The encouragement must have worked, since I am now, like many and consider squash one of those great gardening favorites.
Today, I will like to share squash production information with help from a UGA publication by Bob Westerfield and Malgorzata Florkowska, UGA Horticulturist.
First, if you have members of the home that are not a fan of squash like I was in my younger days, here are some nutrition tips. Squash is a very nutritious vegetable item. It’s very high in vitamins A and C and has high fiber content. When you are talking squash too, you need to remember there are two types of squash, summer and winter. You plant summer squash when the fear of frost has passed. That is normally about mid-April in our area. Winter squash like warmer soils, so it can be planted a few weeks after summer squash has been sowed. The summer squashes grow on non-vining bushes.
The three main types of summer squash are the yellow straight neck or crooked neck, the white scallop or patty pan and the oblong, green, grey or gold zucchini according to Westerfield or Florkowska.
The winter squash matures on the vine and has a hard rind that will allow for winter storage. The winter squashes are put into groups according to fruit size. You can have the small winter squashes such as your acorns that are from 1 to 4 pounds. You can have all the way to the jumbo winter squash such as Big Max that get from 50-100 pounds.
Like most vegetable items, squash like a well-drained site that has good rich soil. New garden spots should have 4 to 5 inches of good organic matter added and then tilled 8 to 10 inches deep in the pre-existing soil. The soil temperature needs to be between 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and the pH zone needs to be between 5.8 to 6.8 for good production. The addition of organic matter will help with the up-take of nutrients and water. You can use organic sources like compost or herbicide free farm manures in these fresh garden spots to help get ready for planting.
If you are planting summer squash, here are some things to keep in mind. It is suggested to plant 4 to 6 summer squash seeds in each mound approximately 4 feet apart. When your plants come up and they have two leaves, you need to thin down each mound to 2 to 3 plants. Spacing for winter squash is a little more. You need 6 to 8 feet between each mound for winter squash since they need more space. After the plants are going, you need to mulch them with an organic type mulch. Herbicide free grass clippings and straw and even newspaper can help to control weeds and help with moisture. If planting by seed, you need to water daily with a light irrigation to make sure you get good germination. When the plants are up and going, you need to make sure the plants get 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week. In absence of rainfall, you need to use soaker hoses or drip irrigation. You need to get the ground wet at a depth of 6 to 8 inches of soil. Try to keep your foliage from getting wet since this can lead to plant diseases. It is also suggested to reduce watering when the squash fruit is ripe to cut down on fruit rot.
Squash can have its share of problems. One problem is lack of pollination. Squash plants have both male and female flowers and need bee plus insect help for pollination. If you don’t have good activity, the female flowers can fall off. You can pollinate the flowers yourself. With a cotton swab, get pollen from the male flower and put on the stigma of the female flower. How can you tell a male from a female flower? The male flower is larger and has longer and thinner stems. The female flower has a swelling or ovary behind a short-stemmed flower.
Other problems in our area seem to be more insect related. The squash vine bore can stop the harvest before you start. The adult vine borer will lay eggs at the lower stem of the plant. The hatched larvae will tunnel into the stem and feed. This may be the cause of your plants wilting and dying. If you suspect a squash vine borer, you can use vegetable garden insecticides labeled for this pest or if you suspect them early enough, you can actually cut the borer out of the stem with a sharp knife. You would then mound soil over the knife wound to get rooting started. The other insect is the squash bug. This insect will suck sap from leaves and can kill the plant. You can hand remove the pest, or use insecticides labeled for this pest. Whenever you use an insecticide product, make sure you read the label for correct use, safety and intervals.
For more information, contact Gordon County Extension at 706-629-8685 or email email@example.com.