Squash Planting

The middle of April is the ideal time to plant squash, according to Nick’s Spring Seeding Guide.  Squash like warm weather and warm soil to sprout, so the middle of April can be a bit marginal around here.  In my shady garden, any extra time for the winter squash is a benefit worth going for.  If we have a cold snap and the seeds rot in the soil, I can always replant.

I appreciate squash that likes to go places.  Vines should take off to the edges, fill in the paths, overtake their neighbors and climb the fences in joyous exuberance.  You’ve got to give them space, and imagine where they will be by the end of the summer.  There is a tradition of planting squash with the corn – but I find that corn planted in rows is too shady to make the squash happy.  This year I plan to let my squash overrun the garlic patch and the strawberries, and if they want to compete with the corn, they can.

Half-dozen new squash hills next to the garlic.

There are always too many things I want to plant.  Ellen always wants some Zucchini, and Patty Pan summer squashes.  I like the Yellow Crookneck.  For the winter squash, I have my squash breeding project that needs at least three or four hills just to check out last year’s saved seed.  How can I not plant seed from the delicious 25 pound Marina de Chioggia I saved last year?  Then there are Butternut, Spaghetti squash, and Delicata, all favorites with fresh saved seed from last year to plant.  Very soon I counted over a dozen hills.  I don’t have the space for all those, but I crowd a little and give them what running room I can.

My precious compost stock diminishes rapidly as I build the hills.  Each hill gets three good shovelfuls worked into the mound.  The compost always generates a few squash volunteers.  I plant my seeds in a regular pattern around the center stake so I have a better chance to eliminate the interlopers from the compost when they sprout.  With saved seed there is no shortage, so I plant 8 to 10 seeds in each hill.  Eventually they will get thinned to two or three plants.  Planting early and thinning ruthlessly for only the most vigorous plants helps to ensure that the next generation of seed will produce even more vigorous and cold-hardy vines.

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4 thoughts on “Squash Planting

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  1. We received the box load of festival and delicatas from our farmer neighbor last fall. We did our best to make squash custards, squash cakes, roasted squash, squash soup…but alas, some of them just went bad. So mid-winter, I tossed them out on the hillside.

    Now…come spring (well, sort of…it snowed yesterday and it continues today…no accumulation here, but higher elevations is another story…), in any event, come spring, what should we find but squash sprouting…and not just where the poor rotting ones landed, but all along the hill! Along with sunflower volunteers from the bird feeder, we seem to have some rather hardy festivals growing unimpeded by frost, snow, temperatures or lack of care!

    1. The promise of spring! The hardy volunteers always deserve notice. They are indeed an indicator of when its OK to plant things. Sometimes crossed up seed will have better hybrid vigor than the the varieties you want for food, however.

  2. Thanks for the inspiration Gary! I am planning a 3 sisters garden (corn, squash, beans) in a new spot in the yard that I am turning from grass to production. It’s along a wooden fence that I’m hope will create a warmer micro climate. You make a good point about the corn shading the squash. My plan is to make mounds like yours and plant the corn in the center, beans around it to trail up, and winter squash below that. Just a fun experiment.

    1. Hi Robin — I tried the three sisters thing a couple of years ago in the same shady garden spot in the photo. I made an interspersed hill arrangement with squash and corn hills each with eight-foot spacing. Unfortunately, I had very poor corn germination in the hills so the squash just overran the entire patch. Without the corn – there was nothing for the beans to grow on. After that experience, last year I started corn in flats and transplanted. That worked pretty well, but I was back in rows again, and in a sunnier space. I’d be curious how your experiment works out!

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