Summer Squash

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.

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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