Summer squash is a gardening favorite because it requires little more than feeding, watering, and weeding and can be harvested in as little as fifty days after planting. Summer squash include come in many varieties from zucchini to the hugely popular yellow crook neck. They also come in a variety of colors including yellow,green,green striped and white. Summer squash differ from fall and winter squash in that summer squash are harvested before the the squash are mature and the rind hardens.
Summer squash come in four varieties. Yellow summer squash is yellow and long with crooked or straight necks. Zucchini is long and usually green with a cylindrical shape. Scalloped summer squash is flat or disc-shaped with scalloped edges. The Mideast or cousa squash has the appearance of a shorter, thicker version of the zucchini.
Summer squash are heat lovers and should be planted after the last killing frost in the spring. You can start your seeds indoors in pots in early spring. Transplant seedlings when the soil temperature reaches about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Seeds can also be planted outside when the daytime temperatures are in the seventies.
Squash like fertile, well-drained soil. Before planting, add compost or dried manure to the soil and mix well. Water your plants every two to three days to keep the soil moist, not wet. A one inch layer of mulch of dried leaves or compost can be added after plants are well established. Mulching helps keep down weeds and provides a continuous supply of nutrients.
Summer squash seeds can br planted in raised beds or in rows 24″-30″ wide and three feet apart. Plant five or six seeds in a group on built up hills. After the plants have reached two to three inches tall, thin to allow 6″ between plants. You can stagger plantings every two weeks to have a longer harvest. Squash grow on vines. Place a wire cage around your plants or add a trellis next to them for support, and to reduce the chance of attack by insect pests. Keep the soil moist but not wet.
The squash bug is perhaps the greatest threat to your crop. They are a half-inch long and a quarter-inch wide. Squash bugs are black or gray in color with orange and brown stripes along the edges of their stomachs. They suck the juices from the leaves, stem and fruit, causing the plant to die. You can combat squash bug by planting a companion crop of catnip, radishes, mint or marigolds nearby to repel them. You can also use a floating row cover over your plants. A floating row cover is a thin, light-weight gauze-like blanket that you place over the plants to keep insects at bay. Be sure to remove the cover during the warmest part of the day.
If you see that your squash are not setting fruit after flowering, the problem is likely that they are not being pollinated by insects. You can simply hand pollinate using a small artist’s paint brush. Be sure to cross pollinate– taking pollen from one plant and transferring it to another plant. Start harvesting the squash after the are the desired size. They are usually ready to pick about fifty days after planting. Summer squash can be used in stews and soups or they can be pickled or frozen.
Squash are high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B6. They also contain significant amounts of manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and dietary fiber.The leaves, stems and flowers are all edible.The flowers can be battered and deep fried. The leaves can be saute ed or added to salads.
Squash is one of the easiest crops to grow in the garden. The squash is both delicious and nutritious and produces usable fruit in less than two months. Their vines can be long and far-reaching, though, so it is a good idea to train them onto a trellis or wire cage. With a little care, you can have a good crop over most of the growing season.