Squash is a seasonal vegetable. It is very susceptible to frost and heat damage, but with proper care it will produce a bumper crop with very few plants. Squash come in two main types: summer squash and winter squash.
While there s not much difference among the tastes and textures of summer squashes, winter squashes offer a wide array of flavours. Summer squash (Cucurbita pepo) produces prolifically from early summer until the first frost. This group includes both green and yellow zucchini, most yellow crookneck and straightneck squash, and scallop (or pattypan) squash. Most summer squash are ready to pick 60 to 70 days after planting, but some reach harvestable size in 50 days.You can use them raw for salads and dips or cook them in a wide variety of ways, including squash "french fries" and such classics as zucchini bread. Summer squash blossoms, picked just before they open, are delicious in soups and stews, or try them sautéed, stuffed, or dipped in batter and fried. (You ll want to use mostly male flowers for this purpose, though, and leave the female flowers to produce fruit.) Summer squash keep for only a week or so in the refrigerator, so you ll probably want to freeze most of the crop. Winter squash (C. maxima, C. mixta, C. moschata, and C. pepo) is a broad category that includes butternut, acorn, delicious, hubbard, banana, buttercup (or turban), and spaghetti squash. Pumpkins are also in this group, but their flesh is often less sweet than other winter squash.Most winter squash take 75 to 120 days to mature. Steam the young fruits, or harvest and bake the squash when they re fully mature. Dry and roast the seeds. Winter squash are even more nutritious than their summer kin, but the sprawling vines, which can grow 10 to 20 feet long, require more space.If you have only a small garden, try one of the bush or semi-bush cultivars.
|Sunlight ||full sun|
|Watering ||Squash grow best in soil that is kept evenly moist. Squashes require a lot of water in hot weather. Plants may wilt on hot days as they use water faster than the roots can supply. As long as water is regular and deeply applied, wilted plants will liven up as the day gets cooler.|
|Soil ||Requires well-drained soil, requires high fertility. Fertile, loose soil, high in organic matter with pH between 5.8 and 6.8. Plentiful and consistent moisture is needed from the time plants emerge until fruits begin to fill out.|
|Temperature ||Germination temperature: 60 F to 105 F - Will not germinate in cold soil. Wait to plant until soil reaches at least 65 F - preferably 70 F or more. Germinates best at 95 F.|
|Fertilizer ||Add aged compost to planting beds before planting. Avoid feeding squash with a high nitrogen fertilizer, 5-10-10 is best.|
|Harvest Season |
Harvest summer squash when small and tender for best flavour. Most varieties average 60 days to maturity, and are ready as soon as a week after flowering.
Check plants everyday for new produce.
Cut the gourds off the vine rather than breaking them off.
Fresh summer squash can be stored in the refrigerator for up to ten days.
Harvest winter squash when rind is hard and deep in colour, usually late September through October.
Winter squash can be stored in a cool, dark place until needed. It will last for most of the winter. If you have a cool bedroom, stashing them under the bed works well. They like a temperature of about 50 to 65 degrees F.
Freezing Summer squash: Wash it, cut off the ends, and slice or cube the squash. Blanch for three minutes, then immediately immerse in cold water and drain. Pack in freezer containers and freeze.
Freezing Winter squash: Cook as you normally would, then mash. Pack in freezer containers.
Pull up those vines and compost them after you ve picked everything or after a frost has killed them. Then till the soil to stir up the insects a bit.