All members of the squash family--summer squash, cucumbers, winter squash, gourds, melons, pumpkins, and zucchini--like to sprawl out over a large space. The long vines of one plant can easily cover 100 square feet. Many gardeners grow few if any summer squash simply because they do not have enough garden space available. The answer is to train the vines to grow up a vertical support such as nylon trellis netting.
Building the Supports
Sink the 8-foot posts 24 inches in the ground. Summer squash fruit is heavy, and a strong wind on the plants' leaves can blow down shallow supports. Posts should be set no more than 8 feet apart.
Attach the cord or rope to the tops of the posts. This should be held in place with heavy fence staples, hammered into the tops of the posts.
Secure one edge of the netting to the cord or rope with small pieces of garden twine so it hangs down nearly to the ground. Using light staples at least 3/8-inch long, tack the edges of the netting to the support posts. It doesn't have to be taut, but it should not be too loose.
Training the Plants Upward
Plant the summer squash transplants along the line where the netting comes close to the ground. Space them at least 3 feet apart.
Gently tie the vines up to the nearest piece of netting as the plants begin to send out vines. Tomato clips are best, since they attach to the netting and gently cradle the tender vine. If you use garden twine, make sure you do not bruise or crush the vines.
Support the vines as they grow, securing them gently to the netting in a roughly vertical direction. Spread a few vines out at about 45 degrees--this allows healthy air movement through the plant, discouraging mildew diseases to which summer squash plants are susceptible.
Fruit may need to be supported as it develops, either by securing the stem to the netting or by enclosing the fruit in a "sling" of light fabric. Clean pantyhose works well for this.
About this Author
Peter Garnham has been a garden writer since 1989. Garnham is a Master Gardener and a Contributing Editor for "Horticulture" magazine. He speaks at conferences on vegetable, herb, and fruit growing, soil science, grafting, propagation, seeds, and composting. Garnham runs a 42-acre community farm on Long Island, NY.