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How to Grow Summer Squash in the Catskills
Once summer squash start producing, there’s no end in sight! With only 2 or 3 plants you can easily have enough for eating and freezing. This makes them a wonderful source of added nutrition throughout the year.
Even though it’s mid-June already, it’s not too late to start zucchini and yellow squash seeds for a late summer harvest. Here’s how to grow summer squash in the Catskills – two different ways!
How to Grow Summer Squash in the Garden
Summer squash grow well when planted in the ground, either in a garden or a raised bed. The trick is to keep them far away from other plants – 3 feet at the very least!
For the earliest crop, you can start summer squash seeds indoors in early May. You can transplant them into the garden around Memorial Day.
You can also start the seeds directly in the ground anytime from Memorial Day up until mid-July. Just follow the directions on your seed packet for exact dates, planting depth, and more.
Don’t want to deal with seeds? You can usually find young zucchini and yellow squash plants at a local greenhouse.
The traditional method for growing summer squash is in hills – you plant 3-4 seeds or seedlings in a hill with 2 inches of space between each. The hills themselves should be about 6 feet apart. If hills aren’t feasible for your garden, you can also plant them in a row with 3-6 feet between each squash plant (and 3-6 feet away from any neighbor vegetables, as well).
Before planting, consider adding a thin layer of compost or rotted manure to the area and till it in. The plants enjoy fertilizer.
While the plants are young, keep their growing area well weeded. Once they take up about a square foot or more of space, they do a better job choking out weeds, but it can still be helpful to weed around them so you don’t miss any of your harvest.
Make sure they get plenty of water while they’re growing – around an inch a week is good for them, but avoid overwatering near the leaves.
How to Grow Summer Squash in a Pot
Yes, you can grow these big plants outside of your garden! If you’re short on garden space, they can be just as happy in a large container on your deck.
Start your seeds in pots or grow bags at least 2 feet in diameter and 1 foot deep. Use good quality potting soil that drains well. Plant 2-3 seeds per container depending on pot size. The seeds should be planted about an inch deep and watered well after planting.
Place your summer squash pot somewhere sunny – they need at least 6 hours of full sun each day, but more than that is great! They should be watered whenever the top 2 inches of soil feel dry. Since they’re in containers, you’ll probably need to water them more often than you would a garden, so check at least once a day.
Depending on the variety, they may grow long vines. Make sure you give vining summer squash support by using a tomato cage or a trellis.
Once the plant reaches maturity, you’ll notice it making adorable little squashes with a big flower on the end. The squashes don’t stay small for long, though! They will be ready to pick about 4-5 days after the flower dies off.
Most recommend picking zucchini and yellow squash when they’re 6-8 inches long. You can always let them grow less or more depending on your preference and what you need them for. Just remember: picking them early and often helps the plant produce more. Since the plant slows down production when an individual squash gets too big, always pick every fruit whether you plan to use it or not. Extras can always be given away or composted.
Picking summer squashes can be hazardous – the plants have nasty prickers all over their stems and leaves. I like to use these gloves that keep the barbs away. They also work well for pulling those evil weeds that make your fingers and arms numb.
Happy Summer Squashing!
With a little bit of effort and love, your summer squash plants should flourish, bringing you plenty of delicious squash to cook, bake, and freeze! If you have any other summer squash tips and tricks, leave them in the comments.