Summer squash is one of the most popular vegetables in the garden — they are easy to grow, are prolific producers, and offer tasty and nutritious additions to your summer gatherings. Here’s a rundown on how to grow summer squash successfully — and if you’re looking for additional, inspiring ways to prepare your squash harvest, check out Surprising Ways to Eat Your Summer Squash.
When to Plant: Set out transplants after all danger of frost has passed, and when soil temperatures are between 70 and 90 degrees. Seedlings sown indoors can be brought outside at 3 weeks old. If squash bugs are a problem, delay planting until early summer to avoid an infestation. You can keep planting throughout the summer, but your last summer squash should be planted 12 weeks before your first average fall frost.
How to Plant: Choose a sunny garden site with well-drained soil that has a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. Plant summer squash seeds 8” apart and 1” deep, then thin seedlings out 3 feet apart. If you’re setting out transplants, plant them 3 feet apart so they have plenty of room to grow. Place row covers over transplants after planting to keep them safe from squash bugs. Water consistently and deeply for the best harvest.
Make Sure They Pollinate: Squash have male and female blooms — and it’s the female blooms that form into the squash. They are easy to distinguish because the female blossoms have a little bulge at the base of the flower, while the male blossom simply attaches to a thin stem. The male blooms exist to pollinate the females, and if this process doesn’t take place, you won’t have a harvest. Bees typically do a great job of this for you, but if you have 5 or fewer squash plants, you can ensure their pollination yourself. Simply take the male flower and shake it inside the female blossom, or use a small paintbrush to move pollen from the inside of the male flower to the female one.
When to Harvest: Harvest squash when they are baby-sized for tender eating, or wait until they are full grown. Harvest twice weekly, using a small knife to cut them from the stem, leaving a short stub of the stem attached. Wash squash in cool water and store in the refrigerator.