There is no need to fear the zombie apocalypse.
It’s the ZUCCHINI Apocalypse you should be worried about!
There’s the old joke that when you live in the country, or probably even the suburbs, you MUST lock your car in the summertime if you don’t want someone to leave you a bag of overgrown zucchini on your front seat.
I don’t grow zucchini for precisely this reason. If I want some zucchini in the summer time, I guarantee I can find someone who would be more than happy to give me some!
Another zucchini joke: How do you know if somebody has no friends? You see them shopping for zucchini in the middle of the summer. Ha, ha, ha.
All jokes aside, there is a reason why zucchini and summer squash have such a bad rap. The reason is because they grow quickly and are tricky to spot until it’s too late.
They are best picked when they are very small. 6 inches long at the most. But the problem is that they camouflage themselves very well under the very large leaves that are exactly the same color as the fruit.
If you don’t see them at the 4-6 inch size, they will quickly grow to the size of a small boat within 2-3 days.
My husband has fond memories of floating zucchini boats down the irrigation ditch close to his childhood home in the summer. 🙂
Luckily though, it is mainly zucchini that have this problem. Because they are green and blend in. Most of the other summer squash are a different color and can be easily spotted.
All summer squash (and winter squash for that matter) grows pretty much the same way. All squash grow on vines but some (like zucchini) have been developed into a bush version.
They love the heat and cannot tolerate frosts of any kind.
I personally think it’s better to grow squash from seed. They grow very quickly. If you want to buy seedlings, go for it, but the seeds are much cheaper and because the plants grow so quickly there is almost zero difference in harvest times.
Plant after all danger of frost has passed. Be sure to give them LOTS of room to spread. If you have a small garden and if the size of the fruit is not too large, you can try growing them vertically in order to save space. I have done this successfully with many types of squash.
There are three common problems that can occur when you grow squash. Squash vine borers, Squash bugs, and powdery mildew.
Here is some information about dealing with each of these problems.
Squash Vine Borers:
I have not had to deal with this problem (thankfully) because I have always gardened west of the Rocky Mountains and this pest doesn’t live out here. But for those of you to the east of the Rocky Mountains or other parts of the world, here is a great article from Mother Earth News about how to deal with squash vine borers.
I HAVE however had to deal with this problem. Every. Single. Year. The best thing I have observed over the years is that some squash are more resistant to squash bugs than others. I prefer to grow ones that can naturally resist them or that I can still get a crop from even if the infestation is large. You can also hand pick the adults and eggs but it is quite time consuming. I use an empty water bottle with a bit of soapy water in the bottom. The bottle opening is the perfect size to scoop any adult bugs into using the lid to scrape them off the leaf. I use duct tape to collect any eggs I can find on the underside of the leaves. This usually keeps them from getting too out of control.
Here is an article (again from Mother Earth News) for more information about squash bugs. And here is a post that I wrote about dealing with the nasty little critters. Ugh! (Can you tell that I detest squash bugs?)
I (luckilly) have never dealt with this problem either. But I have heard that it’s not so fun if you get it. From what I understand, it’s a fungal disease that is usually caused by overcrowded plants not getting enough air circulation. Pulling out some plants to give more room will most likely help. I found a suggestion that mixing a diluted solution of milk and water (1 part milk to 2 parts water) and then spraying it on the affected leaves can help. Here is an article with good information for dealing with powdery mildew.
Well, there you have it. The good, the bad and the ugly of summer squash.
Unfortunately, winter squash have many of the same problems too. Sigh.
One day when we live in a perfect world with no pests or diseases…
Until then, carry on!