Harvesting homegrown squash is the delicious reward for months of work in the vegetable garden. Gardeners who want to improve squash growth and yields would do well to take a look at plant nutrition. The timing of fertilizer application is an important consideration.
Like most fruiting vegetables, squash are heavy feeders and should be fertilized regularly. Fertilizer provides essential nutrients necessary for growth and fruit production. Good nutrition encourages greater plant vigor and early, abundant blooming. It also brings about larger fruit and greater yields. A well-nourished plant is also more resistant to plant diseases.
Look for a balanced fertilizer, such as 8-8-8, or one specially formulated for vegetable gardens. A balanced fertilizer has equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium -- N-P-K. Many products have beneficial micro-nutrients like calcium, copper and magnesium. Always follow the manufacturers instructions when using a fertilizer product.
Maximize the benefits of fertilizer by planting squash in good soil. A moist, well-drained soil is the best substrate for squash. Good soil stores and releases water and nutrients as needed. Mix in amendments like compost, composted manure and soil conditioner (finely shredded bark) to improve soil structure. Compost and composted manure also add nutrients.
Mix fertilizer into the soil before planting to get the plants off to a good start and to provide a fertile environment for roots to grow into. Summer squash, such as zucchini and yellow squash, should be side-dressed about three to four weeks after planting. Winter squash, like pumpkin and butternut, can receive a side-dressing about three to four weeks after blooming begins. To side-dress, gently scratch the fertilizer into the soil around the plant without disturbing the roots.
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