The Vegetable Garden

    Squash, Bush - When To Plant

      When To Plant

      Plant anytime after the danger of frost has passed, from early spring until midsummer. Some gardeners have two main plantings - one for early summer harvest and another for late summer and fall harvest.

      Spacing & Depth

      Sow two or three seeds 24 to 36 inches apart for single-plant production, or four or five seeds in hills 48 inches apart. Cover one inch deep. When the plants are 2 to 3 inches tall, thin to one vigorous plant or no more than two or three plants per hill.

      Care

      Any well-drained garden soil produces excellent yields of summer squash. Certain mulches increase earliness and yields, because the roots are shallow.

      Harvesting

      Because summer squash develop very rapidly after pollination, they are often picked when they are too large and overmature. They should be harvested when small and tender for best quality. Most elongated varieties are picked when they are 2 inches or less in diameter and 6 to 8 inches long. Patty Pan types are harvested when they are 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Slightly larger fruit may be salvaged by hollowing out and using them for stuffing. These larger fruits may also be grated for baking in breads and other items. Do not allow summer squash to become large, hard and seedy because they sap strength from the plant that could better be used to produce more young fruit. Pick oversized squash with developed seeds and hard skin and throw them away. Go over the plants every 1 or 2 days. Squash grow rapidly; especially in hot weather and are usually ready to pick within 4 to 8 days after flowering.

      Although summer squash has both male and female flowers, only the female flowers produce fruits. Because the fruits are harvested when still immature, they bruise and scratch easily. Handle with care and use immediately after picking. Be careful when picking summer squash, as the leafstalks and stems are prickly and can scratch and irritate unprotected hands and arms. Use a sharp knife or pruning shears to harvest and wear gloves if possible. Some gardeners also pick the open male and female blossoms before the fruits develop. Especially the female blossoms, with tiny fruit attached, are a delicacy when dipped in a batter and fried.

      Common Problems

      Cucumber beetles attack seedlings, vines and both immature and mature fruits. They can be controlled with a suggested insecticide applied weekly either as a spray or dust. Be alert for an infestation of cucumber beetles in early September because these beetles can damage the mature fruits.