Given its name, it's no surprise that summer squash grows more favorably in warm weather -- but this delicious summer vegetable, often used in side dishes, doesn't often survive the fall. Frost and cold temperatures can easily destroy summer squash, so it's important to pay attention to your local growing season.

In this article, we'll discuss growing summer squash, different types of summer squash, how to select summer squash and health benefits of summer squash.


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SUMMER SQUASH
Summer squash needs warm weather and sunshine.
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About Summer Squash

Summer squashes are weak-stemmed, tender annuals. They have large, cucumber-like leaves, and separate male and female flowers appear on the same plant.

A summer squash usually grows as a bush, rather than as a vine. The fruits have thin, tender skin and are generally eaten in the immature stage before the skin hardens. Of the many kinds of summer squashes, the most popular are crookneck, straightneck, scallop, and zucchini.

Growing squash involves a good amount of sunshine and warmth because squashes are warm-season crops and are very sensitive to cold and frost. They like night temperatures of at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Common Name: Summer Squash
Scientific Name: Cucurbita pepo
Hardiness: Very Tender (harvest before the first frost)

In the next section, we'll discuss how to grow summer squash.

Want more information about summer squash? Try:
  • Vegetable Recipes: Quick guides to delicious meals using squash.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.

Growing Summer Squash

Either baked into a casserole or served fresh, summer squash is a popular warm-weather dish. There are many different varieties, from Early Golden Summer, which produces fruit with bright yellow, warted skin to Pic-N-Pic, which has golden-yellow, smooth skin, to scallop types, such as the Peter Pan Hybrid.

Summer squash grows best with direct seeding. However, if a variety requires a longer growing season than your area has, use transplants from a reputable nursery or garden center or grow your own transplants. To grow transplants, start four to five weeks before the outside planting date. Use individual plantable containers to lessen the risk of shock when the seedlings are transplanted.

SUMMER SQUASH TYPES
Well-fertilized soil is a must for the different types of summer squash.


Squash varieties like well-worked soil with good drainage. They're heavy feeders, so the soil must be well-fertilized. Two to three weeks after the average date of last frost, when the soil is warm, plant squash in inverted hills. The hills should be 3 to 4 feet apart; plant four or five seeds in each hill.

When the seedlings are about a week old, thin them to leave the two to three strongest plants. Keep the soil evenly moist: Squashes need a lot of water in hot weather. The vines may wilt on hot days because the plant is using water faster than the roots can supply it. If the vines are getting a regular supply of water, don't worry about the wilting; the plants will liven up as the day cools. If the vines are wilting first thing in the morning, water them immediately.

Harvesting Summer Squash

Harvesting depends on the time from planting to harvest, as well as the expected yield, and it depends on the variety. Harvest summer squashes when they're young: They taste delicious when they're small. If you leave them on the plant too long, they will suppress flowering and reduce your crop.

Harvest zucchini and crookneck varieties when they're 6 to 8 inches long. Harvest round types when they're 4 to 8 inches in diameter. Break or cut the fruit from the plant.

Next, you'll learn about the different types of summer squash.

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Summer Squash Types

You have many summer squash types to choose from when growing squash. We've listed the different varieties below.

From crookneck to zucchini (it's green, but it counts!) squash, summer squash comes in a number of types, making it a key ingredient in many summer dishes.

SUMMER SQUASH TYPES
Depending on what type of summer squash you are growing,
harvesting time can range from 43 to 60 days.


Crookneck Squash Types:

  • Early Golden Summer, harvest in 53 days, gives fruit with bright yellow, warted skin.
  • Pic-N-Pic, pluck in 50 days, has golden-yellow, smooth skin.
Scallop Squash Types:
  • Peter Pan Hybrid, harvest 50 days, is an All America Selection that provides meaty, light-green fruit.
  • Early White Bush Scallop, harvest in 60 days, produces fruit that has pale green skin and creamy-white flesh.
Straightneck Squash Types:
  • Butterstick, harvest in 50 days, produces bright yellow fruit and has a long harvest period.
  • Goldbar, harvest in 53 days, has compact growth and provides fruit with smooth, golden-yellow skin.
Zucchini Squash Types:
  • Burpee Hybrid, harvest in 50 days, has medium-green skin and compact plants.
  • Gold Rush, which should be harvested in 45 days, and Golden Zucchini, which should be harvested in 54 days, have bright golden skin.
  • Spineless Beauty, harvest in 43 days, produces fruits on spineless plants.
In the next section, you'll learn about how to select the best summer squash.

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Selecting Summer Squash

Summer squash is a great vegetable side dish recipe and vegetable recipe component -- but you need to know the right times for choosing the best squash types. Selecting the best squash at the perfect moment in their growth cycle ensures quality and freshness.

SUMMER SQUASH
Use it or lose it: Most summer squash varieties don't store well.

Despite seasonal growth patterns, most types of squash are available year-round. Summer varieties, with their thin, edible skins and soft seeds, include chayote, yellow crookneck, and zucchini.

When selecting squash at a produce store, look for smaller squash that are brightly colored and free of spots, bruises, and mold. Smaller squash are known for their flavor. However, they are not known for their longevity. Summer squash only keeps for a few days; store it in your refrigerator's crisper drawer.

Next, we'll discuss the health benefits of summer squash.

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Health Benefits of Summer Squash

For dieters and health enthusiasts alike, squash is a great addition to a healthy eating program.

Squash has a reputation for fiber. Eating squash is particularly satisfying, because the bulk fills you up, allowing you to forgo second helpings.

Because squash is actually the fruit of various members of the gourd family, it comes in a wide array of colors and sizes. Whether it's tasty summer squash or sweet, flavorful winter squash, this vegetable is a great help for your healthy diet.

SUMMER SQUASH WITH LEAVES
Squash comes in many different types because it's a member of the gourd family.

Health Benefits of Summer Squash

Summer squash contains vitamin C as well as beta-carotene, folate, and fiber. These nutrients make summer squash a tool in preventing cancers, heart disease, and diseases of inflammation such as arthritis and asthma.

Whether you're trying to lose weight or just adopt a healthier eating program, summer squash's rich fiber content can help you get full faster -- and give you many of the nutrients you need.

Nutritional Values of Summer Squash
Serving size: 1/2 cup, cooked
Calories 18
Fat
0 g
Saturated Fat
<1 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Carbohydrate 4 g
Protein 1 g
Dietary Fiber
1 g
Sodium 1 mg
Niacin <1 mg
Calcium
24 mg
Potassium 173 mg
Carotenoids 2,138 micrograms

Want more information about summer squash? Try:
  • Vegetable Recipes: Quick guides to delicious meals using squash.
  • Nutrition: Find out if eating squash fits in with your overall nutrition goals.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.