Joseph Masabni, Assistant Professor and Extension Horticulturist; and Patrick Lillard, Extension Assistant, The Texas A&M System
Squash is a popular warm-season garden vegetable. Squash will grow well in all areas of Texas. Squash plants take up a lot of space, but because they are prolific producers it takes only a few plants to feed a family and all their neighbors.
Squash is one of the plants grown in the traditional Native American vegetable growing technique called the Three Sisters. The other two plants in the Three Sisters are beans and corn. Each plant had its role in this companion planting tradition. Corn served as a structure for the vining beans to grow up. Squash served as a ground cover to prevent weeds from growing. Beans provided natural fertilizer for all.
Like most veining vegetables, squash grows best in sandy, fertile soils with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5.
Remove all rocks and trash from the soil. Work it up several weeks before planting, but only when the soil is dry enough not to stick to garden tools.
Squash grows best in soils that have lots of organic matter. If possible, spread 2 to 3 inches of organic material such as compost, leaves, or rotted hay over the planting area. Then till to mix this organic material into the top 8 to 10 inches of soil.
Squash does not grow well in cool weather. Plant in the spring after all danger of frost has passed. For a good fall crop, plant early so squash will mature before the first killing frost.
Plant squash in hills 18 to 48 inches apart on rows 3 to 8 feet apart. The vining types, such as Hubbard or acorn, need more room than the bush types (Fig. 1.)
When seeding squash, plant five or six seeds about 1 inch deep in each hill (Fig. 2.) Water after planting the seed. After the seeds come up, thin them to three squash plants per hill (Fig. 3.)
Add 2 to 3 pounds of fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, for each 100 square feet of garden area. If you plan to grow only a few plants, use 2 to 3 tablespoons of fertilizer for each hill. Scatter the fertilizer evenly over a 2-foot by 2-foot area. Work it into the top 3 to 4 inches of soil.
Water the plants enough to keep them from wilting. If the weather is really dry, squash plants should be watered at least once a week. Sandy soils need to be watered more often than heavy clay soils.
Care during the season
Keep squash plants free of weeds. Hoe around the plants to remove small weeds. When hoeing, be careful not to damage the roots (Fig. 4.) Hand pull the weeds close to the plants.
When the first blooms appear, place about 2 tablespoons of garden fertilizer around each hill. Do not let the fertilizer touch the plants. Water the plants after fertilizing.
Squash can get many diseases, especially when harvesting begins. Spray with an approved fungicide to help control most diseases. Ask your county Extension agent what fungicide to use, and follow all directions on the container.
Harvest yellow and green (summer) squash when the fruit and seeds are small. Always harvest mature squash so the plants will keep producing. Harvest winter (hard rind) squash when they are full sized, the skin is hard, and the bottom of the fruit is cream to orange colored. A light frost will not damage fruits of winter squash. Squash is best when cut, not pulled, from the vine.
Fresh squash adds color and variety to meals. Green and yellow squash are fair sources of Vitamins A and C. Winter squash is a good source of Vitamin A and has fair amounts of Vitamin C. Squash can be served in many ways from fried dishes to casseroles. Winter squash is often baked. Cook all types of squash only until tender to keep the vitamin content.
Green and yellow squash can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week. Winter squash can be stored for several months.
Old squash vines should be added to the compost pile or worked into the soil well before the spring planting season.
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