Zucchini and yellow squash are some of the simplest and most rewarding vegetables to grow in your garden. Zucchini and yellow squash are summer squash varieties. They grow into bushlike plants that stand almost 3 feet tall and several feet wide.
Planting Zucchini and Yellow Squash
Plant summer squash in the spring after the danger of frost has passed. That is usually after the vernal equinox around March 21st. Plant it in humus rich, well drained soil. I prefer to plant my summer squash in a mounds of humus rich soil that measure 1’ tall and are spaced at least 2 feet apart with 3’ between rows. The mound supports the growing habit of the squash plant and provides a warmer environment to sprout the seeds.
Pat the soil of the mound with your hand to give it some structure and scoop out a little bowl formation at the top of the mound and fill it with rich potting soil.
Plant the squash seeds about ½” deep. I plant 2 or 3 of seeds in the mound in case an insect gets one of them.
Gently mist the mound to help it keep its shape and avoid erosion. Water the squash seeds too. Squash seedlings will sprout in 5-8 days.
Squash Flowers and How to Harvest the Squash
Squash will bloom in as little as 6 weeks. Zucchini and Yellow squash make male and female blooms on the same plant. Bees visit the male flowers and then the female flowers and so pollinate or fertilize the squash.
Male flowers are usually on a longer stem and have a fairly straight base. The flower I am touching in the picture is a male flower. Female flowers have a ½ “round bulge at the base of the flower (at the location where my finger is touching the bloom. This round bulge is the ovary and indicates a female flower. Only female flowers will turn into a squash. Many beginning gardeners think something is wrong when they begin to notice that not all of the squash flowers are turning into squash. But don’t worry, that is just nature taking place.
Picking and Cooking Squash Blooms
At this time, I have a lot of male squash flowers on my plants. This is pretty common in the beginning of the season. If you have too many male squash flowers you can cook them. Pick the male flowers while they are closed. Squash blossoms are open in the morning and then close during the afternoon or evening. The way to prepare squash blossoms is to fry them. Fried squash blossoms are a delicious treat. To fry squash blooms, dip them into a thin milk and flour batter and then fry them like you would fry potatoes.
Harvest your squash when it is between 6-8” long. Don’t let it get any longer than that or the outer skin will become harder and the inside seedier. Harvest your squash frequently so that the plant can put more of its energy into making more new squash.
To harvest your squash, cut the green stem above the squash. Turn your knife so that you cut away from the central stalk (so you don’t slip and cut into the plant. Don’t pull on the squash.
Zucchini and yellow squash is great sautéed with rosemary, thyme and basil. Zucchini squash is also used in zucchini bread. Southerners love fried yellow squash. They slice it into thin round slices and roll it in cornmeal and fry it like potatoes.
Watch for pests on your squash. The most common pest is the squash bug (also commonly called a stink bug because it emits a stinky smell when it is squished). Check your squash frequently for squash bugs by gently parting the leaves and looking toward the central stalk of the plant. If you see a squash bug, hand remove them (don’t smash them on your hand).
If you are having trouble catching the squash bug, use the board trick. Lay a small board on the ground near the central stalk of the plant. Make sure there is a little dugout of space under the board. Then come out the next morning and pick up the board and the squash bug(s) will be gathered under the board. Then you can get them all in one place.
Squash Bug Eggs
Also check your plants periodically for squash bug eggs by looking on the underside of the leaves. If you find bright brownish red eggs, remove them at once. To remove the squash bug eggs, put a bowl under the eggs and scrape the squash bug eggs off with your fingernail, catching them in the bowl.