Growing Squash!

Squash, like pumpkins, are insanely easy to grow. They are so rewarding because the amount of growth from one plant is amazing! They are a very simple plant to grow, and one plant can produce around 12 squash, depending on the type of squash you planted! I planted butternut squash, but the same rules pretty much apply to both squash and pumpkin. Squash and pumpkin can be grown from spring, to mid summer. So in New Zealand, September to January, or in America – March to July.
So to begin, take your seed and plant it in good quality soil. The seeds can be soaked in water overnight to help improve germination, but this isn’t necessary if you can’t be bothered! It is recommended that you plant the seed in a small pot that can be left to germinate on a cool windowsill, but I planted mine straight in the soil in my garden in January (middle of summer in New Zealand), and it did exceptionally well! So its really up to you to decide what you choose to do! No matter what method you choose, plant two seeds in each pot/area, as one will be stronger than the other after the same amount of time, and that will be the one you want to keep! Unless you want more than one squash plant, and in that case, make sure you have enough room to plant two plants!
When you are ready to plant (if you started in a pot), make sure that the space where you will plant your squash has a lot of room. As you can see from the photo below, this is just one giant squash plant! Its really important as well, that the plant will get a lot of sunlight in the space that you have chosen for it! If you do decide to plant another squash plant (general rule, 1 plant per person) make sure there is at least one metre, or just over 3 feet between seedlings or seeds!
Once the plant has grown considerably, flowers will start to appear on the plant. These are the flowers that will turn into the squash or pumpkins! They look almost identical to courgette flowers. These flowers need to be pollinated, so having flowers growing near by helps to get the vegetables going. Planting peas, beans and sweetcorn around squash and pumpkin is really beneficial to all the plants. This is called companion planting, and often helps to maximize flavour as well as encourage speedy growth.
Once the plants start to produce the beautiful vegetables, its important to make sure it is getting fed enough. The plants can be fed by placing compost at the base of the plant, things like coffee grounds, manure or seaweed, are all good things that will help to feed this productive plant. I like to use organic plant food, or a liquid compost, and use this at the base of the plant. It is important to do this every two weeks, or even once a week as the plants start to produce a lot of fruit. Watering your plant sufficiently at this stage is very important too. This needs to be done at the base of the plant as well, as watering the leaves can lead to spreading of things that aren’t nice for your leaves, such as powdery mildew. Watering your plants a lot also helps to ripen the vegetables and make them as tasty and big as possible! So make sure you are giving your plant a lot to drink, especially in the very hot summer weather.
After about a month (or sooner), your squash or pumpkin will have gone from looking like that ^ to looking like the vegetable below (or however it is supposed to look if you aren’t growing a butternut squash). But now this poses the important question, when do I pick my vegetables??
Summer squashes can be picked as they ripen, like spaghetti squash, whereas a butternut squash (often called a winter squash) and most common pumpkins should be picked only when all the foliage has died and shriveled, and when the vegetables have tough skins. Make sure that the winter squashes look pretty much perfect (no bruises), and then store them in a cool and not damp place. If you are concerned about damp soil rotting the vegetables as they are growing, placing bits of plywood or a similar object can help prevent this.
I cannot wait until my squashes are ready to be harvested! It is very exciting adding a new vegetable to the list of harvested goodies from The Cottage Veggie Garden.

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