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How to Care for Squash Plants

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How to Care for Squash Plants

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Overview

Traditional winter squash includes a variety of squash like butternut, acorn and Hubbard that grow on large vining plants spreading to 10 feet or more. This hard-shelled squash keep for months if stored in a cool dry place. New cultivars of bush varieties make it possible to grow squash in small gardens or containers, but they typically produce less fruit than vining varieties. Summer squash, including zucchini, grows on compact plants that spread to 3 feet or more. Summer squash must be eaten shortly after harvesting, as it does not hold up to winter storage.

Step 1

Prepare a garden bed by tilling to a depth of 6 to 8 inches and amending the soil. A quick soil test performed with a home soil test provides an assessment of the pH and nutrient content of the soil. Follow the recommendations for balancing nutrients and adjusting the pH to 7.0

Step 2

Mound soil to a height of 8 to 10 inches with a diameter of 12 to 24 inches to create a raised hill for planting seeds. Space hills 4 to 8 feet apart. Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of well-rotted manure or compost and mix in well with the existing soil. Apply 2 tbsps. of low-nitrogen fertilizer (4-8-5 or 6-10-10) and mix in well.

Step 3

Plant squash in late spring after the danger of frost has passed in your region. This warm-season crop prefers temperatures in the 70s and germinates best when the soil temperature is above 60 degrees F. Planting squash too early typically results in delayed germination and may stunt grown of seedlings.

Step 4

Sow five to six seeds per hill to a depth of 1 inch. Firm the soil down with your hands and water the mounds to moisten the soil. Keep evenly moist until seedlings emerge. Thin to two or three of the healthiest seedlings when plants are 4-inches high.

Step 5

Fertilize with a high nitrogen fertilizer when plants blooms and repeat in three to four weeks.

Step 6

Water deeply once a week to moisten the soil to the root level.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil test kit
  • Soil amendments
  • Fertilizer

References

  • Purdue University Extension: Growing Cucumbers, Melons, Squash, Pumpkins and Gourds
  • University of Illinois Extension: Winter Squash
  • University of Connecticut: Growing Squash
  • North Carolina State University Extension: Growing Pumpkins and Winter Squash
  • Iowa State University Extension: How to Grow Squash in the Home Garden
Keywords: grow squash, plant squash, fertilize squash, growing squash

About this Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with 4 years experience in online writing and a lifetime of personal journals. She is published on various sites, including Associated Content. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.