When we talk the summer squash family, we’re talking about the squash 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.
When to Plant
After all danger of frost and the ground is warm enough to put your wrist onto the soil without feeling uncomfortable. The seeds rot quickly in cold ground and you’ll do better if you wait a bit with this plant.
Where to Plant
In full sun in good soil.
How to Plant
These plants are so easy to grow from seed that you should never consider purchasing them. Sow after the ground has truly warmed up and all danger of cold weather and frost have passed. Sow 1 seed every 6-7 centimeters of row and approximately 1.5 cm deep. The rows should be 1.2m 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.)
Care & Maintenance
If you grow them in hills (slightly raised circles – approximately 45 cm across, you can put 4 seeds in a hill. Construct your hills 1m apart in all directions. Thin to only 2 seeds in a hill and pick the strongest seedlings to leave when the seedlings reach 5 to 7 cm tall.
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 the plants in July will 1) even out the moisture levels and 2) keep the soil at a steady temperature to increase your yields.
Harvested small – when the squash are in the 10-15 cm 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.)
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). Note that squash bugs hang around overnight in flowers that bloomed and closed that day – now you know where to look.
And remember, the more fruit you pick – the more you get
(all numbers rounded out)
1/4 inch = .6 cm
1/2 inch = 1.3 cm
1 inch = 2.5 cm
6 inch = 15 cm
12 inch = 30 cm
18 inch = 45 cm
36 inch = 91 cm
You can read other organic vegetable gardening tips here