Tips & Techniques for Growing Squash     
 Growing Zucchini


Powdery Mildew
Squash Beetles
Varieties of Squash
There are two types of squash, i.e. summer and winter squash.  There are several types of summer squash.  The most common are zucchini, yellow and pattypan.  There are varieties of zucchini that are dark green, light green and striped.  Yellow squash can be straightneck or crookneck.  Pattypan or scallops can be white, yellow or green.  Zucchini and pattypan plants usually grow about two or three feet tall and bush out to cover the middles.  Yellow squash plants are not as tall but produce vines that can run into adjacent rows, if not trained.  Some typical winter squash are acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash.  Most grow on vines.  Pumpkins and Cushaw squash can produce long and invasive vines that will cover a whole section of your garden.  A number of hybrids have been developed with various improvements including disease tolerance.  I like the delicata, sometimes called a sweet potato squash, since it was developed as a substitute for sweet potatoes.  The squash at maturity is normally about 8 inches long and the flesh is very sweet and smooth.  The carnival acorn squash are very colorful and also have smooth and tasty flesh.  If you plan to save seeds, you may want to look for open pollinated varieties and not plant several varieties together in the same area of the garden.
Preparing the Soil
Squash can be planted in hills in straight rows to facilitate weeding and pollination.  You will need to till the garden and mark off the rows.  To reduce tilling and hoeing, space the rows slightly wider than your tiller.  In that way, you only have to plow down each middle one time to remove all of the weeds between the rows.  Pick a location where the squash will get full sun and have rich soil.  You may need to add compost and fertilizer.  Squash plants are compatible with most garden plants.  However, when selecting a location within your garden for planting squash, keep in mind that squash plants can invade or shade smaller plants in adjacent rows. 
Planting Squash
Planting seed seems to work better than setting out plants.  By the time plants get over the shock of being transplanted, seeds will come up and catch up in size with the transplants.  Dig holes for hills along rows for planting squash seed directly in the ground.  The distance between hills will vary depending upon the type of squash that you are planting but should not be any closer than 18 inches.  Some require more space than others.   If you have compost readily available, put a small shovel full in each hill.  To get the plants off to a fast start, add about a spoonful of commercial fertilizer.  Make sure you mix the compost with the dirt, otherwise it can dry out and prevent the seed from germinating.  Planting two rows side-by-side not only improves pollination but provides space for the vines.  As the plants grow, you can fold the plants over into the adjacent row forming a squash bed.  Place about three or four seed in each hill and cover with around a half to one inch of soil.  Water, if necessary, to keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate.  Before the plants get too large, thin to one or two plants per hill.  Squash loves warm weather and grows fast once the days start getting hot.
Weeding & Plant Maintenance
Keeping the weeds out of squash rows is relatively easy since the hills are far apart.  You can hoe out the weeds in the rows with very little hand pulling.  Squash plants grow fast.  You should be able to plow the middles and hoe out the weeds about 2 or 3 times.  After that the plants will be too large to till around without doing damage to them.   The last time that you till winter squash, you will need to lay the vines over into the opposite middle before plowing.  No additional care is necessary unless you encounter problems with pests or diseases. 
Controlling Diseases and Insects
Squash are very susceptible to powdery mildew and squash beetles.  Often, powdery mildew starts showing up shortly after the plants begin producing.  You need to watch for the first signs of the disease which appears as small white spots on the leaves.  Crop rotation helps control the disease.  If you are going to use a fungicide, it is best to start applying it before the disease gets too well established.  I used a low cost plastic sprayer for applying fungicides and insecticides.   don't appear until late in the season.  They are tough bugs which aren't easily killed by the common garden insecticides.  Since the season is usually almost over when they attack, you may not want to use chemicals.  If you do, you will need to select the appropriate insecticide and pay careful attention to the application instructions.  Make sure the label says it can be used on garden plants.  Always read and follow the directions on the containers when applying chemicals on garden plants.  For specific details on controlling diseases and pests, click on the "Gardening Resources" tab and go to the Sources of Information on Vegetable Garden Diseases and Pests.
Summer squash are usually very prolific and must be picked often, i.e. at least every two days.   You can cut them off or twist them to remove them from the plants.  Summer squash can be eaten fresh in a stir fry or frozen with tomatoes.  Zucchini are not always easily seen and if over looked will get too large to be good eaten fresh.  However, they can be used to make zucchini bread.   Winter squash should stay on the vines at least until they appear to be mature.  To ensure that they are mature, you may want to leave them on the vines until the vines start to die.  Winter squash can be kept for months in a cool location.  One way of preparing them is to slice them open and bake them with butter and molasses.  Squash is a very healthy food.