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Summer Squash: Easy, Prolific and Best Fresh From Your Vegetable Garden

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Squash 'Tromboncino'

Squash 'Tromboncino'

Courtesy of Territorial Seed Company

Overview:

Summer squash refers to squash with tender skins that are eaten fresh. Most commonly, summer squash refers to zucchini, but there are several others that will grow well in most home gardens and offer a variety of flavors and uses.

Latin Name:

Cucurbita pepo

Common Name(s):: Summer Squash (Zucchini, Cocozelles, Crookneck, Marrows, Straightneck, Scallop)

Zone:

Annual

Exposure: Full Sun

Size:

Varies widely with variety. Most have extensive vines. Tender summer squash is usually picked before it reaches mature size.

Days to Harvest:

Varies by variety. Generally 45 - 65 days

Description:

Summer squash grow on vines with prickly stems and leaves. While they can be long and thin, round, curved or scalloped, they are all harvested while immature and tender and have fewer seeds than their winter counterparts. The flesh is tender mild and cooks quickly.

Harvesting:

Summer squash matures quickly and the fruits become tough and inedible while depleting the vines. Check vines daily. Long varieties should be harvested at about 6 - 8 inches and no more than 2" in diameter. Patty Pans and round types can be harvested at 3 - 4 inches in diameter. Use caution, as the pricky leaves can irritate your hands. The blossoms are also edible.

Pest & Diseases:

  • Cucumber beetles feed on seedlings and mature leaves, blossoms and fruits. They can also spread bacterial wilt and mosaic virus. They will overwinter nearby and can produce several generations per season. Rotate crops!

  • Squash bugs feed on leaves. Although they prefer winter squash, an infestation can easily kill young vines.

  • Squash vine borer larvae bore into the base of the stem and feed their until mature, cutting off the vine circulation.

Suggested Varieties:

  • Ronde de Nice Zucchini: A French Heirloom with nice flavor and texture. The shape lends itself to being stuffed.

  • White Patty Pan: A Native American heirloom with a nutty taste when cooked fresh.

  • Middle Eastern: Sold under many names, these stocky, light green zucchini hold their texture and flavor in cooking.

  • Tromboncino: An elongated heirloom zucchini with a bulbous end. Edible even when 2+ feet long and holds its texture when cooked.

Cultural Notes:

Summer squash basically grows itself. Wait until the soil has warmed and then direct seed in the garden. Squash is often planted in hills or clusters, with 2 -3 seeds per hill spaced 2 -3' apart. Hills can be thinned to 1 -2 plants, once the seedlings are 2 -3" tall. A second planting in mid-summer will keep your garden producing into fall. Early plants can become exhausted because of heavy fruit set.

Summer squash prefers a rich, well drained soil and plenty of sun. Squash plants have both male and female blossoms and they both must be present at the same time for pollination to occur. Having multiple plants with multiple blossoms will increase the chance of pollination.

Maintenance: Mulching helps keep the shallow root system cool and moist. The greatest maintenance will be checking your summer squash daily, as summer squash can reach harvest size within 4 days of flowering.

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