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Simple Gardening Tips: How to Grow and Care for Squash

Squash—whose scientific names are Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita mixta, Cucurbita moschata, and Cucurbita pepo—is a family of nutritious warm weather vegetables that is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and calories but high in vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, folic acid, potassium, calcium, manganese, and magnesium. Depending on the maturity of the vegetable at harvest, squash is classified as summer squash or winter squash. Summer squash is harvested before the fruit of the vegetable matures and includes zucchini, yellow crookneck, yellow straightneck, and scallop. Winder quash is harvested after the fruit of the vegetable matures and includes acorn squash, delicata squash, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, true winter squash, and pumpkin. Learning how to grow and care for squash to add this healthy food to your diet is simple with these tips and instructions.

Planting and Growing Squash

Spaghetti SquashSquash needs a lot of space and a lot of sunlight to flourish. Before planting your squash seeds, select a large open area of your garden that receives at least six hours of full sun daily. Squash also requires a lot of nutrients, so plan on adding compost or fertilizing to your squash patch when preparing the soil for gardening. The dirt in your squash garden should remain moist but not flood because underwatered squash will failure to grow properly but overwatered squash will rot prematurely. Because squash is a warm weather plant and is therefore intolerant to frost and freezing temperatures, always plant after the last frost date for your region and once the temperature of the soil has warmed up.

To plant squash seeds, form mounds of soil approximately three inches in height at one side of your squash garden. Space the mounds at least a foot apart. Plant three to six seeds around the center of each mound. Water the seeds immediately after planting and then every two to three days depending on the air temperature and rain until seedlings emerge. Once squash seedlings emerge, thin down the plants to two to three of the strongest seedlings per mound. As the vines grow, guide the plants to grow in the same direction to maintain a visually attractive and easy-to-care-for squash patch. Weed your garden regularly and prune off vines without blooms to promote fruit growth. As fruits emerge from blooms, rotate the squash to prevent rotted or misshapen fruit. Apply insecticide if you live in an area with cucumber beetle of squash vine borer infestations. Avoid excessive watering to help decrease the change of your squash being affected by powdery mildew and bacterial wilt.

Harvesting Squash

Squash can be harvested from the vines with a pair of pruning shears or scissors once the fruit is ready to eat. Most varieties of summer squash can be harvested between forty-five to fifty days after planting. Summer squash should be picked before the plant reaches maturity when the fruit is small and rind still soft. The biggest mistake that novice gardeners make with summer squash is to allow the fruit to become too large. Depending on the specific variety, winter squash matures in as early as seventy days to as late as 110 days. Larger winter squashes require most time to reach maturity than smaller winter squashes. Winter squash can be harvested as soon as the fruits have attained their full color. Remove the old vines and any rotted fruits from the soil after all the squash has been picked.

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Squash is a delicious and nutritious vegetable that grows on vines and patches. Depending on when the fruit of the squash is harvested, squash is categorized as either summer squash or winter squash. Learning how to grow and care for squash is easy with these simple tips and instructions.

References

How to Grow Squash: http://www.gardenersnet.com/vegetable/squash.htm
Summer Squash: http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/ssquash1.html
Winter Squash: http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/wsquash1.html

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Image Credits

Spaghetti Squash © 2011 Heather Johnson

Written by Heather Johnson

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, and mother who loves her husband, children, dogs, and cats. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in creative writing and master's degrees in library and information science and English studies with a concentration in linguistics.

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