Name: Summer Squash (Zucchini and Yellow Squash)
*Summer squash, a category that includes Zucchini and Yellow Squash, is easy to grow unless your summers are very cold and rainy.
*They do not take up much room in a garden because they are bush type-plants and you only need a few for a rather large harvest. Two or three plants per family is a realistic-sized harvest.
**Zucchini and Yellow Squash need a sunny spot with good drainage and where other squashes have not been growing recently. Allow 9-16 square feet per plant.
**All squash like fertile soil with plenty of organic matter to retain moisture. They are heavy feeders and drinkers because they produce big stems, big leaves, and big fruits.
**Their ideal pH level is around 6.0-6.5. Simply add a shovelful of compost or peat moss and an application of liquid fish emulsion. Test your pH levels with a kit like this.
**The seeds of squash should be purchased and not saved from previous crops unless you can be certain that they have not cross-pollinated with another variety. Otherwise, you get odd-looking and inedible fruits.
**Plant summer squash seeds directly into the garden as soon as the danger of frost has passed. You may start them inside in soil blocks or peat pots if you want (then plant those pots directly into the soil to avoid transplant shock).
**Plant the seeds six to a spot and 1 inch deep, then thin to the best three seedlings, then thin to one seedling when the plants are a few inches tall.
**Plant the summer squash 3-4 feet apart. Closer plantings give lower yields.
**The first yellow flowers to appear are usually male. You can eat them. They are good in salads, sautéed, and deep-fried. There will be plenty to spare because you only need a few male ones for pollination.
**The female flowers soon follow and can be recognized by a small bump of “squash-to-be” at the base. You can eat some of the female flowers too, and the plant will just keep producing more.
**Weed the plants when they are young. Later, the big leaves will shade the ground and keep weeds down. This will also keep the soil moist, but water the plants anyway if the weather is dry and give them a top-dressing of compost from time to time to keep productivity up.
**Squash can contract a number of diseases. The best defense is to keep the plants as healthy as possible with plenty of water and fertile soil. Also, always use crop rotation as defense against disease.
**Once they are standard size, try to pick your summer squash every day. Try not to let them get more than 7 inches long (otherwise productivity slows down).
**Cut off the squash with a serrated knife. Pulling or twisting them may damage the plant.
**Harvest the blossoms in the morning when they are wide open so that they are fresher, firmer, and easier to use/eat.
**Plant borage, French or pot marigolds nearby to encourage pollinating insects.