Growing Squash and Zucchini in Your New England Garden is Incredibly Easy Right from Seed or Small Plants
One of the staples of the New England garden is summer squash (often called yellow squash) and zucchini - and there's a good reason why. It is incredibly easy to grow, from seed or small nursery plants and produces results in as little as 30 days. For the impatient gardener, its fast growing habit, prolific production, and short maturity make it the pride of many a garden in these parts.
A Yellow Squash or Zucchini is Much Different Than Say a Butternut Squash
The squash we're talking about here is the kind you'll find in fresh produce areas all summer long. They must be eaten fresh or they will rot, unlike their fall-ripening cousins. These include the pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash and all varieties of gourds. In addition, the summer soft squashes form a manageable bushy plant, while the fall-ripening varieties tend to form on VERY long vines, sometimes 30-50 feet long.
Plant your seed (or small plants)directly into the soil or in a good size (5 gallon plus) pot.
Just plant the seeds in mounds of 2 or 3 per mound. If in a pot, you would plant just one mound because these plants can get quite large. Squash and zucchini are great to plant as a children's project because they get results fast - the seeds can sprout in as little as 3 days in warm temperatures and can be planted as late as July 1st without sacrificing too much in the way of overall yields and plant size. We've found that planting too soon is worse, because the plants either grow so slowly or not at all until the daytime temps are in the 70's and the nighttime temps are above 55 degrees.
Water Your Squash and Zucchini Plants Deeply and Thoroughly Once a Week
These are very fleshy watery plants and DO NOT like to dry out. It will cause the developing small squash to fall off the vine as a way for the plant to save moisture. Squash and zucchini are one of the fastest developing vegetables, going from a flower to a fall-sized fruit in less than a week in most cases. The other great thing about growing these vegetables in your garden is that the flowers are not only edible, they are a delicacy in many cultures. The blossoms are quite large, up to 6 inches long, and can be dipped in tempura batter and fried, or stuffed with your choice of goodies and served that way as well. Either way, they really are another delicious way to enjoy the plants.
Watch Out For Mosaic Virus and Other Disease
Ever see a white powdery-looking substance, or notice that all of sudden most of the leaves die off at once. That's no accident of nature. It happens during the mid to late summer, and happens much more frequently when either a plant is stressed (not enough water for instance), or when people water late afternoon or evening. This is a BAD IDEA. Leaving water on the leaves invites problems; the answer, water thoroughly and deeply early in the morning so that the sun will dry the leaves early in the day.
Squash and Zucchini For All the Neighbors
If picked early, the fruits will tend to stay a manageable size of less than a pound. Go on vacation for a week, however, and you will come back to squash and especially zucchini that is the size of 2 baseball bats put together. It sure makes for a good conversation piece, but finding a use for 20 pounds of zucchini can be quite the challenge. Its also important to note that many of the varieties of zucchini will be become bitter and very seedy inside if left to grow to this size. Our recommendation is to pick at least every 3 days, with the squash and zucchini being less than 10 inches long and about 2-3 inches wide. Experiment with picking different sizes, and see which size you like the best. They can be picked at ANY time during development, even when they are only a few ounces and can fit in the palm of your hand. No matter what, if you have more than a couple of plants, you will have leftovers. Fill up the basket and share with all the neighbors. From zucchini bread to stir fry to tempura to succotash, your summer meals will be fresh and delicious!