Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

Super Summer Squash

by Susan Littlefield

Summer squash is one of the most gratifying crops to grow in the vegetable garden. Simply stick in a few seeds, wait a while, and suddenly you're harvesting tender green and gold squash by the armload.

Often the biggest dilemma is what to do with all the bounty! Whether you serve them grilled or steamed, in stir-fries or casseroles, as a sweet treat in breads, muffins, and cakes, or raw in salads, amazingly productive zucchini and yellow squash will add to meals all summer long.

Squash Basics

Squash may seem to grow as easily as the beans Jack planted to produce his magic beanstalk. But it's important to pay attention to some basics as you plant and care for your crop for the best harvest.

As with most veggies, full sun and fertile, well-drained soil are key. Squash plants revel in the heat of summer, so give them the warmth they crave by waiting until the soil is warm, the weather is settled, and the danger of frost is well past before putting seeds in the ground.

Planting in hills is traditional. Sow 4-6 seeds in a circle about a foot across and thin to the two strongest plants, spacing each hill 3-4 feet apart. But planting in rows also works; check the seed packet for spacing information.

Consistent soil moisture is important to keep your plants in top condition, especially as they're flowering and setting fruits. Mulch will help the soil retain moisture and keep weeds down. And these heavy feeders will appreciate a dose of soluble fertilizer every few weeks all season long, in addition to plenty of compost mixed into the soil before planting time.

Pick your squash early and often. You'll enjoy the harvest at its tender best and keep your plants producing well. If you cut fruits with a short piece of stem attached, they'll last longest in the refrigerator.

Here are some the many varieties of summer squash and zucchini we carry.

Fancycrook (42 days)—This crookneck squash bears smooth, bright yellow fruits and shows tolerance for powdery mildew.

Fortune (39 days) —A vigorous, productive straightneck variety with attractive, dark butter yellow fruits.

Horn of Plenty (43-45 days) —This high-yielding hybrid yellow crookneck is a great choice for both home and market gardeners.

Black Beauty (44 days) —This open-pollinated, bush-type zucchini bears long, straight, black-green fruits with with a fine, delicate flavor.

Gray Zucchini (42 days) —One of the most attractive summer squash varieties with 12 inch, straight fruits mottled medium green with gray.

Midas (53 days) —This hybrid yellow straightneck is powdery mildew resistant and has excellent yield potential.

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