Well, we’ve got yet another veggie in our repertoire – squash. This year we’ve planted butternut and crookneck ..you may be more familiar with the latter.Me, I love to make squash casserole – it’s a Southern classic side dish that’s fun to make. Not to mention breaded friend squash.
There are lots of different types for consideration, Depending on your preferences and the time of year you may want to plant summer or autumn varieties.
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Summer squash is mostly the yellow color in elongated pear shapes that we associate with one of my favorite recipes – squash casserole. (Ask me how I make that one!) Last year we planted summer squash which includes varieties like the crookneck and zucchini, too, is in this camp. My late husband liked squash but was not a fan of zucchini, I found that puzzling since they are similar.
Autumn squash includes Hubbard, Acorn, Buttercup and Butternut. And yes, pumpkins are related. This year we’ve planted croockneck and butternuts. Another type to look into is the Spaghetti squash – yes, the inside pulp looks a lot like its name, and it’s great with pasta sauce Those of you following special diets like Paleo and Keto may be familiar with the use of squash or zucchini as a pasta substitute.
Butternuts have long trailing vines as you can see in the picture here…
How to Start the Seeds
Our summer squash seeds are heirloom, but the butternuts actually came from another butternut that we saved the seeds of. Yes, you can do that too…it can be a crapshoot whether or not they will sprout. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t You’ll probably know in a few weeks time if they are a go. That’s the most frugal way to get started. After cleaning out the core I saved as many seeds as I could, washed off the excess pulp and allowed them to dry in a sunny window.
Because spring was almost over, we started to plant the seeds outdoors in planter boxes. This is important. I would not start squash seeds indoors to transplant outside later – they’re one crop that gets stressed easily from this. I would follow my example or get them started in your greenhouse if you have one. Dampen them so they will germinate more quickly.
Planting Squash Seeds
Place seeds about 2-3 per hole about a foot apart. Squashes will do very well if they are planted alongside crops in the same family – it will thrive and potentiate 2 particular crops: corn and beans. This is also part of the “three sisters” strategy. Squash stays low to the ground and does well when flanked by tall corn stalks.
When you see the seedlings get to about 3-5″ in height, you’ll need to prune the weaker seedlings and leave the best looking, healthiest one to get started in the bed that’s designated.
Squash need lots of space – they will sprawl out a lot. There’s the vining type and bush type which need to climb a little.They also prefer slightly acidic soil it should have a ph of about 5.5 and no longer a little higher is acceptable.
You’ll notice that the growth phase will start showing yellowish-orange flowers. If you’re growing zucchini you’ll see the fruit develop with the orange flowers at the very end which will drop off eventually.
Summer squashes have a germination period of about 60 days and autumn squashes take a good bit longer – closer to 90 to 110 days to reach full maturation. The leaves tend to be wide and spread out in appearance. They don’t look that different from cucumber plants in the early stages.
Pest and Disease Problems
There are squash bugs, which are parasitic, juice-sucking pests like aphids, They are grayish-brown and can be hosed off or picked and dropped into soapy water. Then there’s the dreaded vine borer- Beware. These buggers are insidious. They don’t just cause superficial damage. Because they burrow within the plant stem they can kill your plant eventually. You may have to use a kitchen paring knife to cut into the main stem and dig them out.
They look like white grubs. The other day I saw a guy on Youtube inject Bt (a well-known insecticide) into the big stem of his squash plants using a hypodermic needle. Knock on wood, I haven’t come across any yet, but if I do, I will know what to do. Also I have heard that some squash varieties (like the butternut) are more resistant against this pest.
If you wrap aluminum foil around the young plants stems, you can deter the adults from laying their eggs Be sure to check for eggs, as they are not laid in clusters but single ones that are brown or gray in color.
There are some fungal diseases, like powdery mildew, to watch out for.. One substance I’ve heard of that people have good luck with regarding pests and diseases is neem oil. And better yet, it’s good for organic gardening, too.
Crookneck yellow squash is about 8-10 ” in length when ready to be picked. The stems are tough a dn thick so use a trimming tool as they can’t be yanked off. Butternuts get pretty big, probably about a foot.
Squash, once picked, can be preserved – It can be blanched and frozen for a few months, It should be used within a year. When you cut open a butternut squash you will see it has a beautiful yellow-orange color. WE scooped out all of the pulp and preserved it in the freezer and later on used it to make butternut squash pie. Yes, it was our variation on pumpkin. Deelish!
Good luck to you and let me know how your squash turns out.