How to Grow Summer Squash



Photo courtesy of The Marmot at

Summer Squash Varieties

Don’t get confused with winter squash varieties. Think of yellow crookneck squash, zucchini, or pattypan and scallop squash. Summer squash is a vegetable gardening favorite, and it’s easy to grow.

Here are some summer squash variety favorites:
Early Yellow Summer Crookneck
Early Prolific Straightneck
Gourmet Globe
Black Zucchini
Black Beauty
Spineless Beauty
White Bush Scallop
Peter Pan

Don’t forget squash grows well in containers, too. Try these squash varieties for squash container gardening: Butter Bush, Bush Table Queen, Bushkin Pumpkin, Bush Crookneck, Bush Acorn, Hybrid Jackpot Zucchini, and Black Magic Zucchini.

Preferred Growing Conditions

Vegetables tend to all like the same growing conditions: full sun, and well drained soil full of organic matter. Organic matter, organic matter, organic matter… Are you sick of hearing about it yet? Organic matter contributes to the health of the soil: gives soil nutrients, aerates soil for better root growth, helps soil retain moisture, while at the same times allows soil to drain better.

So, for the health of your plants, make sure your soil has organic matter. I wouldn’t keep saying it if it weren’t important. Trust me.

The easiest way to add organic matter is to just work a little compost into your soil. Get a composter and make your own by recycling kitchen and yard waste. Or, buy compost or a soil amendment will do the same thing. But, it’s cheaper just to go ahead and buy a compost bin and make your own.

How to Plant Summer Squash

Rethink how many summer squash plants you need. It just takes a few plants to feed a family. Plant summer squash in a container, or a garden. Here’s how.

For planting summer squash in containers, make sure your pot is at least 12 inches wide, that’s about a 5 gallon pot. Pots will dry out fast. That will be your biggest container gardening obstacle. Consider using a fabric pot or a self watering planter, so help control the soil moisture level. Here are detailed directions to growing squash in containers.

Soil temperature should be about 70 degrees Fahrenheit before you plant your summer squash. Plant seeds ½ inches deep and six inches apart. Thin out after seedlings after they emerge, but will need at least two leaves to keep growing. Mature bush summer squash plants should be 20 inches apart in rows that are spaced 2 feet apart. If growing a vine variety, planting in hills works well. Plant about 5 seeds per hill. After seedlings emerge and are established, thin to three plants. Stake or provide a trellis for vining varieties.

Transplanting is a good idea with summer squash, too. You can purchase starter plants or start seeds indoors about four weeks prior to the last frost date. Don’t forget to harden off your seedlings, meaning slowly adjust them to the outdoor climate and sun.

Consider staggering you plantings of summer squash too. Planting two weeks apart can keep you harvesting summer squash a little longer. And, don’t forget you get a lot of summer squash from one plant. I think that is why sometimes squash gets a bad wrap. It’s a great tasting vegetable, and easy to grow. But, I think folks get tired of eating all that squash. Squash for dinner, again?

Companion Plants for Summer Squash

Growing these companion plants around summer squash will be helpful: Buckwheat, catnip, tansy, and radishes.

Maintaining Your Summer Squash Plants

Consistent watering is key with summer squash. Mulch helps a lot with maintaining soil moisture. So, put a good layer of mulch down around summer squash plants. Provide a trellis for support for vining summer squashes to grow.

You might need to assist with pollination. If you are growing just a few plants, you might have to help. Here’s how to do it, and no, you probably didn’t learn this in school. The first flowers that bloom are males. These appear about 40-50 days after planting. A week later the female flowers develop, which will produce the fruit after fertilized by the male flowers. So, to help: pick the first male blooms and brush them against the female bloom. This will help increase the output of summer squash.

Growing the larger globe varieties of squash, like the Gourmet Globe? Put a barrier between the ground and the squash to prevent rot.

When to Use Organic Fertilizer

Use an organic fertilizer on summer squash at the time of transplanting. Fertilize again, in about a month. Organic fertilizer is important. We need safe, healthy foods. But also, you don’t want to endanger any beneficial insect helping you with your pollination duties.

Harvesting Summer Squash

Harvest summer squash early. They will taste better when tender, and you’ll want to keep the fruit off the plant so it keeps producing. So, pick when the summer squash is about 2 inches in diameter, or 6-8 inches long. Pattypan squash is best when it reaches 3 inches in diameter, and is still a little pale. If your Pattypan squash gets a little larger, those are great to stuff. Try a recipe for stuffed Pattypan squash or vegan recipe for stuffed Pattypan squash. Both are a great dish.

Ever tried fried squash blossoms? Yes, they exist and are suppose to be out of this world. Squash, also, freezes pretty well. Just blanch it, first, dry, and then freeze. It will last about six months in the freezer.

Summer Squash Pests and Diseases

Don’t forget to check summer squash plants for pests often. Squash bugs will set in pretty quickly. They will be your biggest pest problems. Ok, cucumber beetles like summer squash plants, too. Neem oil is a great organic choice to get rid of these bugs.

Keep an eye out, too, for these pests and diseases: bacteria wilt, squash vine borers, mosaic virus, and mildew.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheila July 6, 2009 at 6:40 pm

The leaves of my squash are all turning yellow. What’s happening and what’s the organic fix?

Sounds like you have some stressed out squash plants. Make sure they are getting enough water, and they may need a dose of organic fertilizer. This organic fertilizer has worked great for my vegetable garden.

Also, have you checked for pests? Look for vine borers at the base of the plant. Their excrement looks a little like sawdust. Once they hit, it’s a little late. Preventative organic insecticides usually work better than trying to get rid of them once you spot them. Check for squash bugs, too. Although, I would suspect vine borers first. Squash bugs lay little brown eggs in groupings on the leaves. You can hand pick squash bugs, or neem oil works pretty well.

If it’s not those things, it could be bacteria wilt from the soil. Squash is very suspectible to bacteria wilt. Make sure next year to rotate where you plant your vegetables. It’s an easy “organic fix” we tend to forget about.


albert May 28, 2010 at 7:25 pm

My squah plants were doing good and just over night I had 3 plants that had the leaves to start wilting. What is causing this and what can I do to stop this from continuing or moving to other plants


sandra June 4, 2010 at 7:15 pm

i have seen blossom end rot on tomatoes, but never on sqaush, i have straight neck yellow squash, and i am losing ‘baby squash’ to this, what can i do?? someone said it’s caused by too much water, i’m close to Nashville, and have’nt been watering due to rain….alot of rain!!!


nancy September 2, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I have had the same problem in Lake Tahoe, CA. What responses have you gotten?


Howard June 12, 2010 at 2:02 pm

My yellow squash in N. Texas has suffered from vine rot for 2 years. About an inch above the dirt the vine just turns to mush over about an inch or two. First signs are leaf wilt. Is this a bacteria problem ? Need help, losing a large crop from 4 plants.


elsie rossow June 17, 2010 at 8:31 am

nice squash plants but squash want mature gets about 3 inches and seems to swivel up – plants are in containers
awaiting your reply…..


Louise June 4, 2011 at 11:25 am

my squash produce small squash the size of my little finger, then they rot and fall off. I am careful watering to only wet the soil and have pine straw under plants. What else do I need to do??


Louise June 4, 2011 at 11:31 am

I have planted yellow and orange bell peppers. They have produced
large & beautiful peppers but will not change color, still green. What is
the problem. I have left them on plant for weeks until some are beginning to have brown spots still not changing color.


Jack April 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I have good luck using good potting soil in 5 gallon pots, with Miracle Grow Water Storing Crystals mixed in every few inches as I fill the pots. The crystals swell up to 200 times their size, but give the roots ready sources of moisture if you live in warmer climates or only water twice a week. Cut off any sickly leaves weekly as the plants grow. Water in mornings or early afternoons so water does not pool up overnight and cause root rot.


Erin April 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm

We have planted 2 each of yellow squash and zucchini….They are doing wonderfully…My husband is insistant that you can trim the leaves up to thin them out…Will this hurt the plants?? I agree that thinning the leaves out will make them easier to harvest but I don’t want to risk anything…Thanks.


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