LEarn how to grow summer squash and make the best out of your harvest!
In this article we will discuss the methods and best practices to grow summer squash. We eat a TON of summer squash every year. It's fun to grow and harvest with kids and is a relatively simple and easy plant to grow. You can make a variety of dishes with summer squash. I love a good roasted zucchini recipe or summer squash breads and muffins!
History of the summer squash plant
Summer squash was originally found in Central America. Ten thousand year-old summer squash seeds have been found in Mexican caves. Explorers such as Christopher Columbus brought squash back from North America and spread the vegetable around the world.
Growing summer squash plants
Summer squash plants need full sun and lots of air circulation to grow well. Crowding plants or planting in the wrong location can be detrimental to your squash crop.
Plant summer squash seeds 8 inches apart, poking them into the soil 1 inch deep; water well. Thin or transplant seedlings to 3 feet apart. (If using starts, set them out 3 feet apart). Summer squash seeds germinate in 7 to 10 days at 85°F (29°C) or warmer. Transplant summer squash starts into the garden after the soil has warmed to at least 70°F (21°C).
Summer squash plants have both male and female blossoms and they both need to be present for pollination to occur. Having multiple plants will increase the chance of pollination.
How Long does Summer squash Take to Grow
Summer squash grow quickly (in about 60 days) and are harvested throughout the summer while still young. Their skins are thin and tender making them edible unlike their cousins the winter squash varieties. However you should not let summer squash grow past the point of ripeness, the skin will become tough and bitter.
Pests and Disease
Be sure to check your summer squash plants for pests often. Squash bugs can set in pretty quickly, and are sometimes hard to spot. Also be wary of slugs, birds, small rodents and some beetles like summer squash plants too. You can tent your summer squash plants with netting, but I have found that this becomes more trouble than help.
You should also look for irregular white spots on on your summer squash plants, which could be mildew. Powdery mildew is a fungus that squash plants can be susceptible to. It can spread between plants. It begins by producing very characteristic powdery circular spots on the leaves. These spots grow larger and will eventually cover the whole leaf causing it to turn yellow. The fungus may also spread to other parts of the plants such as the stems, flowers or fruit.
The best way to prevent powdery mildew is to take the necessary precautions to prevent it. Make sure that you plant your squash in full sun and don't overcrowd them. This ensures maximum air circulation around the plant and allows plants to dry quicker when they get wet. If you do end up with powdery squash mildew my advice is to trim plants to increase air flow, and use an organic plant based fungicidal oil such as neem oil.
patty pan squash plant
Also known as the scallopini squash, the patty pan is a type of summer squash that’s meant to be enjoyed while the skin is still soft and thin. there is no need to peel it. Unlike some other summer squash types, patty pan squash does not have a high moisture content. The flesh is quite dry.
Patty pan squash can be harvested for use when they are about the size of a golf ball, or you can leave them on the plants until they reach the diameter of a soft ball. If you wait too long to harvest however, the skin will become tough and bitter and the squash will no longer be palatable. Patty pan squash come in many different colors, including yellow, dark green, white, pale green, and multi colored.
For more information about Patty Pan squash plants you can read this. If you're interested in giving patty pan squash seeds you can try these.
crookneck squash plant
Yellow crookneck squash is a type of summer squash with varieties that may be smooth or ridged. This squash is usually shaped like a curvy bottle, this squash plant is bushy and does not tend to sprawl like a winter squash meaning it should take up less space in the garden.
zuchini squash plant
Last but not least, my favorite summer squash variety, the Zucchini. Zucchini squash can be a green, yellow or white and green striped fruit. The plants are typically bushy making it another space saving squash plant. like all squash, has its ancestry in the Americas, specifically. However, the varieties of green, cylindrical squash harvested immature and typically called "zucchini" were cultivated in northern Italy.
using and storing summer squash
One of my favorite parts of the squash plant is the squash flower, these have become more and more popular in recent years. You can deep fry them, stuff them with cheese, or just eat them straight off the plant. They are delicious!
Summer squash is great because unlike winter squash it does not need to be peeled, the skin is completely edible. It is high in vitamins A, B6, and C, folate, magnesium, fiber, riboflavin, phosphorus, and potassium. Yellow squash is also rich in manganese. All types of squash are very nutritious and can be a healthy addition to your diet. (source)
There are many great squash recipes, a few of my favorite are linked below. You can also freeze summer squash. I do this by grating the squash and then vacuum sealing it or using a very tightly sealed gallon freezer bag. After thawing I typically use it in smoothies or squash breads and muffins.