There's no need to buy summer squash like zucchini or crookneck squash in the grocery store when you can grow your own crop in your backyard. Unfortunately, humans aren't the only ones who like fresh summer squash. Squash bugs (Anasa tristis) are a common pest and attack both the squash plant's vegetation and fruit. Proper cultural practices and chemical controls can help you prevent, protect and eradicate squash bugs in your summer squash.
Choose a summer squash hybrid or cultivar that's recommended for your area. There are dozens of varieties and some are specifically bred to thrive in certain regions, meaning less maintenance for you and a potentially higher resistance to pests and diseases. Consult your area's cooperative extension office (see Resources) for further guidance.
Clear away all weeds in your gardening area. Weeds commonly play host to a wide range of insect pests, including squash bugs and aphids. Removing the weed population instantly decreases your garden's ability to attract pests.
Prepare the garden soil. Use a spade to breakup the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Stir in 2 inches of aged compost. This increases the soil's ability to retain moisture, thus keeping your summer squash plants hydrated longer, and also improves drainage and soil nutrient contents.
Plant the summer squash. Bury each summer squash seed an inch into the soil and separated from each other by 2 to 3 feet, according to North Carolina State University. If you're growing several rows, space the rows apart by 3 feet.
Water the ground twice a day or as needed to keep the soil moist. The summer squash seeds will germinate within two weeks.
Plant nasturtiums 3 to 4 feet from the summer squash. Nasturtiums help to naturally repel squash bugs, according to Cornell University. Plant the nasturtiums as dense as possible for the specific nasturtium variety, creating a border around your garden for maximum squash bug deterring.
Pile 2 inches of mulch around the squash plants once they're 4 to 5 inches tall. This helps conserve soil moisture and slowly conditions the soil as the mulch decomposes.
Fertilize the squash plants once they start producing their first flowers. This gives the plants the extra boost they need for bountiful fruit production, and also increases vigor to make them less stressed by insect infestations. Use an all-purpose garden fertilizer like a 10-10-10 product, applied according to its labeled guidelines as potency varies by product.
Mist the plants with insecticidal soap, available from all garden stores or nurseries, if you notice squash bugs on the plant. Such soaps naturally kill the bugs without resorting to potentially toxic chemicals. If you don't have a commercially prepared mixture on hand, mix your own by combining a couple tablespoons of liquid dish soap with a quart of water.