Summer squash comes in several different varieties, all very productive and vigorous growers. It’s easy to grow and a staple in home gardens. Summer squash takes a frost-free, warm growing season and is harvested before the rind hardens, unlike winter squash. Though they don’t have a long shelf life like winter squash, summer squash can last for sometime in the refrigerator even if you don’t want to eat it right away. Let’s learn when to plant summer squash for the best harvest.
Days To Maturity
The correct planting time for any vegetable is closely linked to its days to maturity. With the number of days it takes to harvest, you can estimate the best time to plant it such that it receives the best weather to grow.
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Summer squash are vigorous growers, and come to maturity in just about 60 days from sowing the seeds. They continue producing fruit while the weather remains warm. The plant is killed off with frost, marking the end of the growing season. The harvest season can last for weeks as long as the weather remains warm. The fruit is picked while it’s still young and the rind is soft.
Winter squash take longer to mature, 80 to 100 days, since they’re harvested once the rind hardens and changes color. If you don’t want to wait that long to enjoy the fresh flavors of home grown vegetables, summer squash are a great option. Even a few summer squash plants, planted at the correct time and maintained well, can produce a plentiful crop.
Different summer squash varieties take slightly different time to mature. Zucchini takes about 60 days to reach maturity, while yellow crookneck comes to harvest in about 58 days. Patty pan squash matures in 54 days. Eight ball squash produces small round fruits in the shape of billiard balls and can be harvested in just 5 weeks.
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The key to growing the best vegetables is to plant them at just the right time. Summer squash are warm weather crops. Like other summer vegetables, they require a warm, frost-free growing season to produce a harvest. They can be planted anytime once there’s no danger of frost in the spring. The planting time lasts from early spring to midsummer.
The sooner you plant the seeds after the frost is over, the longer the harvest period will be before the cold weather sets in. However, you will need to wait until the soil warms up enough to allow seed germination. Squash seeds will not germinate if the soil temperature is less than 60°F. In warm regions, gardeners also sow a crop in mid-winters for an early summer harvest.
If you have a long, warm growing season, you can plant them directly in the garden once the spring frost has passed. Alternatively, you can start the seeds inside 3 to 4 weeks before the start of the growing season outdoors. The seedlings can be planted outdoors as soon as the soil temperature in the garden is at least 70°F.
To make it easier to understand, here’s a timeline for those who plan on growing summer squash this season:
|2 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost||Start seeds indoors before transplanting in the garden|
|2 to 3 weeks after the last spring frost||Transplant indoor-growing seedlings into the garden|
|2 to 3 weeks after the last spring frost, when the soil temperature is at least 70°F||Direct sow seeds into the garden|
How To Start Squash Seeds
To get an early start on the growing season, gardeners often start summer squash seeds indoors, especially those living in regions with a short growing season. Seeds are viable for 6 years, so even if you have leftover seeds from the past seasons, they should germinate without a problem.
Fill peat pots with a good seed starting mix. Sow the seeds, 1 in each pot, ½ to 1 inch deep in the soil. Spray water to moisten the soil and wait for germination. Maintain a soil temperature between 80 to 90°F during germination. You can place the pots on a heat mat to maintain the ideal temperature for germination. Seeds take about 7 to 10 days to germinate when the temperature is 85°F.
Once the seeds have germinated, grow the seedlings at 75°F. Prepare the garden bed with aged compost prior to transplanting. The seedlings can be transplanted outdoors when the dangers of frost have passed and the soil temperature is at least 70°F. Consult your local extension agent to know the exact dates when the temperatures will be as recommended. There’s no need to harden the plants before transplanting them in the garden since the outdoor temperature should be very close to indoor temperature at this point.
Maintain a spacing of about 12 to 18 inches between the plants when transplanting them in the garden bed. Thin the plants to 36 inches apart once they’re a little taller, keeping the healthy ones and pulling out the weaker ones. Keep the soil well watered and fed. Use fish emulsion to fertilize the soil every two weeks to keep the plants nourished and productive.
Now that you know when to plant summer squash and how to do so, start growing your own fresh produce at home! Planting them at just the right time and caring for the young plants can make all the difference in producing a bountiful harvest.