How to Grow Summer Squash

Squash ranks among the easiest vegetables to grow, so it's perfect for the beginning gardener. All varieties are heat lovers, but because summer squash matures in 50 days or so, you can grow it anywhere in USDA zone 3 and warmer.

Things You'll Need

  • Bypass Pruners
  • Cloches
  • Compost Makers
  • Fertilizers
  • Floating Row Covers
  • Garden Spades
  • Garden Trowels
  • Mulch
  • Plants
  • Seeds
  • Seaweed Extract


    • 1

      Buy squash plants at your local nursery for planting after all danger of frost has passed; otherwise sow seeds directly in the garden two to three weeks after the last expected frost, when the soil temperature has reached at least 60 degrees F. (See the seed packet for depth and spacing.)

    • 2

      Choose a site that gets full sun and has moderately fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.8 to 6.8. Work plenty of organic matter into the soil in early spring.

    • 3

      Harden off the seedlings, then move them to the garden when the soil temperature is between 75 and 85 degrees F and the air temperature 70 to 85 degrees during the day, 65 to 75 at night.

    • 4

      Plant the seedlings in hills spaced 3 to 4 feet apart, two plants per hill. Set the plants into the ground at the same depth they were growing in their pots.

    • 5

      Cover young plants with cloches or floating row covers to protect them from cold winds. Remove all coverings when temperatures rise and, above all, as soon as flowers appear; squash rely on insects to pollinate their flowers.

    • 6

      Mulch established plants with organic matter to deter weeds and conserve moisture.

    • 7

      Give plants an inch of water each week, and feed every two weeks with compost tea or seaweed extract. Avoid fertilizers that are high in nitrogen; they'll encourage lush foliage at the expense of fruits.

    • 8

      Start picking zucchini, cousa and yellow squash as soon as they're large enough to be used - usually about 6 inches, depending on the variety. Harvest scalloped varieties when they're about 4 inches in diameter and before they turn cream-colored.

Tips & Warnings

  • Summer squash are picked when they're immature and their skins are tender, normally about 50 days after planting. There are four basic types: cousa or Mid-East, scalloped or pattypan, yellow summer, and zucchini. Most summer squash grow on bushes (whereas most winter squash form vines).
  • Summer squash perform well in containers. Choose a bush variety and use at least a 10-gallon container. (Half whiskey barrels are perfect.) Fill the container with potting soil enriched with compost, keep the plants well-watered, and feed with compost tea or seaweed extract every two weeks.
  • According to traditional wisdom, radishes planted among summer squash will repel all sorts of pests. Don't pick the radishes; just leave them in place to do their work.
  • Unless you plan to feed the whole neighborhood, restrain yourself at planting time. Summer squash rank among the most productive members of the vegetable patch, and they don't store well. Six plants will easily feed a family of four.
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