Acorn Squash –
Zucchini is the most well-known summer squash, but are other types worth growing, such as crookneck squash. Useful, all-purpose vegetables, summer squash of all sorts are delightful sliced or chopped into salads of all kinds, including pasta salads. It adds a texture and crunch all its own. Or use summer squashes in soups, simmering lightly to preserve their texture. For a simple summer side dish, saute in olive oil, garlic, and oregano.
Summer squashes come in quite a variety. They can be long, straight, and thin like zucchini, have a swollen base and thin, bent top like crookneck squash, be round like a baseball, or even be shaped like a flying saucer. Grow bush types in hills 2 to 3 feet apart in rows 3 to 5 feet apart. Plants are notoriously prolific producers, so you may need only one or two to supply your needs. Fruits have dark green skin and sweet, smooth orange flesh. Excellent baked or steamed. Stores well. F1 hybrid. Days to harvest 50.
Winchester Gardens generally stocks this item.
Annual – Edible
Select a site with full sun to light shade and well-drained soil. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost.
If space is limited, choose bush, rather than vining, varieties. Squash can be direct sown or started indoors. If starting indoors, plant seeds in individual pots 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost date. Wait until all danger of frost has passed before planting squash in the garden, then set transplants 18 to 36 inches apart at the same depth as their container. If sowing the seeds directly in the garden, plant seeds 1 inch deep, 2 to 4 seeds per foot. Winter squash tend to grow on long vines, although some bush varieties are available. Vining types are often grown on low mounds spaced 6 feet apart, with 2 or 3 plants per hill.
Thin seedlings to 1 plant per 18 to 24 inches, or in hills to the best 2 or 3 plants per hill, when the first true leaves appear. When the first five leaves appear, mulch to eliminate weeds and retain moisture. Provide about 1 inch of water per week. Periodically pinch off the fuzzy ends of winter squash vines after a few fruit have formed. Contact your local County Extension office for controls of common squash pests such as cucumber beetles and squash vine borers. Summer squash develop very rapidly after pollination. Plan to go through your patch and harvest every day or two. Squash that are small and tender have the best flavor and table quality. Pick elongated varieties when they reach 2 inches or less in diameter and 6 to 8 inches long. Harvest patty pan types when they are 3 to 4 inches in diameter.
The first sign of a ripening winter squash is a deep skin color. To make sure it’s truly ready to pick, press your fingernail into the skin. If it resists puncture, it is ripe. Use a sharp knife or pruners to cut the fruit from the vine. Leave a piece of stem attached — if it breaks from the fruit, it creates an opportunity for rot.
Zucchini, crookneck, and straightneck summer squashes are best when harvested at a small size, about 6 inches long. Pattypan or scallop squashes are best when they are 3 inches in diameter. Check plants daily because the squashes grow quickly in warm weather. If some escape detection, harvest them as soon as possible. The more you harvest, the more the plants will bear.