Summer squash is one of those garden staples that’s loved by just about everyone. These classic summer vegetables are popular with many gardeners because they’re fast-growing and prolific. Not to mention they’re versatile, full of nutrients, and delicious!
If you’re interested in growing this tasty crop, I’ve put together a complete guide on how to plant summer squash. From starting summer squash seeds to how to harvest and everything in between, you’ll learn all the ins and outs of growing summer squash.
Summer Squash vs Winter Squash
There are two main types of squash: summer squash and winter squash.
Summer squash is characterized by soft, tender skin. It’s best eaten fresh and won’t last through the winter without being preserved in some way.
Winter squash, on the other hand, has tough, hard skin. The tough skin makes winter squash shelf stable and easy to store through the winter months. You can enjoy it all winter long without any extra preservation.
Types of Summer Squash to Grow
There are many interesting and delicious varieties of summer squash. Here are just a few!
Probably the most well-known of the summer squashes is zucchini. You’re probably familiar with the classic dark green zucchini. This tasty vegetable is a summer staple in many vegetable gardens.
Did you know that zucchini comes in many different varieties as well? If you’re feeling adventurous why not try one of these unique varieties this year?
Another popular summer squash variety is yellow squash. These squash are about the same size as standard zucchini but with a balloon shape on one end. They have bright yellow skin and creamy, off-white flesh.
Yellow squash may have a straight neck like zucchini or a bent neck. Yellow squash with a bent neck is known as crookneck squash.
Pattypan squash varieties are round and flat with scalloped edges. They come in many different colors and patterns including green, yellow, white, striped, and spotted.
Growing Summer Squash
The process for how to plant summer squash starts with providing the right growing conditions. In the right environment, summer squash plants are fast-growing, vigorous, and productive.
Summer squash plants are relatively large. They need space to stretch and grow. If you’re limited on space, you can grow summer squash vertically by tying it to a stake as it grows.
Summer squash grows well in containers as long as you have a large one. You can also grow squash in raised beds or directly in the ground.
Summer squash prefers rich, well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter. Add compost or well-aged manure when planting summer squash to increase the organic matter in the soil.
The ideal soil pH for summer squash is between 6.0 and 6.5. Squash grows well in a variety of soils so don’t worry about it too much if your soil pH is outside of that range.
Squash does best in full sun. For the best and biggest harvest, choose a location that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.
How to Plant Summer Squash from Seed
Since it grows so quickly, starting summer squash from seed is a great choice for many gardeners. Seeds are inexpensive and easy to find, plus you can choose unique varieties that are hard to find as starter plants.
We think you’ll love the selection of summer squash seeds sold by one of our favorite seed retailers, Hoss Tools!
If you have the right growing conditions, starting summer squash from seed is easy. Here’s how to start summer squash from seed both indoors and directly in the garden.
Starting Summer Squash indoors
Starting summer squash seeds indoors is a good way to get a head start on the growing season. Plants started indoors are ready to harvest weeks sooner than those planted directly outside.
Equipment for Starting Seeds Indoors
To start seeds indoors, you need to have a proper seed starting setup. That means equipment! We’ve provided a list of our favorite product recommendations to make it easy for you.
Summer squash grows quickly and doesn’t like transplanting so it’s a good idea to start seeds in small, individual containers rather than seed trays. That way, you won’t have to worry about potting up and disturbing the roots.
The Best Growing Medium for Starting Summer Squash
Normally, I recommend seed starting mix for starting seeds because it’s the best growing medium for that purpose. But in this case, you may want to use potting soil.
Seed starting mix is ideal for starting seeds but it doesn’t have a lot of nutrients in it. Potting soil has additional nutrients to feed plants and keep them healthy until it’s time to transplant the into the garden.
Since squash is finicky about transplanting, it makes sense to avoid transplanting by keeping them in the same container longer. In this case, starting with potting soil makes sense because it ensures the plants have adequate nutrients as they grow.
To learn more about the difference between these two growing mediums, check out Seed Starting Mix vs Potting Soil.
How to Plant Summer Squash Seeds Indoors
Prepare your containers by filling them with high-quality potting soil. Choose a light and fluffy mix for the best results.
Plant one or two seeds per pot and cover them about an inch deep. Water thoroughly using a spray bottle or a watering can.
Place the seedling pots on a bottom tray to keep the pots together and catch drips. Set the tray on a heating pad to keep the seeds warm and speed up germination, As soon as seeds start to emerge, place the tray in front of a sunny window or under a grow light.
Adequate light is very important for seedlings. If you don’t have a sunny window that will work, a grow light is a must.
Once seedlings emerge, thin the plants to one per container.
Once all danger of frost has passed, begin hardening off your plants to get them ready to transplant outside.
Direct Sowing Summer Squash
Direct sowing is another good option when it comes to planting summer squash. Some varieties are ready to harvest in as little as 50 days so you don’t have to wait long for a harvest. Even gardeners who live in a zone with a short growing season usually have enough time to direct sow summer squash!
Here’s how to plant summer squash seeds directly outside in the garden.
Choose a suitable planting location and prepare the soil by adding organic matter like compost. Plant seeds in rows spaced two feet apart. Poke a hole in the soil every four inches along each row and plant one seed in each hole. Cover the seeds to a depth of one inch.
When the seedlings develop their first set of true leaves, thin the plants to one every 12-24 inches. Squash grown vertically can be spaced 12 inches apart. If not growing vertically, leave 24 inches between plants.
How to Grow Summer Squash Vertically
Put stakes in place when you plant seeds or as soon as you thin the plants to avoid disturbing the roots later on. Choose plant stakes that are around four or five feet long and place them 1-2 inches away from each seedling.
When plants are about six inches tall, tie the stems gently to each stake with garden twine. Continue tying the plant to the stake as it grows.
Planting Summer Squash Seedlings
If you don’t want to start squash from seeds, purchasing seedlings is a practical option. Popular varieties like zucchini and yellow squash are easy to find as starter plants at garden centers and nurseries during the spring and summer months.
Choose a sunny spot for your seedlings and plant them 12-24 inches apart. Water thoroughly and keep the seedlings moist as they’re getting established.
Caring for Summer Squash Plants
Summer squash needs about an inch of water per week. During very hot or dry periods, they may need more, sometimes up to two inches per week.
When watering, use a hose with a sprayer attachment or a watering can to apply water at the base of the plant, rather than overhead. Overhead watering can lead to problems like fungal diseases like mildew.
All varieties of squash are heavy feeders so they need lots of nutrients in order to thrive. Using fertilizer is a good way to ensure your plants have plenty of nutrients available to grow strong and produce plenty of fruit.
Look for a fertilizer that’s lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorus like Dr. Earth’s Tomato Vegetable and Herb Blend. Follow the directions on your fertilizer and apply it to your plants every other week during the growing season.
Pests and Disease
Pests and disease can be a problem when growing summer squash but with the right care, it’s possible to minimize or prevent many problems.
Squash bugs, cucumber beetles, and vine borers are some typical pests you might see. To prevent problems with pests, check on your plants regularly and address small issues before they become major problems.
At the end of the season, clear all foliage away to prevent bugs from overwintering in your garden. Using crop rotation is also helpful for reducing certain pests like squash bugs.
Summer squash is susceptible to diseases like powdery mildew and downy mildew. To prevent problems with mildew, water in the morning rather than at night and water at the base of the plant rather than overhead.
Ensuring that your plants have plenty of air circulation and aren’t overcrowded is also important for preventing mildew.
Summer squash grows quickly! For the most abundant crop, harvest early and often. For straight-neck and crook-neck varieties, harvest squash when the fruit is between 4-6 inches long. Pattypan squash is ready to harvest when it’s around 3-5 inches across.
To harvest summer squash, use sharp garden shears to cut the fruit from the plant. Leave about 1-2 inches of stem on the fruit.
For the best flavor, summer squash should be used within a few days after harvesting.
Wrapping Up How to Plant Summer Squash
With the right approach, growing summer squash is simple and rewarding. With these tips on how to plant summer squash, you’re sure to be enjoying fresh homegrown squash all summer long.
To get more ideas for starting a garden, make sure to visit the seed starting page on our website. There you’ll find information on how to grow all kinds of vegetables, herbs, and flowers, plus get tips and tricks to get your garden off to a great start!
- About the Author
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Sadie Teh has experience writing on a wide range of topics including gardening, outdoor life, crafts, travel, and more. She currently lives on 5 acres near Nashville, Tennessee, where she enjoys growing fruits, vegetables, and flowers (there’s always room for one more plant!)
Sadie’s writing is driven by a genuine desire to help people grow beautiful, thriving gardens while sharing the joy and satisfaction that gardening brings. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in education, Sadie’s background not only adds depth to her writing but also allows her to effectively communicate with a wide range of readers.
Sadie’s favorite things to grow are flowers (especially sunflowers) and tomatoes. When she’s not writing or working in the garden, you can find Sadie substitute teaching at her kids’ school, curled up with a good book, or poring over seed catalogs.
Sadie can be reached at email@example.com