Squash, according to the viewpoint of botany negates the classification of being with vegetables and is considered as fruits having seeds. Originating from Central America 7500 years ago are now grown all around the world including beans and corns. The varieties of squash are categorized as either the summer or the winter squash. However, while planting squash their differences must be kept in notice (like their harvest time) in accordance with the appropriate type.
Summer squash,rich in vitamins A, C are mild flavored with thin skin producing effectively from early summer to the frost. Such varieties are shaggy and have various appearances; they are favorable for eating with less cooking as their skin is not poisonous. Most of them are harvested within 50 days and belongs to one of the following category:
Winter squash possibly stored throughout the winter have thick seeds enriched with iron and vitamins A, C. They require more cooking than the summer squashes. The storing could be done at cool and dark place for a month or so along with the fruit size. Harvesting normally takes about 70-120 days. Its further categories are as follows:
Tips regarding how to plant squash
Growing summer or winter squash is simple despite of the numerous shapes, colors or sizes of the vines. These cucurbits have equal cultural needs like for growing squash vertically, a sunny location is needed. Certain important things regarding these squashes are as under:
Favorable season and sowing of seeds
Planting squash depends on the preferable seasonal conditions so that squash planted grows well. Unable to tolerate the first frost, squashes are summer loving. Growing squash in long-summer gardens requires sowing the seeds directly in hills after last date of frost, however; for small-summer gardens implanting the seeds before last frost date is effective. Squash plants require full sun, planted usually around 1 inch deep with 4-5 seeds per hill ignoring the root problems during transplanting. Indoor planting on the other hand works well with 1.5 cm squash seeds.
Squash seeds decay in wet soil and develop defectively in cool soil. 6.0-6.5 is the optimal soil pH for winter squashes. Soil should be prepared up to a depth of 18-20” for growing squash as they require enough organic matter for their feeding. The pH range 5.5-6.8 is considered as ideal for squash. If the soil is lean then various organic amendments by incorporating compost and decomposing manure could be added.
Squash plant spacing
Different squash plants require much space whether they are planted in raised gardens or the conventional hills. Winter squashes need more space around 5-7 feet apart than the summer squashes that work well with 3-4 feet hills apart. If the seeds are planted directly than they must be sown 6-8” apart with 3 feet among bush varieties and 4 feet among the vines. Proper air circulation should be present while planting squash so that the diseases could be avoided.
Like the watering process of every grown vegetable or plant is necessary, similarly proper water consumption is necessary for growing spaghetti squash or growing butternut squash. When the soil gets dry;summer squashes like yellow squash requires water till the roots for deep utilization. To avoid fruit deterioration watering must be reduced. Drip irrigation is another method of watering. However, for regular squash production 1-1.5” per week supply is considerable.
Care and fertilization
Effective care of squashes demands some tips like to thin the plants when first true leaves develop(to save the best three or four plants per hills), planning on 4sq inch for summer squashes and watering up till 20 inches deep. As squash plants need ample amount of organic matter, add some organic fertilizer before transplanting to make a rich soil. 2 pounds of a fertilizer (20-20-20) per 100 feet of row is to be applied in spring. All varieties of squash once are grown up do not need much to do; cutting off old leaves is better where the main stem is being connected. Moreover, spreading vines require burying nodes so that it caters with the borers problems.
In order to increase the production rate harvesting must be done frequently .Summer squashes like patti pan are harvested before ripening of fruits and winter squashes like acorn are harvested in the fall (usually late September-October). Some varieties take about 60 days to get maturity. Zucchini cultivars are best when they are 4-8”, however maturing a single fruit may affect the productivity. Winter squashes are tasty when the shells are hard. In this case all ripe fruits should be picked before the frost by using sharp knifes in dry weather.
Temperature and storage
Summer squashes can be stored in the refrigerator up to 10 days and winter ones are kept in cool locations for 1-6 months at a temperature of 50 to 65 degrees F packed in a freezer containers. Summer squash grows best between temperatures 65-75 degrees F with soil temperature at approximately 60 degrees F. Winter squash grows well in air temperatures ranging from 50° to 90°F.
Squash pests include striped cucumber beetles; squash borers etc. Squash bugs are grayish brown bugs up to 3⁄4 inch long that wilt the plants, However; you can mound the soil over the wound to develop root systems, hence preventing from vine borers. Distorted squash in another case of stink bug can be corrected by spraying appropriate insecticides and thus various leading problems could be vanished. Sometimes if you’ve short of bees or the bees activity for transferring the male pollen to female flower is less, than you can manually pollinate with a Q-tip or can grow plants in the surroundings that attract bees.(See the flowers that attract butterflies and bees)
Dealing with the growing problems
Bacterial and fungal diseases are suspected through squash bugs, borers, powdery mildew in squashes that you can cure with fungicides. If proper planning and maintenance is not done then such problems could lead the leaves to wilt. Fulfillment of the growing requirements is important for the squashes to flourish. Consistent watering with fertilization and removal of debris (after final harvesting) are included in these measures. Digging weeds and covering the hays could be used to avoid borers attack. Rubbing of the red eggs is also prominent for destruction considering the entry holes at the plants base. Though planting of nasturtiums to keep away squash bugs is also recommendable.
10. Cooking tips
The summer squashes should be salted 15 mints before cooking and then are blotted dry. You should use grilling, stir frying to avoid mush factor as these are the best methods I advice. Squash about 4-6 ounces should be selected for amazing flavors using steam. However baking is perfect if refrigerated in a bag of plastic for around 5 days. On contrary, winter squashes skin must be peeled before cooking and they can be boiled, roasted, simmered for favorable tastes.