How to Grow Summer Squash

Image shows a yellow squash blossom on a squash plant.

Growing summer squash in a vegetable garden doesn’t have to be hard. Here are some tips for growing your the summer squash yet.

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This post is about tips for growing summer squash in a home vegetable garden.

Few things say summer like a sun-kissed ripe tomato, a fresh cucumber, and a pile of homegrown summer squash. Yes, we said “pile”, because once it gets going, summer squash has been known to grow out of control.

There are many varieties of summer squash. Some of the most common varieties include yellow crookneck squash, straightneck squash, patty pan squash, and round squash. Coosa squash, a Middle Eastern squash variety, is also grown as a summer squash.

If you grow squash, then plan to have a few ideas on how to use it. Easy squash recipes—like refrigerator pickled squash, squash casserole, and grilled summer squash, are great to have on hand.

There are some drawbacks to growing squash, however. Many gardeners know the heartache of losing plants to the dreaded squash vine borer or to a squash bug infestation.

Growing plants earlier or later in the season, encouraging the presence of beneficial insects, and continuous monitoring of plants are a few ways that may help you harvest fruit before the bugs set in.

Some gardeners build a physical barrier—such as a cage covered in fine mesh insect netting—to place around the plants. If you do this, then you will need to pollinate the squash plants by hand.

If you want to be one of those gardeners who leaves bags of summer squash or zucchini on friends front porches, because you have more squash than you know what to do with, then here are some tips for you.

The Best Reasons to Grow Summer Squash

  • Squash Grows Quickly. Many summer squash varieties mature in about 60 to 65 days, bringing (almost) instant gratification to the garden. Few things are better than seeing a squash plant loaded with fruit.
  • Squash Plants are Pretty. Many squash varieties produce large plants with lush leaves that add a lot of drama and good looks to a vegetable garden.
  • Squash Plants are Productive. Healthy squash plants can produce a prolific amount of fruit, giving you a good harvest of squash for summer and beyond.

Here are some tips on how to grow summer squash, from choosing the right location to harvesting and preserving.

8 Tips for Growing Tasty Summer Squash

Here are some tips on how to grow squash in a summer vegetable garden.

1–Plant the Right Squash, at the Right Time

There are many different types of summer squash, both heirloom and hybrid varieties. Summer squash grow in different shapes, from cylinder to patty pan to round ball shapes.

Summer squash are tender annuals, and are therefore sensitive to frost. The best time to plant squash in the garden is when all danger of frost has passed.

Choose the best squash to grow in your location. Some squash varieties may be hardier or more productive than others. If bugs are a problem in your garden, then look for squash varieties that are reported to be more resistant to squash pests.

Some gardeners report having success with growing tatume squash in places where squash is difficult to grow. Studying seed catalogs and reading reviews can be a great way to find out more information about squash varieties to grow. Your local university extension service may also have some recommendations for summer squash varieties to grow in your area.

2–Plant Squash in the Right Place

Plant summer squash in a location where the plants will receive about 6 to 8 hours of full sun each day. Squash plants may appreciate having some shade protection from harsh sunlight during the hottest part of the day. Provide plants with plenty of water to keep them happy during hot summer days.

Squash grow best in fertile, well-drained soil. Performing a soil test of the ground where you want to plant squash can help you learn if the soil is missing nutrients that the plants need to grow.

Amending soil with aged compost or organic matter can help add nutrients and foster the growth of microorganisms that improve the soil and help plants to grow. A continuous-release fertilizer may also benefit squash plants.

Leave about 3 to 6-feet of space around each squash plant, depending on the variety, to give the squash plants room to grow. Many types of summer squash plants grow into wide, upright bushes, but some squash plants like to sprawl.

3–Keep Squash Plants Well Watered

Provide squash plants with plenty of water to grow. A rule of thumb is to provide plants with at least 1 inch of water per week.

Often, a squash plant will let you know when it is thirsty, as the leaves start to droop. Water squash plants when the soil around the plants is dry.

Placing a layer of mulch around squash plants may help to keep moisture in the ground.

4–Encourage Beneficial Insects

Beneficial insects in the garden help out by doing things like pollinating flowers and targeting pests.

Bees, in particular, help to pollinate squash flowers, increasing your chances of harvesting squash from plants. (Squash plants produce both male and female flowers. Unless a plant variety is parthenocarpic, the female flowers must be pollinated to produce edible squash.)

Create a habitat that encourages beneficial insects to make a home in or visit the garden by planting flowers that attract them and limiting the use of chemical pesticides as much as possible.

5–Watch Out for Bugs

Learn to identify pests that target summer squash. These include bugs like aphids, squash bugs, and squash vine borers. Knowing what these pests look like at all life stages, from eggs to adults, can make it easier to identify when plants may have a problem.

Check the squash plants frequently, especially under the leaves, for signs of pest infestations or eggs. Remove pest eggs by gently squishing the eggs or scraping them off leaves. Physically removing bugs, when possible, and destroying them is one organic way to control bugs on plants.

If you do get bugs, then organic or natural treatments—like diatomaceous earth, garden dust, or homemade sprays—make help to control bugs. Remove and discard bug infested plants to help prevent the bugs from spreading to other plants. Don’t add sick or infested plants to the compost pile.

Grow companion plants that encourage the presence of good bugs that feed on pests and their eggs. Grow squash in a new location the next time you grow it. Growing squash earlier or later in the season may help you avoid some pest pressure.

6–Keep Plants Healthy

Summer squash plants may be susceptible to diseases like mildew. Trim spent leaves to promote air flow around the plants and to keep the plants focused on growing healthy stems, leaves, and fruits.

7–Learn When to Harvest

Read plant or seed packet instructions to learn the best size at which to harvest summer squash. Use a pair of scissors to cut the fruit from the plant, taking care not too cut leaves or stems. Summer squash tends to bruise easily. Cook or preserve squash as soon as possible after picking to help maintain quality and flavor.

8–Preserve the Bounty

Under the right conditions, summer squash plants can produce a lot of fruit. Learn how to preserve summer squash by dehydrating the squash or freezing the squash to enjoy your homegrown harvest year round.

Pickled summer squash, zucchini pickles, and zucchini relish are ways to preserve summer squash by water bath canning—be sure to carefully follow safe and tested recipes for canning summer squash for long term storage.

This post was about tips for growing summer squash in a home vegetable garden.

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  • Photo by Ellie Burgin / Pexels
  • Photos are for illustrative purposes only.

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