Summer squash varieties like yellow squash and zucchini grow on compact bushes and can produce a large bounty of fruit in a relatively small amount of garden space. This makes them ideal for both spacious backyards and small container gardens. Knowing specific strategies regarding squash plant spacing, harvesting and storing can ensure a successful and fruitful growing season.
Stagger Planting Dates
As its name suggests, summer squash is a warm season fruit. It is typically grown from the early spring--start the plants after the lost frost date in your area (see Resources)--to the middle of summer. Stagger your planting dates by planting one crop of summer squash in the early spring and one at the end of spring so you have fruit to harvest throughout the summer season.
Space the Plants
Give each summer squash plant lots of area to grow--separate them by approximately 3 feet--to ensure enough room for fruit development. Also, plants spaced too close to each other may experience greater levels of pests concentrations.
Mulch the Soil
The roots of summer squash are relatively shallow. Add a layer of mulch, 2 inches deep, around the base of each plant to help retain moisture in the upper layer of soil.
Tempting as it may be, don't wait until the squash are very large to harvest them. The smaller they are, the more tender the rind and the better the flesh quality. For best results, pick the squash when they have a maximum diameter of 2 inches and are approximately 7 inches long.
Eat the Flowers
The fruit of the summer squash isn't the only part of the vine vegetable that's edible. The flowers of all summer squash varieties can be added to a salad, sauteed in a stir fry or dipped in batter and fried. Female flowers have bulbous stems where the summer squash develops. Only pick the male flowers, or you'll lower your vine's fruit production.
Wear gloves when picking flowers or fruit. The sap of summer squash vines and stems irritate the skin of many individuals. Some varieties also have prickly foliage.
Store the Fruit
If you have more squash than you can use at once, store them in plastic bags in the vegetable crisper drawer in your fridge for up to three days. Don't wash them first, since water on squash will cause the vegetable to rot quickly.