I made a decision early in my food growing career: if I’m going to grow summer squash it will be gourmet varieties ONLY.
Before you call me a vegetable snob, I’ll give you a great argument for this practice.
Summer squash plants (common zucchini, patty pan, scalloped, etc.) are relatively inexpensive vegetables to buy at the supermarket, while gourmet varieties are expensive.
Are you following me?
Aside from cost, I’m an adventurous eater!
I want to taste new squash varieties that are not available at the market.
There are hundreds of heirloom and hybrid varieties available and I’d love to try them all.
How about you?
I presented on “How to Grow Summer Squash” recently on the Home and Family show, where I appear as the landscape design and edible gardening expert.
The show is taped in a real house located in Universal Studios, Hollywood where I cultivate a REAL vegetable garden.
This summer season, I decided to plant most of the garden vegetables by seed in order to teach the audience how to do the same.
After careful research, I narrowed my selection to three gourmet squash varieties and contacted the Burpee seed company to request seeds for the garden.
I am planting ‘Golden Egg Hybrid,’ ‘Green Tiger,’ and ‘Cupcake Hybrid’ summer squash!
If you are new to gardening, or have never planted summer squash before, below are basic instructions.
Watch my garden segment on the Home & Family show.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT LOCATION TO GROW SUMMER SQUASH
Start with the ideal location and you will be on the road to success.
Once your soil has warmed up to 60 degrees, it’s time to get started growing squash.
Summer squash needs full sun (6+ hours per day) to grow and set fruit.
Raised garden beds offer the best drainage for your squash plants.
An alternative is to create “hills,” or raised areas approximately 24 inches round and 8 inches high in which to plant your seeds.
For those without yard space, plant summer squash in containers.
Look for a large 18-inch pot or larger.
Although squashes in general aren’t too fussy about soil fertility, I always add 3 or 4 inches of compost to my soil before planting.
You can’t go wrong with a strong soil base.
Now that your soil is ready, it’s time to plant the squash seeds!
PROPER SQUASH SEED SPACING
Plant two seeds in each hole at a depth of 1 inch.
Doubling up or even tripling up on seeds in each hole puts the odds in your favor that at least one of them will sprout!
Cover the hole by placing the soil gently over the seeds.
Don’t tamp down your soil, keep it light and fluffy.
Measure approximately 36 inches away and plant the next set of seeds, continuing to space your holes 36 inches apart.
Summer squash plants might be described as “compact” and grow in a bush form, but they do grow wide!
I like my plants to touch shoulder-to-shoulder for best air circulation.
Squash plants may be short, but they can grow wide!
“Square foot gardeners” space their summer squash plants much closer at one plant per square foot.
This is fine, but I’m not using the square foot method for spacing my squash!
Tatuma squash is one of my discoveries from Melissa’s Produce.
Keep in mind that each squash plant will supply an ABUNDANCE of squash, so one plant per family member is usually enough.
More than this and you can open your own farmer’s market!
Water your seeds and maintain consistently moist soil.
Summer squash seedlings will emerge in 10-14 days!
WATERING SUMMER SQUASH
Summer squash has a large water content and requires consistent water to the root zone to grow plump, delicious fruit!
Did you read that?
Water the ROOT zone.
NEVER water the leaves because it will encourage diseases such as powdery mildew to set in.
In the absence of rain, your summer squash plant will need at least 1 inch of water per week.
Hand watering or drip irrigation are the best methods for watering.
Forget overhead sprinklers!
WATCH OUT FOR SQUASH PESTS!
Once your seedlings emerge, be on the look out for dreaded pests.
The spotted, striped, and banded cucumber beetle is probably Enemy #1, and is fond of young, succulent squash seedlings!
Cucumber beetles suck the life out of the stems and emerging leaves and must be hand-ejected from the garden!
Place fabric row covers made of fine, spun polyester over your seedlings as a physical barrier against cucumber beetles.
Once your squash plant begins to flower, remove the covers so that the plants can be pollinated by “friendly” pollinators.
SUMMER SQUASH BLOSSOMS
When you see squash blossoms or flowers, this means that fruiting will soon follow!
Squash plants bear both male and female flowers and the first flowers borne are usually male.
This means that they will not produce a fruit, only the female flowers that follow will produce fruit.
Flowering time is a good time to fertilize your plants with a balanced organic fertilizer to help boost growth along.
Organic Zucchini from Melissa’s Produce is grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers.
On the bright side, squash flowers are edible, so why not eat those male flowers?
Stuffed with cheese and garlic, squash blossoms are delicious lightly fried and sprinkled with coarse salt.
Yum, yum, yum.
Yes, I am the “foodie gardener!”
HARVESTING SUMMER SQUASH
Pick summer squash when it is still small and especially tender or wait until it grows to its ideal size as detailed on the seed package.
Whatever you do, don’t allow your squash to grow monster-sized because it will taste pithy and gross!
A home-grown zucchini is at its peak flavor and texture at 4-6 inches long.
On the other hand, if your goal is to win the “Largest Zucchini” contest, instructions for that are a completely other blog post!
GOURMET SUMMER SQUASH PHOTOS
Take a look at the gourmet summer squash varieties I’m growing in the Home & Family garden, my personal garden, and the community garden I manage.
Thank you to Burpee for supplying the seeds!
Summer squash, ‘Cupcake’ Hybrid from Burpee.
Can’t wait to stuff this zucchini.
Grows 2-5 inches round.
Harvest in 52 days.
Summer squash, ‘GoldenEgg Hybrid’ from Burpee.
This yellow, egg-shaped zucchini has won the “taste test” award two years in a row at a national industry trial.
It has a reputation for being delicious and cute!
I can’t wait to find out.
Harvest in 45 days.
Zucchini, ‘Green Tiger’ from Burpee.
Look at those dark green stripes!
‘Green Tiger’ zucchini will grow to 8 inches and has a natural, waxy, soft skin.
Harvest in 55 days.
Although I’m not growing the baby scallop squash this year, it is one of my favorites from Melissa’s Produce.
Diced in salads or steamed, baby scalloped squash is tender and has a mild flavor.
Another favorite that I will grow at home this summer is chayote squash.
For those of you who don’t enjoy the soft, mushy flavor of cooked squash, try the crisp, cucumber-like chayote squash.
I add chayote to stir-fries, soups and stews!
It has a pretty light green color and grows as a vine.
Give it some room to grow!
What summer squash are you growing this year?
Do you have any questions for me?