One of the most productive vegetables, summer squash (Cucurbita pepo) differ from winter squash in that they are picked and eaten while immature and tender. Zucchini is simply an elongated, cylindrical, usually green variety of summer squash; straightneck, crookneck, and pattypan are other common types. A single squash plant will produce separate male and female flowers; both must be present at the same time for pollination and fruit set. The flowers themselves also may be harvested and prepared, usually fried. Doing so will decrease overall squash yields, so if you plan to harvest a lot of flowers, plant extra vines to ensure a good fruit harvest.
For more growing tips on vegetable varieties, visit our Vegetable Growing Guide.
Habit: Large, sprawling vines need ample space.
Days to Harvest: 48 to 58.
When to Plant: Fleshy roots do not transplant well. Sow seed directly in garden when all danger of frost has passed. You can make a second sowing about halfway through the season for fall harvest.
Sun: Full sun.
Soil: Any moist but well-drained soil.
Watering: Big vines and fleshy fruits require ample water to develop properly.
Fertilizing: Use an organic vegetable fertilizer.
Pest Problems: Check underside of foliage for cucumber beetles and for squash bugs. Handpick and destroy. Squash vine borers live inside the vines; look for their entry holes, make an incision in the area, then remove larvae. Heap compost over the wound to encourage rooting.
When to Harvest: For best flavor and continued production, harvest squash frequently and when fruits are small. They mature quickly, so plants should be checked every day or two.