These vegetables are all in the same plant family known as cucurbits. Although they can have different growing habits they are all cultivated in a similar way.
Which varieties to choose?
Summer squash include courgettes and patty pans. They produce prolific fruits throughout the summer but these fruits do not store.
Patrick’s Patch favourite bush courgettes: ‘Romanesco’and ‘Soleil F1’
‘Delikates’ and ‘Sunburst F1’ are very tasty patty pan types.
Winter squash and pumpkins produce fruits which mature through the summer and have thick skins which enable them to be stored.
Butternut squash ‘ Hawk F1’ produces large crops.
Winter squash ‘Uchiki Kuri’ has a particularly good flavour and can be trained to grow up supports or on trellis.
These plants are all leafy and fast growing. They love water and nutrients and do not like strong wind on their leaves. Ideally prepare the soil for the crop the previous autumn by adding lots of organic matter. This can also be done in spring. We also recommend adding an organic fertilizer, such as chicken manure about a fortnight before you plant out.
All cucurbits can be treated the same. Remember they are not hardy and so can only be planted out after any danger of frost has passed. It is best to sow the seeds singly in 9cm pots in early May either on a windowsill or in a greenhouse. Once germinated (7-10 days) they grow rapidly. It is a good idea to pot up the required number of plants into 15cm pots. This means you plant out bigger plants which are less vulnerable. You can also buy ready grown plants.
Handle your young plants very carefully. They snap easily as the stems are so juicy. It may be necessary to protect from wind as they establish.
Spacings will depend on the variety. Courgettes need a square meter each.
Tip – For sprawling squash and pumpkin plants you can plant them through a weed proof membrane. This is good at not only stopping weeds growing between the plants but also keeping the soil moist and later in the season keeping the pumpkins or squash clean.
Through the growing season they must be kept well-watered. Plants which dry out are more vulnerable to powdery mildew which turns the leaves grey – remove any diseased leaves as the plants are growing.
Liquid feed with a high potash fertilizer (Maxicrop Complete Garden Feed) every fortnight.
Summer squashes need to be regularly harvested to encourage more fruits and also prevent the fruits getting enormous. Pumpkins, butternuts and winter squashes are left on the plants as long as possible.
This is usually until the parent plant starts to wither or earlier if there is a danger of frost. Once harvested lay them out in the sunshine, when possible. This cures the fruit and improves the flavour and storing ability.
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