Caring For Summer Squash
Improve The Harvest Trick
Early summer squash are produced from unpollinated female flowers. You want to get the male flowers to start. Here is the trick = Pick some of the first squash just after they begin to form; not all but some. This encourages male flowers to form and they will begin to pollinate the female flowers and definitely increase your plant's production compared to if you did not use this technique. Harvest your summer squash before it gets much bigger than 8 inches even if you have more than you can eat. When you let some squash grow to be baseball bats you are slowing down the productive output of the plant.
Ensure Squash Plants Stay Healthy
While proper fertilizing and watering is important to the success of the squash harvest, there are some additional steps you can take that will make an enormous difference in the health of your squash plants. In the first week of every month you should spray your plants with Thrive and Plant Growth Activator. These two products will add beneficial microbes to the leaves of the plant and help fight disease as well as insure that the plant grows to its maximum capability.
Disease Prevention For Summer Squash
Summer squash is vulnerable to several fungal diseases such as powdery mildew. Now you can prevent the liklihood of having any disease problems by using a new organic biological fungicide called "Actinovate". When you plant your summer squash seedlings you spray some actinovate on the roots. Then two weeks later you spray the leaves with Actinovate. Then spray Actinovate monthly through the growing season. You should not have any disease problems.
Fertilizing Summer Squash
While summer squash is considered a heavy feeder it requires low nitrogen and fairly high potassium and phosphorous for good fruit development.
At Planting - Add an organic granular fertilizer at a rate of 2 to 3 tablespoons per hill of three plants prior to planting.
When plants are 6 to 8 inches tall - add another tablespoon of fertilizer.
When blossoms appear - add another tablesoon of fertilizer.
Do not over fertilize with nitrogen as this encourages vine growth and retards fruiting.
Fioliar Spray Monthly - Summer squash will like a foliar spray of organic fish emulsion once a month through the season.
Watering Summer Squash
Summer squash is deeply rooted, so water slowly with 1 inch of water per week. Allow it to completely soak the soil 6-8 inches deep. Water in the morning or early afternoon so the foliage dries by evening. This helps prevent the spread of leaf diseases. Decrease watering later in the season to encourage fruit to mature. At this time, the root systems will be more extensive and able to withstand drier conditions.
Mulching Summer Squash
As soon as the plants are four or five inches tall apply 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch around each plant.
Harvesting Summer Squash
Summer squash is harvested and eaten in the immature stages when the rind is still very soft; at 6 to 8 inches long. When harvesting squash, leave a short piece of the stem attached to the fruit. It is best to cut the squash from the vine. Zucchini and crooknecks should be 6 to 8 inches long and 3 inches in diameter. Scalloped or patty pan squash are harvested when grayish or greenish white but before they turn ivory. Store summer squash in the refrigerator in a plastic bag; lasts 5 to 10 days. Summer squash cooked and run throught a blender can be frozen for soups and stews over the winter.
Month to Month Care for Summer Squash
Month of April You can start squash indoors about two weeks before last frost. You won’t be putting the seedlings out for two or three weeks after last frost. We offer a broad range of seed starting equipment and supplies in Yardener's Tool Shed; click here
Month of May Squashes are warm season plants and do not do well until the soil and air temperatures are above 60 degrees F. Apply some slow release granular fertilizer to the soil as you prepare to plant squash.
Squash are normally planted in groups (called “hills”). Plant four seeds per hill and later thin to the best two plants per hill. Cover seed with one inch of soil. Space summer squash hills 3 to 4 feet apart
When the first blooms appear, apply a tablespoon of slow release granular fertilizer to each hill and water it in.
Summer squash is harvested and eaten in the immature stages when the rind is still very soft. When harvesting squash, leave a short piece of the stem attached to the fruit. It is best to cut the squash from the vine. Zucchini and crooknecks should be 6 to 8 inches long and 3 inches in diameter. Scalloped or patty pan squash are harvested when grayish or greenish white but before they turn ivory. Harvest spaghetti squash when the rind turns golden yellow. Banana squash is harvested when golden orange.
Month of June Remove old fruit to allow new fruit to develop. Check plants daily once they begin to bear. Under good growing conditions, the crop should be harvested every other day and sometimes every day.
Optional - After harvest begins, add a tablespoon of slow release fertilizer every two or three weeks to maintain vigorous growth and high productivity.
Month of July Summer squash is good when it is steamed but our favorite is to sautee round slices of the squash in butter and/or good olive oil spiced with some oregano either fresh or dried.
Month of August
Month of September
Month of October Summer squash plants will die with the first frost