Summer Squash Growing Tips

Summer Squash Growing Tips

An article by Travis Key from Lazy Dog Farm

Summer Squash are some of the easiest vegetables to grow in a backyard garden, and it only takes a few plants to have an abundance of production. We use the term “summer squash” to broadly group many different shapes and types of squash and zucchini into the same category. These are different from “winter squash” or pumpkins, which we’ll cover in a later blog.

Planting Summer Squash 

Summer squash should be planted in the spring as soon as the risk of freezing temperatures has passed in your growing zone. While you’ll sometimes find summer squash transplants at your local hardware or big box store, we’ve found that they perform much better when direct seeded into your garden. Summer squash will usually germinate in just a few days if the soil is sufficiently warm and moist.

Plant your squash seeds 1/2” deep in your in-ground garden or raised bed and water every day until the seedlings start popping through the soil. Summer squash plants can get quite large, so be sure not to plant them too close. I like to give each plant at least a 3-4’ halo of space. If you plant them too close, airflow between plants will be restricted and harvesting will be more difficult.

Depending on how many seeds I have, sometimes I’ll plant multiple seeds per hole and thin them later. This ensures I get a full row or bed of squash and is a good safeguard if you’re using older or saved seeds. I’ll wait until the seedlings emerge from the soil and leave the best-looking ones to continue growing.

Fertilizing Summer Squash

Fruiting vegetables like summer squash are big fans of “spoon feeding.” This process involves giving the plants small doses of fertilizer in frequent intervals. As opposed to giving them a bunch of fertilizer at one time, you’ll want to give them a little every week or two. The leaves on your squash plants should be large and dark green. If they’re not, your plants are probably hungry.

We like to feed our squash plants every 1-2 weeks with AgroThrive Fruit and Flower Fertilizer. We’ll either inject it through our drip irrigation system or mix it in a bucket and pour alongside each plant. This frequent fertilization encourages the plants to continue producing more flowers, which results in more squash for you and your family!

Frequent fertilizations can also help the squash plants push through any pest or disease issues that might start plaguing the plants. Healthy, well-fed plants tend to be more resilient to pests and diseases. They’ll continue to produce new growth to fight off any damage caused by insects or fungi.

Harvesting Summer Squash

If your plants are healthy, summer squash fruits will be plentiful and will grow fast. The fruits will usually double in size each day. This is great because it means you’ll be getting a steady supply of delicious squash, but it also means that you must harvest the plants frequently.

When squash fruits get too large, the texture can get spongy and undesirable. Ideal fruit harvesting size will vary depending on variety, but we like to pick ours on the small side. Smaller squash are more tender and taste much better.

Be prepared to harvest your squash plants at least every other day. If you’re getting a considerable amount of rainfall, you might have to harvest them every day. Picking them small will help ensure that none of them get too large and inedible. When harvesting squash plants, we’ll pick anything that’s remotely close to being large enough to eat.

Pest Issues with Summer Squash 

Although they grow fast and are very productive, summer squash are notorious for having pest issues. Pests like squash bugs and squash vine borers can do significant damage to plants, especially as summer temperatures arrive and the pests start rapidly reproducing. Spraying the plants with an organic insecticide will help to kill the nymphs or immature insects, but the adults are almost impossible to kill.

To reduce the amount of pest damage on your squash, plant early and don’t try to grow squash in the middle of summer when the pest pressure is overwhelming. We plant squash as early as possible in late winter / early spring. This ensures we’ll get some steady production before the heavy pest pressure arrives.

We don’t try to grow squash in July and August. The pest pressure is too high and all we’re doing is providing a breeding habitat for those pesky squash bugs. In those months it’s a fight that’s not worth fighting. Plant your squash early and enjoy them before the pests do!

Thousands of gardeners have been tuning in to The Lazy Dog Farm YouTube channel where Travis covers a variety topics ranging from how to successfully start seedlings to how to make a flavorful hotsauce that packs a punch. Accompanied by his wife Brooklyn and their two boys, the gardens on their 2 acre homestead in southwest Georgia are always filled with a wide variety of vegetables that are enjoyed fresh or preserved for later.

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