How to Grow Squash and Pumpkin
Author: Barbara E. Volkov
Squash, for the most part, is often planted in mounds of earth call hills. To prepare a these hills, dig a hole 12-18 inches in depth and about 2 feet in diameter. You need to fill the bottom of the hole with 4-6 inches of compost or organic material. The remainder of the excavated soil should then be shoveled back into the hole until you form a mound about 6-8 inches high. These hills should be spaced about 4-6 feet apart for the bush varieties and around 8-10 feet apart for vine plants, which include pumpkins.
Squash can be sown outdoors at the same time you plant eggplant and tomato seedlings at the time when nighttime temperatures remain above 55 degrees F. You want to plant six seeds per hill, about an inch deep. When these seedlings are roughly 6 inches tall, thin them down to the two or three strongest plants in each hill.
You can also sow squash seeds indoors in pots, about three to four weeks prior to sowing outdoors. However, the seedlings can be set back by transplanting, and you must be extremely careful not to disturb their roots.
If you have furnished ample compost or manure during your soil preparation, you shouldn##Q##t have to add fertilizer. But if you are not sure about the nutrients that your squash are getting, you can scatter 1/3 cup of 5-10-10 fertilizer around each plant when it has put out a few leaves.
Like other members of the gourd family, squash needs a plenty of moisture. You need to water the plants slowly and deeply during dry spells, but you must resist the temptation to constantly soaking them. Mulching is most beneficial for squash; besides for the fact that the soil will retain its moisture and it keeps the weeds down, a layer of mulch placed under the vines protects the fruits against insects and will keep them from rotting.
The vines of the squash can be pruned if you see that they are invading other areas of your garden. At the time that you see small fruits on the vines, you can cut off the end of the long runners. Just make sure that you have left sufficient leaves to nourish the plant.
When harvesting squash, you need to cut off the fruits with a knife. A summer squash should be cut when it is still fairly small and when your fingernail can easily pierce its skin. Elongated squashes can be picked when they are 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter; pick scallops when they are 3-4 inches across.
The winter varieties should be left on the vine until their rinds, or skin, are hard. You can cure them in the sun or in a warm, ventilated area for a week or so; then you can store them in a dry place where the temperature is 55-60 degrees F.
Planting pumpkins is done in the same manner as you would a vine squash and they are harvested as the winter squash, when their skin is hard. Your vegetable garden just wouldn##Q##t be complete without adding some squash or pumpkin, your children would be so thrilled growing their own pumpkin for Halloween.
About the Author
Barbara E. Volkov and her husband Gene are a retired couple who enjoys the at home time and also tinkering around in the garden. We are always learning new things to do for our garden and enjoy sharing the information with others. Come visit our website http://www.gardenersgardensupplies.com/ for more interesting tidbits on gardening.