Squash is one of our favorite things to grow and eat! But of all the plants in our garden, squash has also been one of the most troublesome to grow.
Don't get me wrong, growing the plants are actually quite easy. The seeds are large and easy to sow, the plants themselves grow fairly quickly and vigorously. But if you don't pay attention, there are a lot of ways that growing squash can go wrong.
So here are our top tips for growing squash that we have used successfully!
Inspect your plants each day.
By keeping a close eye on your plants you'll be more likely to notice the presence of pests or signs thereof. Be aware of wilting leaves check the base of the stems for holes and saw-dust-like discharge which is an indication of a vine borer infestation. Check for eggs under stems and leaves.
Manually remove or squish eggs laid by vine borers and squash bugs!
This is the most effective and pro-active way to combat these harmful insects. It takes time and attention because you have to inspect the undersides of all the leaves and stems of each plant, but it is well worth the effort! You can find vine borer eggs most often on the underside of the stem of the plant or its leaves. They are not normally laid in clusters, but rather individually. They are very small, rust-orange specks. Scrape them off with your fingernail and dispose of away from your garden, OR, use a very sharp knife to pop each egg and then brush it off the stem. Squash bugs often lay their eggs in clumps on the underside of the leaves between the leaf veins. You can remove these by scraping them off with your fingernail and disposing of them away from the garden or by removing the entire leaf to which they are attached.
Trellis your plants and keep leaves off the ground.
Bugs love to hide in the grass. You can discourage an infestation by trellising your vine-type squash to climb up and away from the ground. Growing bush varieties in raised beds keeps their leaves away from the grass as well.
Plant a perimeter of nasturtiums around your plants or gardens.
Nasturtiums supposedly act as a repellent plant for squash bugs!
Sprinkle cedar saw dust around each plant and on the stems.
While we can't say for certain that this will keep the pests away, cedar is naturally insect resistant/repellent, so it's worth a shot! But if you're going to give it a try and see if it helps, be sure to do this in conjunction with other pest management techniques.
Pollinate flowers by hand.
If squash are not properly pollinated, their bottoms can get soft and rot. Squash have male and female flowers. Male flowers have long, narrow stems. Female flowers have a tiny squash on their base instead of a delicate stem. Take a male flower and peel off all the petals leaving only the inner tip where the pollen is located and use this as a brush to rub the pollen on the stigma inside each of the female flowers.
What tips do you have for successful squash?
Share them in the comments below!