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  • Writer's pictureStronger Roots

Growing Squash

Updated: May 10, 2022


🔷BENEFITS:

— Summer squash are high in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamins B2s and B6. Eating squash can help improve digestion, lower blood sugar levels, support a healthy heart, and protect against oxidation and inflammation.

— Winter squash have an even higher amount of vitamin A (than Summer) due to their large amount of carotenoids (any of a class of mainly yellow, orange, or red fat-soluble pigments, including carotene, which give color to plant parts). Vitamin A promotes skin and eye health.

— Winter squash also is high in fiber and vitamin C. The seeds in a winter squash also are especially high in vitamin E, which is a very powerful antioxidant.


🔷SEED - WHEN/HOW TO PLANT:

— Direct sow - 2 weeks AFTER last frost OR when soil temperature rises to 70F

❗️If too cold squash seeds will rot in soil especially if wet

— Germinate in 7 to 10 days

Start summer and winter squashes indoors 2-4wks before last frost.

— Squash seedlings RESENT transplanting. ❗️Starting indoors is often counter-productive for those with a growing season over 100 days. Planting transplants vs direct sow can set plants growth back by a few weeks. Only start squash seeds indoors if you live in a northern region with a short growing season

❗️Transplanted squash can be stunted and produce very little if the roots are disturbed at transplanting.

Mounds : Planting squash seeds in hills or mounds for better drainage, preventing water log/ sun warms up the soil faster making for quick germination 2-4inches height and trenches 3-6inches deep on either side

•Run hills east to west to utilize sun

-BUSH : 1/2in depth close and thin

-VINE : 2in apart and thin 12in apart


🔷HOW TO GROW:

— Full sun 6+ hours

— Water at base of plant to avoid getting water on leaves

❗️Hot sun and wet leaves can stress the plant with leaf burn

❗️All squashes are warm weather plants that will not tolerate freezing temperatures

— Summer varieties: 12-18 depth roots

— Winter varieties: 12-24 depth roots

— Squash are heavy feeders; apply lots of compost/All Purpose fertilizer to soil when planting

SPACING:

PLANTS 2’-3’ or 18”-24” apart

ROWS 4’-6’ apart OR 12’ for larger fruit varieties

❗️Don’t apply any fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen because it leads to long vines with little fruit. Instead, choose a fertilizer slightly higher in phosphorous; Phosphorous promotes the production of flowers and fruits

— PH (Soil) 5.8-6.7

— Winter Squash OR Vining varieties can be grown vertically on trellis - weave vines and amend with string or plant ties essentially until the squash develop Tendrils (plant organ that specializes in anchoring and supporting vining systems)

•Able to utilize space in the immediate vicinity of the squash plant in the ground

❗️ WATERING IS IMPORTANT Squash left to trail along the ground often root at several intervals to help suck up more water and nutrients. A vertical vine has NO such luxury.


🔶MALE and FEMALE BLOSSOMS

…to sex blossom, go by the flower base...


MALE:

-Develop and open blossoms first

-Drop off once they shed pollen

-Narrow stem behind blossom

-single pollen covered anther

-Male pollen sticks to the stigma and pollinates the female flower so the fruit can develop


FEMALE:

-Swollen stem (Ovary) behind blossom resembling “miniature version of mature fruit”

-Female blossoms contain a stigma, which forms as a swollen cluster in the flower center


❗️Hand pollination or pollinators (pollen is too sticky to usually travel through air) - IF NOT the blossoms will wither and fall off..

❗️BOTH open blossoms in the morning and close late afternoon/evening


🔷DIFFERENT VARIETIES:


— 🌱SUMMER SQUASH

— Summer Varieties: (Cucurbita pepo)

zucchini/ crook neck / straight yellow/ scallop squash

•Harvested in summer when plant is still immature (thin skin that can be eaten)

•Produce more fruit than winter squash

•Seed to Harvest in 50-70 days

•Stop producing fruit if not harvested

•Harvest your summer squash when it is Immature. Usually 6” long or less, OR in the case of round types, approximately 4” in diameter.


— WINTER SQUASH

— Winter Varieties: (Cucurbita spp)

Butternut/ spaghetti/ acorn/ pumpkins/ buttercup/ delicata/ Hubbard

•Called winter squash because these plants have a long shelf life and can survive for weeks or months if stored in a cool, dry place.

•Large vining plants that may grow to 10’ or more long

•Usually larger than Summer varieties

•Some winter squash plants only make 1 to 3 fruits per plant,

MOST take up to 120 days to harvest.

•Should be left on plant till fully matured ; skin hard and plant has died

❗️Will not ripen when cut from the plant

•Grows sweeter as it ages

•Cure out in sun until stems are hard and brown (curing makes for good storage and sweeter taste)

•Grow on Strong trellis (vining)


🔷WHEN/HOW TO HARVEST:

— Summer squash should be harvested 2-3X a wk once plants begin bearing; break fruit from plant or use a knife. Clean knife after each cut to avoid disease in other plants

— “Harvest winter squash before the first frost. After harvest, winter squash should be allowed to cure outdoors; dry and toughen the skins by exposing winter squash to sun for 5–7 days or place the squash in a cool, dry ventilated area for 5–6 months.”

❗️Harvest winter squash when skin resist puncture by fingernail

— Cure in the field to dry and toughen skins by exposing fruits to sun for 5–7 days/ Indoor method : expose squash to 80–90°F (27–32°C) with ventilation for 3–5 days

— Harvest your Summer Squash when it is Immature. Usually 6” long or less, OR in the case of round types, approximately 4” in diameter.

— Harvest your Winter Squash when fruits are fully matured ; skin hard and plant has died

— Harvest before night time temps harp around 40F

❗️ Squash that is overly ripe becomes hard, seedy, and loses its flavor


🔹STORAGE:

— Winter squash should be stored in a cool, dark place between 50 to 55 degrees and relative humidity at 50 to 70 percent. Can last 1-6months

— Summer squash can be stored cool, moist areas up to two weeks/ can be canned of frozen



🔹TROUBLE SHOOTING

— Monitor your plants for squash vine borers: caterpillars that burrow into the stem at the base of your plant. Check for holes at the base of your plant. Gently cut into your plant to find the offending worm and remove it OR inject Bt into the hole

— Squash bugs are another common pest of squash plants. If left unchecked, they can quickly take over and cause damage to the leaves and fruit of your plant. Check the undersides of your squash leaves for their eggs that are laid in rows.


🔹FUN FACTS:

— Squash is considered FRUIT

— All squashes make male and female flowers. The male flowers are the first flowers to appear on your plant, and the female flowers show up later.

— The interior of a cooked spaghetti squash is stringy and noodle-like, mimicking its namesake pasta perfectly



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