The humble squash, a seasonal vegetable that is easy to store for the long winter months ahead, flourishes in United States Plant Hardiness Zones Two through Six. Home gardeners have a diverse array of different types, sizes, shapes, and flavors of squash to choose from, including every gardener’s summer favorite: zucchini.
The primary difference between summer squash and winter varieties is the harvest time.
Summer squash varieties include butternut, acorn, spaghetti and delicate to name a few. Seeds are typically started indoors in peat moss pots, two-to-four weeks before the last spring frost, and gently transplanted to a sunny spot in the garden once the soil warms to a minimum of 60 degrees Fahrenheit at a two-inch depth.
To encourage soil to absorb the warmth of the sun, cover your garden plot with black landscape plastic. Applied in the fall it will kill all the weeds and encourage composting of organic materials while trapping the heat of the sun.
Newly formed squash roots are tender and delicate. Take care when transplanting to prevent root damage.
Experienced gardeners prefer direct seeding, as transplants do not always do well, suggesting gardener’s plant a few seeds at different times as the summer progresses. To germinate outside, use cloche or frame protection in cold climates for the first few weeks.
That way, if one batch succumbs to vine borer or other malady or pest, the rest have a good chance at survival. Seeds should be planted two to three inches deep.
Summer squash does best in a full-sun location with excellent drainage in loamy, loose, nutrient-rich soil supplemented with well-aged herbivore manure (cow, goat, sheep, horse). Squash plants will die in soggy ground: they hate “wet feet.”
Summer squash, because it is planted early in the spring, is susceptible to frost, as well as heat damage. However, with proper care and attention, it will produce an abundant crop from just a few plants.
Also planted early in the growing season, winter squash has longer to grow, achieving maturing in mid-autumn, with harvest before the first fall frost. The same cultivation guidelines apply to winter squash as those that apply to summer squash.
Winter squash have a tougher, inedible skin and typically grow to a larger size. Because of their thick skin, winter squash stores well if kept in a cool, dark place such as a root cellar or unheated basement that does not freeze.
Squash Cultivation Tips
All varieties of squash are heavy feeders and will produce a bountiful crop if soil is supplemented every couple of weeks with an application of aged-manures. Plant several different types of squash for winter variety.
If you thin your squash blossom, you will have fewer, larger squash. If you do not pinch off every other bloom, you will have more, smaller squash. Squash blossoms are edible and delicious. Use as a plate garnish, in salads, or dip in a thin egg and flour batter and sauté or deep fry for a delicious and compliment getting appetizer.