Growing Organic Squash – Farming, Planting Guide
Growing Organic Squash
Hello friends, today we are here with a topic called “Growing Organic Squash”. Squash belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family and genus of “Cucurbita”. It is among the most commonly grown plant in the vegetable garden. Squash plants need full sun, fertile soil, and sufficient moisture. The use of well-composted material mixed into the soil is recommended for growing Squash. It is a warm-season crop, very tender to frost and light freezes. It is one of the easiest vegetables to grow organically. Growing organic Squash is easy and requires some conditions. The sizes, shapes, colors, and fruit of the vines vary, but the cultural requirements are the same for each of these cucurbits. In this article we also discuss the below topics about growing Squash;
- Tips for Growing Squash
- How do you grow organic Squash?
- Do Squash plants need lots of water
- How do you propagate Squash plants?
- How to Plant Squash Seeds
- Reasons for yellow leaves on Squash plants
- How to Grow Squash from seeds
- Can you water Squash plants?
- How much time it takes to Grow Squash
A Step by Step Guide to Growing Organic Squash
Guide to Growing Organic Squash
Squash plants produce yellow or orange color flowers and green, white, or yellow fruit in a different variety of shapes with smooth or ridged skin. Vines have large, lobed leaves and long vines which can climb by attaching to surfaces with their tendrils.
Different Varieties of Squash
There are different varieties of Squash, most of which are vine types; there are several bush types as well. Before you grow Squash plants, be sure you know which type you have and plan your garden accordingly. There are two types of Squash varieties. They are summer and winter Squash.
Summer varieties of Squash plants are large and bushy. Several types of summer Squash come in different variety of shapes and colors. The most common types of summer Squash include Straight-neck, Crooked-neck, Scallop, and Zucchini.
Most winter squash varieties are vine plants and will spread throughout the garden. Winter Squash is categorized based on fruit size and there are several sizes, shapes, and colors available. Winter Squash varieties include Acorn, Butternut, Turban, Buttercup, Spaghetti, and Hubbard. They’re called winter Squash because we eat them through the winter season, not because you can grow them through the winter.
Site Preparation for Growing Organic Squash
Squash plants are warm-season annual plants that do best in full sun (may require partial shade in hotter environments) with ample water and nutrient-rich soil. Organic soil amendments like compost and aged manures, and slow-release plant nutrients, are effective when tilled into the soil before planting. Rotate your crops and do not plant in areas where other cucurbits have been cultivated over the past 4 years.
Vegetables tend to all like the same growing conditions like full sun, and well-drained soil full of organic matter. Organic matter contributes to the health of the soil that gives soil nutrients, aerates soil for better root growth, helps soil retain moisture, and while at the same time allows the soil to drain better.
The easiest method to add organic matter is to just work a little compost into your soil. Get a composter and also make your own by recycling kitchen and yard waste. Also, buy compost or a soil amendment will do the same thing. But, it’s cheaper just to go ahead and buy a compost bin (or recycle a large bin) and makes your own. Coconut Coir can be added to garden soil for moisture retention.
The Squash plant responds well to organic amendments to enrich the soil at planting time and as topdressing or mulch. Both summer and winter Squash plants prefer fertile, well-drained soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 6.5. It is recommended to grow your Squash in an area of your garden that was previously used for a compost pile or to thoroughly incorporate two heaping shovels of compost into the site. Moreover, the Squash plant prefers loose soil. For this reason, be sure to mix the compost at least 12 inches into the ground when preparing your soil. Then, this will ensure you thoroughly incorporate the compost and break up the soil as you go.
When and Where Should You Plant Squash
Squash plants are susceptible to frost and cool weather. If the growing season is short, the seed can be started indoors in peat pots for transplanting outdoors 6 weeks later. Use peat pots with the bottom removed; the Squash plant does not like to have their taproot disturbed. It is best to transplant before the roots wrap around the pot or container. For direct sowing wait until the soil temperature level is about 15°C.
Summer Squash – Summer Squash prefers warm weather, preferably in the range of 18 to 29°C. You can start seeds indoors 4 weeks before the last expected frost date. Due to these Squash plants not thriving in cool conditions, ensure they have plenty of warmth. Then, cover their bed with lots of organic matter in the form of compost and mulch. This will provide heat and nutrients for growing plants. Summer Squash plant requires a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight daily.
Winter Squash – Winter Squash plant follows the same general rules for planting as summer Squash does. However, there are a few minor changes or caveats. To start, the winter Squash plant thrives in soil that is between 21 and 35°C. The warmer the temperatures the better. Also, winter Squash is grown on trellises.
Spacing Requirements for Growing Organic Squash
Squash plants require a lot of space around them, whether you plant them in deep-dug or raised garden beds, or in conventional hills. Winter Squash plants need more space than summer Squash, and vining types need more space than bush types. The Squash plant is propagated from seed and can be direct-seeded or sown indoors and transplanted. Seeds in sown both indoors and require lightly moist soil for germination, care must be taken to avoid overwatering. Seeds should germinate in 5 to 10 days depending on the soil temperature.
- Plant summer Squash 12 inches apart, in hills 3-4 feet apart. Give bush varieties 3 feet between hills, and vining varieties 4 feet.
- Plant winter Squash 14-16 inches apart, 2 plants/hill, with hills 4-5 feet apart. Give bush Squash varieties 4 feet between hills, and vining varieties 5 feet.
When growing Squash, overcrowded conditions promote powdery mildew disease and other Squash diseases, so make sure the plants are spaced properly and have plenty of air circulation around them.
Conditions for Growing Organic Squash
- Squash plants grow best in fertile and well-drained soil containing high amounts of organic matter in areas of full sun. Though, organic matter can be added by incorporating compost into the soil as well as decomposed manure.
- The Squash plant can be sown directly into the garden or started indoors.
- Summer and winter Squash are planted in hills about 1 inch (2.5 cm.) deep. Generally, only 4 to 5 seeds per hill are plenty, thinning down to 2 or 3 plants per hill once the seedlings have developed their true leaves.
- Start squash seeds in peat pots, but be sure the Squash seedlings do not suffer root disturbances during transplanting. You can plant about 3 to 4 seeds per pot and thin to 2 plants later. Be sure to harden the plants off before planting to lessen the shock of transplanting and wait until all danger of frost has passed. Then, it helps to mulch Squash plants generously; mulching maintains moisture and reduces weeds.
Growing Organic Squash from Seed
- Squash plants are started indoors in medium-sized peat pots 3 weeks before the last expected frost.
- Firstly, fill each pot halfway with your favorite seed-starting soil mix.
- Place 2 seeds one inch deep into the center of the peat pot and water thoroughly.
- Keep the pots between 18 and 29°C to encourage germination. Grow lights are an excellent method to ensure a constant temperature is maintained.
- The seeds must sprout rather quickly. Once they are approximately 2 inches tall you will need to thin them out to one plant per pot. You can do this by untangling the roots with fingers or by using scissors to separate them.
- With each seedling now in its pot, you will want to begin the process of hardening them off before moving them completely outdoors. The hardening-off process will help the tender seedlings to acclimate to the conditions of the outdoor environment.
- To begin this procedure, start placing your seedlings on a porch or outside under a protective tree or shrub on days when the temperature is above 4°C. It is important to remember to bring seedlings in every night, as the young plants are still quite fragile. After one week of hardening off during the day, the seedlings will be ready to be transplanted to your outdoor garden permanently.
Planting Process for Growing Organic Squash
Squash plants are heavy feeders and perform best in soil with ample organic matter.
- When growing Squash, prepare the soil to a depth of 18-20 inches, or single-dig, and mound soil up into hills to create a deep root zone.
- Lay down a 2 inches layer of good garden compost or composted manure when you prepare the lower soil layer. Mix it in, then lay down another 2 inches layer and mix it in when you prepare the top of the hill. Also, you can add organic fertilizers and soil amendments at the same time. Some examples are alfalfa meal, feather meal, greensand, kelp meal, and oyster shell flour.
- If necessary, adjust the soil pH level. The optimal pH level for growing Squash is 6.0-6.5 or slightly acidic soil.
Planting for Growing Organic Squash in Containers
- For growing Squash in containers, make sure the pot is at least 12 inches wide, that’s about a 5-gallon pot. Pots will dry out fast. Consider using a self-watering planter or a fabric pot to help control the soil moisture level.
- Soaking Squash seeds can increase seed germination rates and speed up germination time. Then, soak Squash seeds for 24 hours in filtered water before planting.
- Soil temperature must be about 21°C before you plant your Squash seeds. Plant seeds ½ inches deep and 6 inches apart. Thin out after seedlings after they emerge, but will need at least 2 leaves to keep growing. Mature bush summer Squash plants must be 20 inches apart in rows that are spaced 2 feet apart. If growing a vine plant variety, planting in hills works well and plant 5 seeds per hill. After seedlings emerge and are established, thin to 3 plants. Stake or provide a trellis for vining varieties.
- Start seeds in containers or Coconut Coir Pellets and then transplanting is a good idea with Squash. You can start seeds indoors about 4 weeks before the last frost date. Don’t forget to harden off seedlings, meaning slowly adjust them to the outdoor climate and sun.
- If soil is lean or you’re short on compost, you can add organic soil amendments, but it’s usually simpler to add a good balanced organic fertilizer.
Fertilizer for Growing Organic Squash
Use an organic fertilizer on summer and winter Squash at the time of transplanting. Fertilize the plant again, in about a month. Organic fertilizer is important and needs safe, healthy foods. But also, you don’t want to endanger any beneficial insect helping you with pollination duties.
Watering and Mulching Requirements for Growing Organic Squash
It is necessary to water Squash plants whenever the top inch of the soil feels dry. When it is time to water, be sure to water the plant gently but thoroughly. To ensure that the water reaches the deepest layers of the soil, this encourages the plant’s roots to grow deeper. This is very important during the hottest months of the year so that the plant does not dry out.
Many organic farmers treat their Squash plants with compost tea every 2 weeks during the growing season. This benefits any crops that are heavy feeders like Squash. Also, do not forget to mulch you’re Squash after planting. Especially in hot climates, as Squash has a shallow root system, with the majority of their roots growing within the top 12 inches of the soil. This leaves susceptible to heat, they depend upon the extra protection provided by an additional layer of organic mulch.
Squash plants are heavy feeder plants and requiring regular applications of fertilizer. Many organic farmers apply compost tea every 2 weeks throughout the growing season. By steeping several handfuls of well-rotted compost in water for 24 to 48 hours, the compost’s nutrients are released into the water and making them easily absorbed by the plants’ roots.
Pests and Diseases Control in Growing Organic Squash
Bacteria wilt; Squash vine borers, aphids, mosaic virus, and mildew are some of the important diseases in Squash plants. Powdery mildew disease is the most common ailment that Squash growers run into in the garden. It is the result of overcrowding. To prevent this problem, simply allow more room for air and light circulation around plants. Also, try planting them further apart, or starting winter Squash up trellises to allow for better use of smaller spaces, and to get larger vined fruit up off the ground. Anthracnose disease is an infectious fungal disease that spreads through moisture and can affect Squash. Though, you can treat it by spraying your crop with neem oil, an organic anti-fungal.
Most Squash varieties are susceptible to a variety of bacterial and fungal diseases. Powdery mildew and bacterial wilt are the most common in Squash plants. Disease problems are most common in hot and humid weather conditions. Then, these diseases can be treated with organic fungicides. Also, a variety of other pests can cause problems, depending on your particular area. Squash bugs and Squash vine borers can be serious pests in Squash plants. These insects can cause entire plant leaves to wilt, turn brown, and die. Also, Squash is susceptible to cucumber beetles, which feed on the leaves of the plants and spread disease from one plant to another. Most adult insects can be easily removed by hand, or you can apply an appropriate insecticide to the base of the plants. With proper planning, growing requirements, and maintenance, many of these problems can be avoided. After the final harvest, remove and then destroy all plant debris to prevent insect or disease infestations.
Squash bugs will set in pretty quickly and they will be your biggest pest problems. Also, cucumber beetles like summer Squash plants. Use Diatomaceous Earth around the base of your Squash plants early on to deter pests, especially Squash vine borers. Organic Neem oil is a great organic control to get rid of these “munching” bugs.
Problems in Growing Organic Squash
Leaves curl under and become yellowish color – Aphids are tiny, oval, and yellowish to greenish pear-shaped insects that colonize on the undersides of plant leaves. Use insecticidal soap.
Squash plant leaves turn pale green, yellow, or brown; dusty silver webs on undersides of leaves and between vines. Spider mites suck plant juices causing stippling. Then, spray with water or use insecticidal soap. Ladybugs and lacewings eat mites.
Leaves yellow color; tiny white-winged insects around plants – Whiteflies will congregate on the undersides of plant leaves and fly up when disturbed. Remove infected plant leaves and the whole plant if the infestation is serious. Introduce beneficial insects into the garden.
Without iron, Squash plants have difficult time making chlorophyll, the substance that makes leaves green. Iron deficiency is a result of the nutrients being leached out of the soil due to overwatering the plant. Make sure that you aren’t overwatering your Squash plants.
Squash Falling off Due to Poor Pollination – The first is that there is a lack of pollinating insects in the garden. Another main reason for poor pollination is the lack of male flowers. Squash plants have male and female flowers and need both growing at the same time to produce healthy fruit.
When and How to Harvest Squash
Summer Squash harvested around 60-70 days. These summer Squash quash are picked immature before they are fully formed. The skin must be soft and tender, otherwise, the Squash will be overripe and of poor quality. Check Squash plants daily when they start to flower, as the fruit will develop in 2 or 3 days in hot growing weather. The vines should be kept picked or the plants will stop producing.
Winter Squash harvested around 90-120 days. When the stems turn a light green-yellow color, the Squash must be fully ripe. The rind will be thick and tough. About 2 to 3 inches of the stem must remain for proper storage. This may increase the sugar content. Also, winter Squash can be picked before maturity and can be eaten whole, just like the summer Squash varieties.
Commonly Asked Questions about Growing Organic Squash
What nutrients does Squash need to grow?
Squash needs nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in large amounts and many other nutrients in small amounts.
How many Squash will one plant produce?
In a home garden, the Squash is picked throughout the summer season. In general, each plant produces about 5 to 25 pounds of yellow Squash during the growing season.
Why does Squash leave turning yellow and dying?
At some point, Squash grows; you might find the leaves turning yellow and dying. The most common reason for yellowing leaves in Squash is that you have a watering problem. That means you’re giving your plant too much or too little water. Another reason can be a nutrient deficiency.
Do Squash need full sun?
Squash plants require full sun to produce. Make sure you’re planting seeds or starts in an area with at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.
Why are my Squash plants flowering but not producing the fruit?
Squash plants not producing fruits because of improper watering, poor soil, or some pests. When Squash plants are thriving but the fruit isn’t being produced, it could be due to female flowers not being pollinated.
Why are my Squash plants dying?
Yellow Squash is an annual that will not survive cold weather conditions. Burrowing and sap-feeding insects can cause Squash plants to die suddenly. Fungal infections can also kill yellow Squash.
Why is my Squash not getting big?
Squash plants prefer to grow in full sunlight. If they’re not getting enough sun, the Squash plants protest by not setting fruit. Also, they’re fair-weather friends. If the Squash plants are blossoming and heavy rain occurs, the rain can wash the pollen from the male flowers, preventing the female flowers from being pollinated.
Can you water Squash plants?
Watering plant early in the day ensures foliage dries quickly. Also, avoid overwatering the plant.
Should I remove yellow leaves from Squash plants?
Make sure that you aren’t overwatering your Squash plants. Unfortunately, if Squash plants are infected by bacterial wilt, there’s nothing you can do to save them. The yellowing of the leaves in Squash plants will be followed rapidly by wilting and browning of the leaves and eventually death.
That’s all folks about growing organic squash. We wish you good luck in growing these wonderful vines.