Thanks to its high yield and delicious flavor, many gardeners are curious about how to grow squash. Growing squash is easier than you might imagine; plant a buttery yellow crookneck, delicately flavored butternut squash, and zucchini. You’ll be collecting several squashes every day by peak season – more than enough to eat, store, and share with friends and neighbors.
Like all other plants of the Cucurbitaceae plant family, squash species require a long growing season and warm soil. Squash of all kinds thrives in the sun and heat. Once the temperature consistently rises over 65˚F, start growing squash in full sun for the best results (and larger harvests). “I always remind gardeners to be patient and wait for warm soil; it’s the secret to a bountiful squash harvest,” advises Isabella Douglas, a knowledgeable practitioner in plants, gardening, and growing food.
As there are so many types of squash, and the names are often used interchangeably, the world of squashes may be perplexing. Summer squash is often linked with zucchini, but more summer squashes like yellow squash, crookneck, patty pan, and narrow neck belong to the same species.
- Everything to Know About Growing Squash
Everything to Know About Growing Squash
If you’re interested in growing squash and have questions about how to grow squash or how long does it take squash to grow, you’re not alone. Squash is fantastic for any garden, thanks to its massive fruit output.
One squash plant generates a large amount of fruit compared to the amount of space it requires, making growing squash an excellent choice for large and small gardens.
Native Americans gave it the name isquoutersquash, and marrow is how the British refer to it. The term squash comes from the American English language. Regardless, this vegetable is well-loved, and many gardeners are growing squash or interested in how to grow squash around the world.
When the air temperature reaches 65ºF, winter squash, summer squash, and pumpkins thrive, meaning gardeners may plant squash and gourds almost everywhere in late spring. Growers in locales with a long growing season where the weather began to warm six weeks ago may already be on to their second planting of delicious squash by late spring, possibly enjoying a different variety.
When you plant squash, note that most summer squash needs 50 to 65 days of frost-free weather to mature. Winter squashes take a little longer, requiring 60 to 100 frost-free days. In many areas, sow winter squash seed in late April and achieve harvest before the first frost.
Summer squash is a tender squash eaten raw as a snack, in salads, or cooked. Winter squashes are dry and fibrous, only harvested when completely ripe, and must be cooked. Except for the growing period required until harvest, the requirements for planting and cultivating summer squash and winter squash are the same.
The Many Types of Squash
Summer squash, such as zucchini, is named because it is often picked and eaten when it is partly ripe in summer. Almost all summer squashes are genetic variants of the same Curbita pepo species.
Summer squash grows swiftly (in around 60 days) and is harvested while still immature during the summer. Their skin is thinner and tender, and the plants produce a lot of veggies. The most popular summer squash is zucchini, and pattypan is another delicious variant.
Winter squash is a distinct group of squashes eaten when completely ripened in the fall and have a thicker rind, allowing them to be stored for months. Butternut, acorn, Hubbard, pumpkin, and spaghetti squash are all included in this category.
Winter squash comprises various species; the most common are Cucurbita maxium and Cucurbita moschata. They mature to a deep color before harvesting and grow slowly (about 80 to 110 days).
Gourd is a collective term for various squashes with intriguing knobby, bumpy, and multicolored shells that aren’t edible and are instead used as ornamentals.
Choosing the best squash varieties is a matter of personal taste; often, what you grow comes down to what purposes or dishes you have planned for your produce.
Squash plants are a favorite for many growers for their high production and the versatility of these veggies in the kitchen. Choosing your desired squash varieties is the first step in learning how to grow squash in your home garden.
Growing Squash from Seed
Take advantage of the growing season, especially if you’re hoping for an early and later squash harvest. The best way to grow zucchini or another squash is to start growing squash seeds indoors early in the year while the climate outside is unfavorable.
About 2-4 weeks before the latest frost date, it’s time to start growing spaghetti squash and gain a head start by planting your squash seeds indoors. Start seeds in peat pots with a good quality seed starting soil mix at about a half-inch depth. Plant birdhouse gourds and other squash seeds the same way.
Grow butternut squash seedlings or other types of squash between 80-90°F until they germinate, then at an indoor temperature of about 75°F. You should see squash seeds begin germination 7-10 days after planting.
If your seeds fail to germinate after two weeks, consider restarting your batch. Ensure you’re using a high-quality seed starting mix, keeping the temperature within the correct parameters, and consider purchasing a new packet of seeds if they don’t sprout.
Transplanting Squash Seedlings
Summer and winter squash are both warm-season crops. To avoid your seeds rotting before sprouting, wait for the soil temperature to reach 60°F before planting squash seeds. The same is true for transplanting; wait until the temperature has warmed up before putting them out.
Plant summer squash after all danger of frost has gone; sow winter squash up to midsummer. Grow squash plants in full sun with rich, well-drained soil getting at least six hours of sun per day.
Mix half a dozen inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter to give the earth the nutrient boost these heavy feeders demand. A thin layer of mulch helps moisture retention and weed prevention.
Squash plants prefer a lot of space to spread. However, how much space they require depends on whether you’re producing bush types or vining varieties of squash. Plants must be 15-20 inches apart, and rows should be 4-6 feet apart for bush types. Space plants 12-15 inches apart in rows 6-12 feet apart for vining types.
Many gardeners prefer to plant in hills, so distance your hills 6 to 8 feet apart. Vining squash may be spaced closer together, but you’ll have difficulty spotting the veggies among all the dark green leaves. A trellis is helpful, especially if you grow squash in a raised bed or if you are growing squash in pots, as it helps contain the spread.
How Long Does It Take Squash to Grow?
After learning how to grow squash, many growers are curious – how long does it take squash to grow? Most summer squash cultivars are ready to harvest about 60 days after planting. The veggies usually are considered ready when they reach 6–8 inches. Summer squash becomes less delicate and flavorful if you wait too long.
Winter squash is different. When a fruit’s rind resists being pierced with a fingernail, it’s time to harvest. Winter squash stores well for up to six months in a cool, dark place after picking.
How to Grow Squash – Care
Squash plants require full sun to produce fruit. Plant seeds or seedlings in an area receiving six hours of full sun per day. Squash loves to wrap its roots around bits of compost, and they require a lot of sun and adequate drainage. Mix in about a three inch layer of compost to prepare the earth for squash.
Squash plants are typically large, so space them according to their type or follow the seed package’s directions. Because squash leaves are broad and dense, mature plants need only light mulch to keep weeds at bay and provide cooling shade.
For a few days after transplanting squash seedlings in bright weather, use a floating row cover or another shade cover to help avoid withering.
Squash are heavy feeders who thrive in organically rich soil. Choose a continuous release plant food for regular feedings to ensure your squash plants have all the nutrients they need to produce a large harvest.
Watering Your Squash Plants
Squash requires one inch of water every week to thrive. Water mature squash plants once a week to keep the soil moist at least eight inches beneath the surface – plan to water more regularly if your soil is mainly sandy or the climate is extremely hot.
Squash vines reach moisture in the soil where other plant varieties can’t because they have deep and shallow root systems. Squash plants produce more squash if they are irrigated regularly. Every two days, check the soil to ensure it isn’t drying out. Plan to water the plants if the earth begins to dry about one inch below the surface.
Place the garden hose or watering can spout to water the soil rather than the plant foliage. To properly soak the soil, apply water slowly and continuously. Instead of watering the squash plants shallowly, give them a gradual watering to saturate the ground.
Although squash thrives when watered deeply, the leaves suffer if they are damp for an extended time. Keep the leaves dry by watering the plants around the base; early morning watering ensures the foliage dries fast. Don’t over-water.
Squash roots require both oxygen and water. The squash drowns and develops root rot when the roots can’t obtain enough oxygen in waterlogged soil.
Pollination for Squash Plants
Squash plants bear both male and female blooms. Look for a little squash beneath the petals to distinguish the female flowers. Male flowers bloom a week or two before female flowers do, and they sit straight on the stem.
Bees and other beneficial insects visit female flowers regularly to aid in pollination for the development of squash, leaving pollen trails from male blossoms behind. Don’t be alarmed if male flowers fall to the ground; this is typical.
Squash Plants Pests
Squash bugs or Anasa tristis, cucumber beetles, or squash vine borers, lay visible insect eggs. Squash bugs love young plants; finding squash bug eggs on your plant leaves indicates an issue that, if left unhandled, might end in crop devastation.
Squash bug nymphs and mature bugs wreak havoc on squash plants. It is impossible to overstate how critical time is. If you see squash bug eggs or adult bugs, take action quickly to avoid a pest problem and achieve squash bug control before the invaders cause severe damage.
Aphids are tiny sap-sucking insects belonging to the Aphidoidea superfamily. Although members within the species might vary significantly in color, popular names include greenfly and blackfly. Like squash bugs, aphids are incredibly harmful to your squash crop.
Whether you use commercial pesticides or prefer a DIY organic route, several options exist to control common squash pests fast.
Whatever route you choose, monitor your squash plants for signs of squash vine borers, aphids, or other insect activity and act immediately. Fungal diseases such as powdery mildew affect squash plants, too.
Avoid disease by taking care not to overwater and watering in the morning to give plants plenty of time to dry before cooler evening temperatures combine with moisture to invite fungal diseases.
Companion Planting for Squash Plants
It’s easier to grow squash when you employ companion planting as a natural, organic, and cost-effective way to reduce pests and prevent insects from ruining your harvest.
Companion planting is when multiple plant species are grown together for mutual benefit. Before seeding your squash crops, use companion plants for squash to keep pests at bay. Several plants repel common squash pests.
To naturally repel squash pests without harsh chemicals, choose a suitable companion plant to grow beside your cucurbit crops. Although many gardeners prefer natural methods, squash bug control is accomplished in various ways. Companion planting protects your squash plants while helping with insect management.
Companion planting lets you enjoy other fruits or vegetables or beautiful blooms in your garden in addition to your squash. Since different plants yield flowers or produce, companion planting is an innovative, organic, and inexpensive method of pest control when growing squash plants.
Many growers are eager to try the fruit and the edible flowers after learning how to grow squash and have been growing squash in home gardens. Pick the first flowers developing on your squash plants, remove the interior sections and use the delicate petals to color salads and snacks.
Because the first flowers are males, they bear pollen but no fruit, so harvesting the first blooms will not harm plant productivity.
Zucchini, yellow squash, and other species of summer squash are harvested as baby squash or up to 6-8 inches long. Harvest squash at least every other day by cutting the stems with a sharp knife.
If you forget for a few days, remove any overripe squash as soon as you relieve the plants’ moisture and nutrient demands. Pickles are simple to make if you have an abundance of squash or grill seasoned slices and store them in the freezer. Dried summer squash is also a good option.
Cut the rinds of winter squash with a small stub of vine attached when they are sturdy enough to resist being pierced with a fingernail. Wait for the squash to ripen before storing it, as only fully ripened squash lasts well in storage.
The longevity of homegrown squash is one of its most appealing features. Some types keep until spring, allowing you to grow vitamin-rich vegetables all year. They must, however, be cured or seasoned first.
After harvesting the squash, put it outside in the sun for 7-10 days to cure. Warm and dry weather is ideal for curing. Clean the fruits with a moist cloth before storing them in the cellar or another cool location.
Squash is often intimidating to first-time squash growers or new gardeners. By understanding the differences between summer and winter squash, growers can formulate a plan for growing squash based on the length of the growing season in their local area, garden conditions, and goals for the produce.
Learning how to grow squash is as simple as selecting your type, starting the seeds and transplanting, then providing the right environment, including soil, water, and sunlight. How long does it take squash to grow is a significant consideration for many gardeners and often helps dictate which types of squash are the best fit.
Whether you want to celebrate Halloween with homegrown pumpkins, decorate in the fall with beautiful gourds, or enjoy tender yellow squash right from your garden, growing squash is straightforward and rewarding. Plant and care for your squash plants, and watch out for insect pests and fungal disease to enjoy a bountiful harvest of delicious squash.
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