Everything You Need to Know to Grow Amazing Squash and Zucchini Plants
Updated: Jun 22
Where to Plant Your Squash and Zucchini Plants
Plant squash and zucchini plants in full sun, with excellent air circulation in compost-rich, well-drained soil. Squash and zucchini prefer to be direct-seeded; however, if you are careful, starter plants can be transplanted without issue. You can start seeds indoors three to four weeks before the last expected frost, which is my preferred method. Firstly harden off your plants by bringing them out during the day and leaving them in a shady area. Over the next week or so, bring them out into the sun to allow them to build up some protection against the sun. Leaves will burn in the sun if they aren't hardened off.
If you choose to sow seeds outside, the soil will need to be warm for the seeds to germinate. Space the plants two to four feet apart in a mound of dirt called a hill. Hills or mounds above the ground will allow the sun to warm the soil. I prefer to plant my squash and zucchini in containers so they can be moved around the yard to suit the plant's needs for sun, warmth, and air circulation.
Squash and zucchini plants do well with beans, corn, cucumbers, melon, mint, onions, pumpkin, and radishes. I plant bush beans on the outer edges of the containers to grow over the side. Oregano provides general pest protection. Keep squash away from potatoes.
Plants with edible flowers which also naturally deter pests are:
Borage deters worms, improves growth and flavour.
Marigolds deter beetle.
Nasturtium deters squash bugs and beetles.
Water deeply in a well-draining soil while the fruits are developing. If you allow the plants to dry out, the fruit can crack or cause blossom end rot. If you see yellowing of the ends of the fruits, this is a sign of blossom end rot if you plant in a container or raised bed pay special attention to your watering habits. Once the fruit starts to ripen, hold back some water as this will signal the plant to concentrate on producing sugar to create sweet fruit.
The flavour of summer squash is best when the fruit is small and tender. Once the squash becomes large, it has little taste. Check plants every day and look under the leaves for new fruit as they like to hide. Please don't break the fruit off the vine as you will damage the vine and leave it susceptible to pests and bacteria. Summer squash cannot take a frost and can suffer from heat damage as well, so keep an eye on the forecast and harvest summer squash before the first frost or protect them with heat and cover. Summer squash can be stored in the refrigerator for up to ten days, frozen or dehydrated.
Harvest winter squash when the rind is hard and deep in colour, usually late September through October. Winter squash should be stored in a cold dark room for the winter season. The room will need to be between 10 to 18 degrees Celsius.
Squash and Zucchini Flowers
Female flowers set fruit, and male flowers are for pollination. At first, your plants will produce a lot of male flowers. Once the plants become more mature, they will set both male and female flowers. The male flowers are great for attracting pollinators' to your garden. A male flower has a long, thin stem and is larger than the female flower. The female flower is usually smaller than the male. You will know a female flower when you see the fruits developing behind the base of the flower.
Both the male and female flowers are edible, so if you would like, you can remove some of the males at the beginning of the season to stimulate flower production, coat them with a bit of batter and fry them up in butter. Waste not want not.
As you get further into the season, you can pollinate the female flowers by removing the male flowers and then by dusting their pollen into the female flowers—time to enjoy another snack. Once the male flowers have done their job of pollination, you may as well pick them so that the plant can concentrate on producing fruit.
If you save your seeds for next years, crop only grow one type of squash or zucchini as they will cross-pollinate. Cross-pollination is only an issue for the seeds, not the current year's fruit.
Pruning and Staking Squash and Zucchini
Squash and zucchini benefit from pruning. Plants will be less impacted by disease and mould growth if they are regularly pruned by reducing decay and increasing airflow. The plant can also concentrate on the fruit instead of the foliage. You can also remove all of the leaves from the stem that are below the first fruit.
Plant a stake next to the main stem of the plant to provide support or use a tomato cage. This will keep it off the ground and increase airflow.
Pests and Problems
Calcium deficiency or irregular watering is likely the cause. The plants need calcium for the roots to take up water. If you have an issue, try putting a Tums in a gallon of water and adding it to the soil.
If the temperature is too cold, the skin of the zucchini will develop pits. Cover your plants at night when the temperature dips.
These little yellow beetles with stripes or spots appear in early spring. The beetles will feed on the leaves and fruit. You can cover your plants until their flowers appear or use yellow sticky tape to catch them. These beetles spread bacteria that will kill your plants. Place some yellow sticky tape above the plants to catch them.
Powdery mildew covers the leaves in a powder coating. Ensuring adequate air circulation helps with this issue. Later in the fall, closer to the end of their growing season, most of my plants will have some level of this mildew. I fill a spray bottle with 60% milk and 40% water and spray the leaves when it is a sunny day. The sun causes the protein in the milk to kill the mildew.
Squash vine borers
Squash vine borers are the larvae of wasp-like moths that come out in late June to early July. The larvae bore into the stems of the zucchini and eat right through. Look for sawdust near the holes to know they are there. To prevent them, wrap the lower stem with aluminum foil. If they have made their way to your plants, slit the damaged vine with a sharp knife and remove the borers. Cover the stem with soil, and it should reset its roots.
Frying up the Flowers
Wisk up a batter of
1/3 Cup Flour
3 oz Water, beer, or soda water
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
Let it sit for ten minutes while you sort out your lovely flowers.
Slice your flowers and trim out the base.
Give them a clean if required and then dry on paper towel.
Dip in batter and fry up.
Equipment I Used
We fried up a couple of little eight balls to use up the extra batter.
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Until next time take care and live well.
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