Earlier this week, I blogged about why I love to grow squashes. I wrote about all the different reasons, before glibly finishing with a suggestion that they are easy to grow.
Now, when I read that back, I realised that was maybe a silly thing to say. I might find them easy, but then I’ve been growing for a number of years. It would have helped if I had clarified my statement with a few handy tips, and made sure that if you do try squashes they are in fact easy.
So here are 9 things I have learned that have helped make growing squashes easy. 🙂
Sow in pots
Rather than sowing direct, I plant the squash seeds in small pots of multi-purpose compost as I find germination rates are much better. I sow a couple of seeds in each pot and thin out the strongest seedling.
Sowing in pots means you can also start your seeds off earlier by keeping the pots undercover in a greenhouse.
Grow more than you need
Winter squashes, such as Butternut and Crown Prince varieties, are excellent storers so sow as many as you like. You won’t need to eat them when you harvest, and they’ll stay in excellent condition for a good six months.
Put a stick next to the plant
When planting out, I’d definitely recommend putting a stick next to the plant. Squashes grow large and sprawl all over the place, so it’s really useful to know where the roots are when watering.
Leave lots of room between the plants for them to grow into s well!
Plant out in hollows
Squashes need plenty of water, so I use a method my mum showed me when planting out. By putting the plants in a little hollow, the water stays in and around the plant, just where it’s needed most.
Check the vines
Tracking your sprawling vine can be a mission, but it’s worth spending some time to spot dead or dying vines. They’ll be brown and withered, and when a vine dies, the squash will not grow anymore and is ready to harvest. By harvesting the squash, the plant will put more energy into the other smaller squashes on the vine.
Add some goodness when planting out
When you’ve dug the hole to plant the squash, scoop in a few trowel fulls of well-rotted manure, mix it into the soil with the trowel, and water generously.
Make sure you harden off and protect the plants
Before you plant out, make sure you harden off properly. Squashes are tender plants, so they need to be ready for their new environment.
If a frost is forecast whilst the squashes are still at the seedling stage, protect them with horticultural fleece or bubble wrap.
Don’t plant out too early
Make sure the risk of frost has passed before planting out. I normally aim to get my squashes onto the allotment at the beginning of June.
Put straw under the fruits to stop them rotting
When the squashes develop, make sure you keep them off the damp ground when it rains. Pop them under straw to stop the fruit rotting.