Squash is found in both summer and winter varieties. Winter squash takes longer to mature than summer squash and can be left on the vine until light frost has killed back the foliage. Summer squash can be planted in small successive plantings, sown a month apart for an extended harvest season. Popular summer squash varieties include cultivars of pattypan, yellow squash and zucchini. Winter squash varieties include cultivars of acorn squash, buttercup, butternut, delicata, Hubbard, spaghetti squash and vegetable marrow squash.
Both summer and winter squash varieties grow best in rich, well-drained, soil, amended with plenty of compost or other organic materials worked in, and a medium pH of 6.0 to 6.5.
Seeds for both summer and winter squash varieties should be planted only after all danger of frost is past. Winter squash will do better if planted in soil that has been prewarmed with black plastic, one to two weeks before planting. Bush type summer varieties should be spaced 18 to 24 inches apart, while vining types require up to 4 feet. Winter squash varieties should be planted in hills or rows, 4 to 5 feet apart. Both winter and summer squash can be started indoors in individual pots, and then transplanted with care to avoid breaking delicate root systems. Mulch plants to hold in soil moisture.
Squash bugs and cucumber beetles are deterred by interplanting radishes or basil with both summer and winter squash varieties, or row covers can be used, but should be removed when plants are in bloom. Straw mulch is another method of keeping insect populations down.
To prevent disease, do not plant where squash or related plants, such as cucumber, were grown the previous year. Provide good air circulation to prevent mildew, which is a common problem for both winter and summer squash. If plants are attacked by mildew, they can be sprayed with a solution of 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 1 quart of water.
Summer squash varieties should be picked small for best flavor, and frequent harvesting encourages more fruit production. Cut squash from the plants with a small knife, taking care not to bruise the skins of the fruits. Winter squash varieties should be harvested in the fall, when shells are hard and cannot be dented with a fingernail.