We love zucchini and yellow crookneck squash, and plant several of each every year. They are dependable growers and heavy producers. But — and this is no offense to the zucchini and the yellow squash — sometimes a gardener just needs a bit of variety, you know? Your mainstays will be with you forever, but maybe it’s time to add in a different squash to the mix every now and then. Take your pick of one of these 6 unusual squash varieties, and let us know which one you’ll be growing next!
Squash Growing Tips
- Like most veggies, squash needs full sun.
- Give it lots of consistent water, but don’t let it sit in water — well drained soil is a must.
- Squash grow on long vines, so give it plenty of room to spread out.
- Small squash can grow on strong trellis supports, but large squash are too heavy to be grown vertically.
- Very large squash should have a board underneath it to keep it from direct contact with the soil, which can quickly rot it out. Farmers who grow the huge pumpkins employ this practice to easily harvest and move their large produce, as well as to keep it healthy.
- Squash plants crave nutrient-rich soil, so an all-purpose, balanced fertilizer like Kellogg Organic Plus All-Purpose Fertilizer (4-4-4) will keep your squash plants happy.
The Concept The tall and sturdy corn stalks provide support for the vining bean plant, while the beans’ roots provide nitrogen-fixing bacteria by pulling nitrogen out of the air to share with the corn. Then, the large squash leaves provide shade to minimize weeds and conserve moisture for all three plants.
Soil Composition & pH
Choosing a soil with the right composition allows your garden to thrive. Squash loves rich, fertile soil that is well-drained and contains high amounts of organic material. One great way to add more organic, nutrient-rich materials into your soil is to amend the top 3 inches with compost or your favorite amending product.
Like many garden vegetables, squash prefers a pH between 5.5 and 6.8. Buying or cultivating slightly acidic soil will allow your plants to thrive and grow into a robust harvest. Squash is very resilient, therefore if you’re having trouble raising or lowering your garden pH, don’t stress.
Starting From Seeds or Plants
Squash seeds can be sown directly into the garden or started indoors. When deciding which option is best for you, consider your climate. Squash is a sun-loving plant that thrives in warmer climates, therefore if you’re planning on planting seeds directly into the garden it’s best to wait for the outside temperature to reach 70 degrees F.
If you’d rather get them started early, plant them indoors 2 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost. When transplanting, be very gentle with the roots as they are delicate and easy to damage. For this reason, many gardeners recommend sowing seeds directly to avoid any mishaps during the transplanting process.
Depth & Spacing
Squash is commonly grown on hills and in garden beds. When growing on a hill, limit your plants to 5 per hill and plant them 3 to 4 feet apart with 5 to 7 feet between rows at a 1 inch depth. If planting in a traditional garden bed, plant the seeds about 1 inch deep 2 to 3 feet apart.
Keeping Pests Out of Your Garden
As with many plants, squash comes with their own challenging pest, specifically the squash vine borer and the squash bug. These insects will cause the leaves to wilt, turn brown and die. Squash plants can also be invaded by cucumber beetles; which feed on the leaves and spread disease from one plant to the next. These bugs, if fully grown, can be easily removed by hand but early prevention can also be helpful. Squash bug eggs are shiny, oval and copper-colored and are usually laid between late spring and early summer. If you notice any on or near you squash plants simply wipe them off with a cloth to prevent damage.
An easy, and natural way to control squash pests is by making a water, onion and garlic spray by mixing the 3 ingredients in a bowl and allowing it to sit for a few hours until the scent becomes strong. You can pour the solution at the base of any infested plant to get rid of pesky critters.
Another simple way to rid your squash garden of pests is to place a piece of wood or cardboard at the base of the plant. The bugs will hide underneath it, allowing you to easily remove them.
Unusual Squash Varieties to Grow
- Banana Squash: I admit this was a new one to me. Banana squash gets its name from the shape — elongated and slightly curved at the end like, yes, a banana. And depending upon the type of banana squash you grow, the outer skin can be pinkish-orange, solid yellow, or grayish-blue, but the inner flesh is always a bright orange and firm. And it’s large — up to 40 lbs. large, but averaging about 10 lbs.! The vines grow 12-15’, so be sure to give it plenty of room. Harvest when it’s 12-16” long, but when it’s the size of a banana, place a board underneath it to keep the maturing squash off the soil. This one is great for soups and stews, and can be substituted for butternut squash.
- Blue Hubbard Squash: Arguably quite an ugly squash, blue Hubbard gray-blue bumpy outer skin, and sweet orange flesh inside. The outer skin is incredibly thick, making it both difficult to cut but easily stored for long periods of time. Blue Hubbard squash, like the banana squash, is another monster weighing in at up to 50 lbs! Wait until the vines begin to die to harvest this one, as the outer color will give you no indication — it should be at the 100-120 day-maturation point. Use blue Hubbard for nearly anything you want from roasting, baking, soups, and stews, but harvest before a heavy frost as it’s a tropical variety.
- Kabocha Squash: You may have seen this one at the store and thought it was an odd-looking pumpkin — its round and squatty shape is similar, but the outer skin is a spotty green. The flesh is orange-yellow with a sweet nutty flavor, and can be used in any recipe that calls for pumpkin or sweet potato. Kabocha is a much smaller squash, weighing in at about 3 lbs. each. It loves well-drained soil enriched with organic matter, lots of water, and full sun. Harvest before the first hard frost when stems begin to wither and shrivel.
4. Red Kuri Squash: This Japanese winter squash is teardrop-shaped and somewhat resembles a pumpkin without the ridges. Each squash is about 5-8 lbs. with red-orange skin and golden inner flesh that has a rich, sweet taste. The flesh is also reported to be more of a dry texture, so when you’re baking or cooking with it, be sure to add plenty of moistening ingredients like butter or broth. Harvest before frost as soon as the foliage dries, the stem dries, and the skin darkens.
5. Spaghetti Squash: Sure, you’ve heard of spaghetti squash and may sometimes buy one from the grocery store. But have you ever grown one? It has a cylindrical shape with firm cream to yellow skin and inner flesh that scrapes out into strands (like spaghetti) after it’s cooked. Harvest it before frost when the skin turns to yellow.
6. Sweet Dumpling Squash: I love a veggie with a cute name! I love it even more when the veggie itself is cute, like this one. It’s an adorably small squash, weighing about 7 oz (roast it whole!) with a pumpkin shape and green-striped white skin. As with many other winter squashes, harvest it before the first frost when the stem begins to wither and shrink.