Summer squash is an easy and satisfying crop. Plant
squash when the soil is warm and the weather is settled. It is
a tropical plant that cannot stand cold weather.
Summer squash does best tin well drained
soil, high in organic matter. Work an inch or two of compost into a well dug bed, then
plant the seeds in rows or hills, allowing 2" on all sides for
the bush varieties or 4í for the vining varieties. Transplants
may be used, but will set back considerable when the sensitive roots
Once fruiting begins, gardeners need to be vigilant, harvesting
daily. Harvest squash at 6-8" long for optimum flavor and
texture. Be careful not to bruise the fruits. Use a knife
to cut the stem and avoid damaging the plant.
Sudden wilting of vine tips indicates an infestation of squash
borers. They are fat, white or striped grubs which feed on the
insides of the stems. Look for holes in the stems which may be
surrounded by a sawdust like material. Carefully split open the
stem and remove the grub, or spray bacillus thuringensis directly into
the stem with a needle and syringe.
Squash bugs are 1/2 " long, shield shaped insects which
fed on the plants and spread the fatal disease called bacterial wilt. The
base of the stems get a chewed appearance, and soon after, the plants
wilt and die. Prevent bacterial wilt by strictly controlling the
insects by using a row cover or hand picking. If you use row covers,
be sure to remove them before the plants flower to ensure pollination. Rewove
any diseased plants immediately and burn.
Cucumber beetles feed on young plants and can also spread disease. They
look like yellow lady bugs with either black spots or stripes. Make
sure you wash your hands after handling diseased plants, you can spread
the problem too.
Companion Plants such as radish, marigold
and tansy contain substances which repel and confuse insects looking
for a preferred food.
The speed at which the squash grows is legendary. Unless
you are really into zucchini bread, a few plats should supply your family. try
sunburst crooknecks, and the white patty pan for an eye catching bed,
along with striped cocoselle zucchini.