Squash in all their various shapes and sizes form an essential part of the vegetable garden, but can sometimes be a little tricky to grow successfully. The three essentials for growing this crop are consistent heat, adequate fertility and plenty of water as Tom Stearns explains in this article by Marion Roach which I found on her A Way To Garden website.

WITHOUT THEM, there would be no proper pickles, no pumpkin pies, no ratatouille. The melon-baller would sit idle, summer fruit salads undermined. Cucurbits are favorite food plants?but can be challenging. Don?t give up; learn how to grow squash, melons and cucumbers, with Tom Stearns.
Squash pests and diseases?from squash bugs, vine borers and cucumber beetles, to powdery and downy mildews and bacterial wilts?can make it all sound like just too much. But as a seed farmer, High Mowing Organic Seeds founder Stearns has to harvest lots of extra-ripe fruit to get his hidden-inside crop. He gets to the finish line by working to avoid any preventable setbacks, first and foremost, always keeping in mind the three key things about being a cucurbit:

  • You love heat.
  • You?re thirsty (but your shallow root system means you depend on the immediate area for water resources).
  • You love to eat.

Oh, and the aforementioned ?issues? love you?some more or less depending on species and variety, or what region you garden in, or both.
Harvesting Winter Squash - Dave

step 1: provide enough consistent heat

ESPECIALLY in the early growth stages, says Tom (who farms in Zone 4B northern Vermont), never let a cucurbit cool off.
?If you put a seed in cold soil,? he says, ?it will take three times the normal time to germinate?and it will come out of ground so weak and susceptible to disease and other issues.? Ideal soil temperature for cucumber and summer squash germination, for instance: 85F (with no sprouting below 60F).
Likewise, even if you start seeds in the cozy indoors on a heat mat and grow them under lights, but then transplant into cold garden soil, ?the seedlings will just sit there.?
?Big reminder: heat,? says Tom.
Recommendations: Pre-warm the soil with black plastic sheeting for a week before the setout date (which is just after final frost). Transplant most cucurbits into slits cut in the sheeting after a headstart of 3-4 weeks indoors; watermelons at 6 weeks. (That?s a black plastic-covered squash row at High Mowing after harvest, above.) Many gardeners also cover cucurbit transplants with Reemay for extra warmth; more advice on that under ?more pest protection,? below.

See more at A Way To Garden

I am a keen gardener and so created Garden Pics and Tips for people who love gardens and enjoy great pictures of plants and gardens. Also covered are practical tips on all aspects of gardening.