Fruit and Vegetable Gardening A-Z: Summer and Winter Squash

Zucchini is probably the most popular summer squash in America, but there are many other varieties, including straightneck, crookneck, acorn, butternut, spaghetti, and more, all of which vary in size, color, taste, and texture. Squash is a very high yield vegetable; one packet of seeds will produce more squash than you'll know what to do with!

Hardiness Zones:
5-9 (Find your hardiness zone.)

When to Plant:
Start summer squash indoors in mid-March or purchase starter plants from a nursery. Set out after all danger of frost has passed; otherwise sow seeds directly in the garden two to three weeks after the last expected frost.

Plant winter squash outside only after soil is consistently 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Squash needs a lot of sun and well-drained soil.

Space Needed:
Plant in "hills" of soil, mixed with compost and well-rotted manure, that are 24 inches across and 10 inches high. Allow them several feet for their vines to grow, but consult your seed packet for more details. If space is limited, grow bush varieties.

Squash are light feeders so they do not require any extra fertilization. Water the plants deeply but infrequently at the base of the roots (never on the leaves as it encourages mildew).

When to Harvest:
Summer squash should be picked when they are shiny and no more than 4-6 inches long. Do not let them grow too large or they will lose flavor and inhibit the growth of other fruits. Most are ready between 40-52 days.

Time needed to harvest winter squash varies by variety; in general, harvest when the squash exhibits dark, rich color and is firm to the touch.

Average Yield:
One plant can usually feed a single person. Each vine will typically grow 3-4 good pieces of squash. Consult your packet for information on size. Per 4-foot row, expect about 21 pounds of zucchini, 6-1/2 pounds of butternut squash and 2-1/2 pounds of acorn squash.

Continuous Yield:

Life Cycle:

Difficulty Rating (1-5):