squash bores in the first place, some people wrap the base of the plant with aluminum foil.

Once you see that you have a Squash Bore, you can slit the stem vertically, extract the Squash Bore, then wrap Glad wrap around the base to seal it up and prevent more bores from invading.

Input from a reader, Cheryl Coston

Good site!  Read about your squash growing and love of
winter squash.  I usually check and remove a stem borer,
but when time is short - I have an alternative I thought I'd share.

I put some soil or mulch on various "junctions" of the stem
as it grows.  It will root. If a borer gets your main stem,
the plant will continue to thrive with all its other root systems.

Just hiked into the center of a huge plant and found the
main stem to check for borers on a volunteer hubbard
and was amazed to find several had been and gone,
main stem pretty much destroyed - and my plant hasn't
noticed it.  It's still ripening 6 large fruits and looks healthy.

I should have checked before and gotten the borers, but
when life gets busy and the plant is huge - this method can
save it. I'll look for the pupae when I sift the compost pile it's in. 

You can also inject BT into the stem with a syringe and it will kill the
borer without having to slit the stem - I've done this and it works.

Overcoming powdery Mildew

This is another common squash problem, especially in a wet environment. Here’s the best way to avoid it.

  • Keep plants well spaced so that they receive adequate air circulation.

    This will help to dry out leaves from dew or rain.

  • When you water, don’t water the leaves of the plant.

    Instead, carefully direct water to the base of the plant.


Growing squash vertically

I first came across this while visiting Disney World on a family vacation.

There was a wonderful display of vegetables, including tomatoes, melons and squash that were all being grown vertically!


This allowed the fruit/vegetables to hang down from the plant, resulting in:

  • Great air circulation

  • Less chance of rot

  • Less chance of invasion by pests

  • Nipping numerous other problems in the bud that can arise when plants are grown in the traditional way.

It was truly a site to see! 


Closing words

In closing, growing squash can be a lot of fun, and is a great plant to add to your vegetable garden.

It is a vegetable that will keep for months after harvesting, and with a bit of hard work it will yield some fantastic results!

By Jodie Munshaw

(Return from Growing Squash to Vegetable Gardening)