By: Justin Butts Photos by: Rachel Benavides
Squash are easy and fun to grow. Even beginning gardeners, with little preparation, can grow a bountiful harvest on their first try. Plus, once you taste your own freshly-picked squash, you will fall in love with the flavor and never turn back!
SUMMER SQUASH VS WINTER SQUASH
There are several differences between summer and winter squash. Summer squash have thin, edible skins with seeds distributed throughout the flesh. Summer squash do not store well and should be eaten as soon as they ripen. Examples of summer squash are zucchini and yellow crook-neck. Winter squash have thicker, tougher skins. Butternut and acorn squash are good examples. The seeds are concentrated in hollow cavities in the center of the vegetable. The tougher skins allow winter squash to be stored for months, or even years, in a cool, dry place.
All squash plants will die in a frost or freeze. In olden days, the winter squash harvest was kept in root cellars and eaten late into the winter, which is why they are called “winter” squash. Grow your winter squash in spring and summer here in the Coastal Bend, then store them in a closet or under a bed to use throughout fall and winter.
PLANT SQUASH IN ROWS OR MOUNDS
You can plant squash in traditional garden rows (24” to 36” apart) or in small mounds roughly four to five feet apart. Rows are good for bushy summer squash while mounds work well for vining winter squash, where the thick lush vines can grow up to eighteen feet long. Native Americans planted squash in mounds because they could not easily till the soil with their primitive tools. Using hoes made from wood or bone, they pulled the dirt into small mounds and planted three to five squash seeds in the top of each mound.
Make sure to add several shovelfuls of organic compost around each plant for nitrogen. Also, add a handful of crushed oyster shells for calcium and homemade wood ash (from native trees only) for potassium to the soil around each plant. Be careful not to overwater the plants once the beautiful yellow flowers form. These flowers are an edible delicacy.
SQUASH VARIETIES FOR EVERY OCCASION AND FLAVOR
Squash require a wide range of spacing depending on the variety. Read the seed packet or check the internet to find specific recommendations for your variety. Pumpkins have the biggest vine footprint; space the mounds or rows six feet apart. Our favorite summer squash varieties are Black Beauty Zucchini, Lemon Squash, Grey Zucchini, and Scallopini. Our favorite winter squash are Japanese Red Kuri, Butternut, Delicata, Blue Hokkaido, Baby Blue Hubbard, and Thai Rai Kaw Tok. For pumpkins, we love Rouge Vif d’Eetampes, Galeux D’ Eysines, Jarrahdale, South African Boer, and New England Sugar Pie.