Proper Name: Cucurbita
Common Name: Squash
Mature Size: 20 - 45 cm Tall, 3 - 5 m Wide
Sun Exposure: Full Sun
Soil Type: Well-Drained, Rich
Soil pH: Neutral to Acidic (5.5 to 7.0)
Hardiness Zone: 2 to 9a
Did you know that there are two types of Squash in the Cucurbita family known as Summer and Winter? It's also very closely related to the Melon family! These delicious additions to your garden will keep you well stocked up on your Vitamin A with just a 1/4 cup making up your body's daily needs.
Squash can be grown in bushes or, more commonly, with vines that will grow several meters in length. You'll find large globe-like leaves on many varieties with prickly surfaces. Squash flowers can range in colour based on the type you've planted from yellow, orange and green. The majority of cultivars originated in North and Central America.
1.5 cm Deep
60 cm/90 cm
7 - 14 Days
Squash should be planted in well-drained, rich soil with plenty of compost at the base. Gardeners typically seed their Squash in groups of 3 in what's known as a hill. These hills should be spaced approximately 3 - 5 meters apart, with 6 to 8 seeds planted 1.5 cm deep in the center of each mound. Once the seedlings have emerged, thin them to the recommendation for the species.
If you want to avoid the direct sow method, you can usually find seedlings in peat pots at your local Garden Center. Plant 3-5 pots depending on the species and let nature help them take root through the peat pots.
Vines require regular watering and fertilizing in the summer months when the temperature is warmest. Be on the lookout for fruit forming on your vines, and be sure to put something underneath them to avoid direct contact with the soil. Keeping the fruit dry by placing 10 cm of straw under them will help prevent rotting.
Squash requires full sun and needs a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. As much sun as they can get is alright as long as they don't overheat.
Your soil should be rich in organic material and well-drained. Neutral to acidic soil (5.5 to 7.0) is the ideal growing environment for your Squash.
Never let your seedlings dry out, as this will be fatal to the plants' productivity. During the hottest part of the summer, when the vines and leaves grow longer, you'll need to offer even more water. It's not uncommon for leaves to have a wilted appearance in the hottest part of the day and should revive as the sun goes down. If you find your leaves wilted in the morning, be sure to water your Squash immediately.
Squash is very cold-sensitive, and your seeds will not germinate until your soil temperature is at least 70°C. Depending on your region, this may stunt your growing season, so it's a good idea to start your Squash six weeks before the last frost. It's not uncommon for these plants to wilt in the hottest part of the summer days but if they don't revive in the evenings, consider offering them some shade.
Being a voracious feeder, you should start with a mixture of rich soil and compost at planting and add more in the middle of the growing season. It's also a good idea to apply a liquid fertilizer or compost tea at two-week intervals through the growing season.
Summer squash would be varieties like Zucchini, Zephyr and Crookneck Squash. These varieties tend to have thinner, softer skins and perish more quickly. The advantage of these is that the entire vegetable is edible, including the skin.
Winter Squash would be varieties like Butternut, Pumpkin, Acorn, Hubbard and Spaghetti Squash. These varieties tend to have thicker skins that allow them to preserve well in a root cellar.
Use the colour of the skin to determine if it's time to be harvested as Squash will not ripen off the vine. The rind should be firm and glossy and should sound hollow if tapped with your knuckles. For storing Squash over the winter, be sure to leave them on the vine until just before the first frost. When you finally severe it from the vine, be sure to use a sharp knife and leave at least 3 cm of the stem attached to the fruit.
Most Squash plants will only offer 4 to 5 fruit per plant. Once the plant has produced the fruits, be sure to pinch the vines off a few leaves past the last fruit on the vine. Doing this will allow more energy to be put directly into the fruit instead of pointless plant maintenance. Removing roots on vines past the fruit is nothing to be concerned about as they can survive without them. NEVER disturb the primary taproot of the plant, as this will terminate any growth.
Squash can be started indoors about six weeks before the last frost date. Start 3 - 4 seeds in peat pots so you can transplant your seedlings with the entire container intact. Any root disturbance during the transplanting process can be fatal to the plant. Once the plants have sprouted, it's time to thin to the best-looking two plants.
Summer Squash doesn't store well for extended periods, but before storing, be sure to let it cure for ten days in 25°C or warmer weather. However, Winter Squash can last several weeks to months if adequately prepared. Leave your Winter Squash for 10 to 14 days in 25 to 30°C temperatures in 80 to 85% relative humidity with good air circulation.
Pests & Diseases
Your best defence against pests with Squash is prevention in the way of row cover. Place your row cover at transplant or sow and leave it in place until your plants start flowering. Always be on the lookout for pests and diseases regularly. Consider planting some plants like Cilantro, Dill or Sweet Alyssum to attract some Beneficial Insects to keep your pest population low. However, no matter what you do, you'll likely have a couple of issues with your Squash. Some of the most common problems to watch out for are Squash Vine Borers, Squash Bugs, Cucumber Beetles and Powdery Mildew.