Instructions for growing squash

Q. Would you recommend planting butternut squash in the grow boxes? Any special instructions?

A. You certainly CAN grow butternut, and all other squashes, in Grow-Boxes! Whether you’re growing in containers or in the soil the instructions are the same:

Any vining squash should be grown vertically, and T-Frames, with the plants guided around baling twine are the best way to do that. Plant only one row in a narrow box, with plants a foot apart, and prune off the sucker stems. Guide alternating plants to opposite sides of the wood, pipe, or wire you have placed on opposite sides of the T-Frames.

Short varieties, such as zucchini and yellow squash, should again be grown in a single row (two rows on opposite sides of a 4′-wide box or bed). These should be spaced at least 2′ apart, and pruning of leaves that touch the ground and that compete with their neighbors should be continued throughout the season.This is important, so don’t neglect it.

The large squash leaves block the sun, and leave the environment under the plant very conducive for fungus diseases to grow. More fruit is produced in conditions where there is adequate light, and the harvest will be much longer if you can avoid or delay the powdery mildew that so often attacks squash plants.

Zucchini Blossoms Disappearing

Q.  The zucchini flowers disappear from the vine.  Is it insects or animals?

A.  Squash blossoms are edible, and in some societies even highly favored.  I’m told that in Japan people even buy them.  So if you have folks living nearby who enjoy squash blossoms they may be on your neighbor’s dinner table!

Bugs usually won’t be eating the entire blossom, so it’s most likely that some animal has discovered this culinary delight. I suggest you set a Hav-A-Heart trap bated with blossoms, and see what you discover (hopefully not your neighbor’s hand :-)).

Pruning Squash – Vining and/or Determinate?

Q.  In Mittleider’s books, he mentions pruning *some* squash. I suspect
that the pruning of those vine-type squash would be like the
cucumbers???

However, what about a non-vine squash? Is it okay to prune off some
of the leaves? We have some growing quite nicely, out in the rows,
and we would like to get around a little better.

A.  Pruning squash that you are growing vertically will be similar to other vertically-grown crops. You have to become familiar with the variety and not take off the fruit-producing vine(s).

For zucchini and other determinate varieties you will do well to prune leaves regularly. Without pruning the plants get too many leaves, which restricts air flow and light. They will also be less susceptible to diseases like powdery mildew with proper pruning.

Jim Kennard

Squash not Producing Fruit – Why and What Can Be Done?

Q.  My acorn-type squash is dying…specifically, the blossoms are falling off and/or if they do start putting on the fruit, after it gets about one inch in diameter, the blossom end rots, and the fruit falls off.

Otherwise, there is no indication that the plant is suffering. It is growing quite prolifically.  What’s wrong, and what can I do to fix it??

A.  Squash plants have two blossoms on the same plant (monoecious or one house).  The famale blossom is recognized by the tiny squash beginning to grow behind the flower.  The male flower is recognized by the skinny stem behind the flower.  Often, particularly early in the fruiting season before the bees find your plants, the female blossoms fail to get pollinated, and the plant aborts the tiny fruit.

Hand-pollinate your squash plants by taking the male flower – tearing off the petals – then going to a receptive female blossom, which is one in full flower and wide open, and also taking off a piece of the petal, then brush the pistil (the receptive part of the female, with the stamen, which pollinates it.

Jim Kennard

Growing Squash – Problems

Q.  This is the second year I’ve planted squash in my garden.  Last year we did nothing special to the soil, and the plants died.  Just the squash.  This year we added potting soil and hummus to the soil and they are already starting to die.  They have only been in the ground for a week.  They are in full sun like the directions indicated.  What am I doing wrong?  Is there anything I can do to save them?

A.  What condition were the squash in when you received them?  Were they in a greenhouse environment?  What is the weather like in your garden?  Squash are a very tender plant, and must be hardened-off (acclimated to the outside) for two or three days before being transplanted into your garden.

Nothing needs to be done to the soil to grow squash successfully.  Using the Mittleider Magic natural mineral nutrient formulas will give you good healthy squash plants in any soil.

However, unless it is above 70 degrees fahrenheit in the daytime and doesn’t go much below 60 at night, they will not do well.  They like warm weather, and people waste their time, effort and money when they plant squash and melons too early in their growing season.