Just a couple of plants can keep your kitchen stocked with this versatile veggie all summer long.
Among the easiest to grow and most productive plants in the vegetable garden, summer squash comes in an array of colorful varieties. Zucchinis are available in dark green, light green, and yellow, plus heirloom ribbed fruits. Look for climbing Italian summer squash and pastel green Lebanese zucchini. Crookneck and scallop squash add more colorful choices. In addition to the fruit, which ripens for weeks in summer, squash plants produce tender edible blossoms.
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.
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Seeds are easy to start outdoors in spring after the night temperatures regularly stay above 50°F. Sow seeds in groups of two or three planted 1 inch deep. Plant the groups about 18 inches apart in rows that are 24 inches apart. When seedlings are 4 to 6 inches tall, thin to the strongest seedling in each group.
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Squash can also be planted in mounded hills. To plant in hills, create a small soil mound about 2 feet in diameter. Space mounds 2 feet apart. Sow five or six seeds 1 inch deep and 4 inches apart in each hill. When seedlings are 4 to 6 inches tall, thin the hill-planted seedlings to the two strongest plants so they have ample room to grow.
Summer Squash Care Must-Knows
Squash needs full sun, fertile soil, and warm weather to grow well. Choose a planting site that receives at least 8 hours of direct sunlight a day and has well-drained soil. if drainage is a problem, plant in a raised bed or a large container. Squash plants grow quickly. It is essential to thin plants as described above to ensure they have space to mature and expand. Crowded plants set the scene for disease and pest problems. Some varieties of summer squash grow in a large clump, while other varieties vine and sprawl. Vining varieties can be trained up a sturdy trellis or arbor. They are also fine sprawling through the garden. During extended dry periods, water plants deeply. Spread a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch over the root zone to prevent soil moisture loss.
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More Varieties of Summer Squash
This variety is an heirloom that has a bent neck and yellow fruits with bumpy skin. Use it as you would zucchini. 53 days
This is an open-pollinated variety with light cream color fruits. The neck end is thinner than the blossom end. 48 days
This is a deep golden yellow flattened, rounded, summer squash with scalloped edges. The vigorous plant is quite productive. 50 days
This variety produces dark green fruits in as few as 48 days from planting. The plant is a compact bush.