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All About Growing Summer Squash
Summer Squash is a super vegetable to try this summer and How to grow it!
Have you ever heard of summer squash? Well! For those who have never heard about it, count us in too. The moment we heard about this veggie we wanted to try it out in our gardens to see how it comes out and have a glimpse of the veggie itself.
As things turned out, this is a super veggie power packed with a lot of vitamins and proteins to give you enough energy to carry out a day’s work or two! In this blog post you are going to learn everything about this veggie right from germination till harvest.
What is summer squash?
Summer squash belongs to the zucchini family. One special feature of this kind of squash is that the fruit is harvested before it is matured. Tender and edible rind is the main thing to look out while harvesting this. The plant grows into a bush unlike other squash and pumpkin. The short storage life of this veggie is the main reason for this name!
How to grow summer squash:
If you feel that this is one tough veggie to try, and then mark our words, you are in for a surprise! Just like the others this is quite easy to grow from seeds and we will explain you the process here.
Before starting a lesson on how to grow summer squash you should know about germination and other stuff. You should also first understand when to plant this and how to plant it.
Summer squash: when to plant?
As the name indicates, summer or pre-summer is the best time to sow the seeds. The moment winter passes away, and you are free from all the fog and mist, it is the right time to go with planting the seeds.
How to plant?
Find out a perfect space in your garden. If you are into container gardening then it works fine too! Start with germinating the seeds. Here too, you have the choice of doing it indoors or outdoors. Many people recommend germinating indoors.
It normally takes three weeks for the seedlings to be mature enough to be transferred. If you are planning to plant them in your garden, find out a spot that is sunny enough. The soil should be well drained. Summer squash prefer a lot of sun and hence they will thrive happily in sunlight. If you are growing in container it works perfectly well because you have the option of placing the pot wherever you want to. We suggest growing the seeds in a seed tray if you are planning to grow them in containers.
It is always a better thing to add enough compost and fertilizer before transplanting the seedlings. For container gardening, make sure you have a balanced mix of cocopeat, compost and organic manure. This will boost the growth of the plant. Mulching is a good option to enhance the yield because of the shallow roots.
Harvesting summer squash:
Ah! Harvesting is that one part that many of us will love to the core. Take us for instance, the moment we grow a plant we automatically think about the harvest season! I am sure most of you will have the same euphoric feeling too! Summer squash develop very fast.
Once you see the blooms check for the male and female ones. Normally, the male flowers come up on bare stems followed by females. As always you can easily distinguish between male and female. Female flowers have a tiny squash at their base. It is always good to hand pollinate the flowers to enhance production. Use a small paint brush for this and it will do wonders. One natural way to do this is to have plenty of bees in your garden and hence it is a good thing to plant some flowering plants to attract bees. There are plenty of things that you can do with the flowers too. Use them in your recipes like spicy bajjis or pakoras! Yumm..
It is always good to harvest the vegetable when the rind is tender. Over matured ones can be used for seeds. Always check the plants for squash because the fruits mature quite fast. It just takes about 8 or 9 days for harvest after pollination. If you have few over mature fruits and don’t know what to do with them, just scrape them out and add them to bread or things like that. A healthy option, isn’t it?
You should take care while harvesting. The leafstalks are prickly and they may scratch your hands if they are unprotected. Using a knife or a pruning shear is always a good while harvesting. Also, make sure to handle the harvested veggie with care, since you will be harvesting them at a tender stage.
Common problems and pests:
Pests are a common problem for all plants and summer squash is not an exception to that. The most common pests of all that attack summer squash is the cucumber beetle. They attack the seedlings and vines too. Sometimes mature and immature fruits too fall prey to them. Using a strong organic insecticide will prevent them from destroying the plant.
Another pest to look for is the squash bug. They normally attack the vines just when the fruits begin to set. The mature fruits fall prey to them as they hatch in groups. Neem oil is said to be a good option to prevent them and repel these pests.
Summer Squash also catch the powdery mildew disease and they can be treated with variety of organic insecticides
Manures and fertilizers:
When it comes to summer squash the usage of fertilizers and manures is quite limited. They enjoy growing in a growing medium of red soil+cocopeat+organic manure. Just put a spoonful of bone meal while transplanting the seedlings and they will be happy to the heaven.
There is one thing that is noteworthy. Make sure there is enough space between two plants. They do not like to be grown in a crowd. They are quite plush. A month old plant will take up to four to five square feet of area.
Storing summer squash:
Storing summer squash is a tricky part. Since they are harvested quite early, they are very tender. Normally, it is good to cook the squash immediately after harvest. If you are just growing two or three plants for your family then it will be good enough. Make sure to check the plant once in two days right after pollination as they tend to mature fast. As mentioned before, use a sharp knife to cut the squash from the plant. Remember, the more the harvests are the more the yield is. Also only tender squash are a delicacy. Make sure to handle the veggie with care as the skin is very delicate.
If you are planning to store the summer squash for future use, just place them in plastic bags and refrigerate. Make sure to wash them before cooking. You should also note that the storage life of a summer squash is quite limited and hence you should use it within two or three days.
Squash blossoms- a true delicacy:
The flowers of the summer squash plant are edible. They make a wonderful delicacy when fried with pakora batter. Use only male flowers for this purpose. However, while harvesting the flowers make sure to leave some male flowers on the plant so as to enable pollination. Some farmers, use the female flowers which are not pollinated as they are very tasty in some dishes. Normally, harvesting them in the afternoons, when the flowers are in full bloom is good. You can also store them in the refrigerator for about one or two days. If you have never tasted squash blossoms then count us, you are definitely in for a treat!
Nutritional value and health benefits of summer squash:
Just because they are harvested quite earlier the nutritional value may differ from that of pumpkins and other kinds of squash. Remember, the peel is the powerhouse of nutrients and hence do not peel off the veggie while cooking.
Considering there is one cup of sliced raw summer squash:
Protein 1.5 gm
Carbohydrates 3.5 gm
Fiber 1.5 gm
Vitamin A 385 IU
Folate 25 mcg
Note: These values are just approximate
Seed saving for future:
If you are planning to save the seeds for the future then there are many things that you should consider. One of the trickiest part to consider is, summer squash easily crosses with other variety of squash. This means the genetic code of the plant will be changed. Therefore, if you are planning to get the seeds of the squash plant make sure to place two plants separately from the other plants. Once they start blooming cover them with a small tent like thing to prevent bees and other pollinators. It is always good to hand pollinate the flowers to get a perfect summer squash. Once you get about two or three fruits set remove the other flowers and let them grow.
Check for the fruits if they are mature enough. Mature fruits will have hard rinds and the colour of the stems will turn brown from green. It is always good to dry the largest of the seeds as they are sure to germinate. Seeds that are preserved in good conditions can last up to six years. Therefore, you will have your own seed bank!
Vital tips to grow squash in containers:
- Full sunlight is the secret for growing a healthy summer squash crop. Make sure to place the pots in areas where there is enough sunlight.
- Fertile soil and sufficient moisture are the other two main requirements of these plants. It is not necessary that you should apply manure to the plants, but it is a good practice to add a handful of compost to the grow bag while transplanting the seedlings
- Like other plants the seedlings can be started indoors. We normally suggest using seed trays or paper cups for germination as it will make the process of transplanting quite easy. When seeds are germinated in a seed cup the root forms like a ball. This will make the process of transplantion easy as it does not stress the root ball much.
- A good distance should be maintained between two plants. As mentioned before, since the plants are plush they need enough space to grow freely.
- If you have a good plan and spend a good amount of time in maintaining your garden then this veggie will be a sure winner among others. After all, growing these in India is a challenge and we trust these information will be enough for you to face it!
About our seeds:
All our seeds are ideal for the climatic conditions prevailing in our country. They have a germination rate of more than 80% under ideal conditions.
Now that you have got an idea about growing summer squash, we will come with a next interesting article about another wonder veggie for your home garden. after all, we know how passionate you are about gardening and we will make sure you get the most out of our blog.