All About Growing Squash Plants

Squash were cultivated in Mesoamerica 10,000 years ago. It was an integral crop in the guild of the “Three Sisters” (corn, beans and squash). Squash come in summer varieties like zucchini or pattypan, winter varieties like butternut, spaghetti, acorn and Hubbard. They are hardy, easy-to-grow plants and thrive when grown organically. Some varieities are also great for winter storage.

Growing Squash Plants

How to Grow Squash?

Squash like to be planted in mounds, spaced about three feet from one another. They love sun and good drainage. Give them some fertilizer, such as finished compost and a light mulch. Squash are broad-leafed, so they don’t require much by way of mulch. Their leaves will give them sufficient shade. Squash are prodigious plants and will produce a lot, so be warned. They produce both male and female flowers, which insects pollinate. Summer varieties should be harvested when they are a managable size, or their flesh becomes tough and unappetizing. This can be a difficult task in the heat of summer, however, because your plants will be going full-bore and squash plants do a good job of concealing their own fruit. If you end up with a monster squash (you will), cut it up and turn it into pickles

Winter squash, on the other hand, will ripen to full maturity on the vine and won’t balloon up, like their summer counterparts. Wait until the fall, when their skins are tough enough to where your fingernail can’t pierce their skin, cut them from the plant with a small length of stalk on them. Wipe them clean and store them in a cool, dark place, like your basement. They’ll keep for months.

Pests and Powdery Mildew on Squash

If you’re getting pests, such as squash bugs, vine borers or cucumber beetles, you can string some insect netting over a hoop cover to keep them away. Remove the netting once the plant blossoms, to let in pollinating insects.

Powdery mildew is a late-summer and fall affliction that causes a distinctive, white fungus to appear on leaves, which retards growth and slowly kills plants. To prevent it, keep moisture levels relatively low and trim plants to allow for air circulation. It can be treated with early detection, but it spreads rapidly. In severe cases, remove the part of the plant exhibiting powdery mildew, or the entire plant itself. A garlic-based fungicide may be applied, if timed correctly and deployed at first detection.

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