Ever since the first time I tasted squash in America I have grown them. There is no other vegetable quite like them and what a help they are in giving interest to winter meals! Do grow squash!
This is an American gardening term covering a botanical mixture of edible gourds, C. pepo, C. maxima and C. moschata, but excluding pumpkins. The term is also used in Britain where seeds of a great many popular American squashes are now planted. There are two kinds of squash – summer and winter. Summer squashes are picked for use when immature. Their cultivation is identical to that of the English vegetable marrow, itself a squash in North America. Winter squashes are left to ripen on the plants and are harvested in the autumn and are stored for winter use. Both groups include bush and vining kinds. Most winter squashes are vining.
Seed of both summer and winter squash may be sown in April under glass. The plants resent root disturbance and it is, therefore, advisable to sow in 3 ½-inch pots. Suitable composts are John Innes potting and Levington potting or other peat based potting composts. Sow two seeds at a depth of inch in each pot and reduce the seedlings to one per pot when the first true leaf has been made. A temperature of from 55-65°F (13-18°C) is necessary for seed germination. In the southern parts of Britain these temperatures occur during the day in the unheated greenhouse, the cold frame and beneath cloches during mid to late April. Earlier April sowings in the south and sowings in cooler parts of the country are best made in a heated greenhouse. In the south and Midlands seed may also be sown out of doors from early to mid-May.
The plants are not frost-hardy and those raised under glass are not set out in their growing positions until from early to mid-June. They are gross feeders and require a very fertile soil. One dressed generously with well-rotted manure or garden compost is very suitable. Planting distances vary according to the habit and eventual size of the plants. Most bush kinds need 2 ½ to 3 square feet of surface area. Vining or trailing kinds require more space and 4 feet between plants in rows a yard apart are minimum requirements. Far less surface area is required by vining squash if trained upwards on Weldmesh, nylon netting or on bamboo tepees. Such plants may be planted at 15 to 18 inches apart alongside the sup-ports.
Each plant bears male and female flowers and pollination is carried out by bees and insects. Vining plants trained to supports need tying in now and then in July and August. Water must be given often and copiously in dry weather and liquid feeds may be given as soon as the first fruits have set.
Harvest summer squashes regularly to encourage the production of further supplies. Stop all watering and any feeding of winter squash as soon as the two or more fruits on each plant have ceased swelling. Allow them to ripen off well before har-vesting. Store winter squash in a dry, cool but frost-proof place.
Summer squash varieties
Bush types ‘Argentine’, ‘Cocozelle’, ‘Crookneck’, ‘Eat-all’, ‘Gold Nugget’ (can be grown as a winter squash for storing), ‘Green Bush’, ‘Patty Pan’ or ‘White Custard’, ‘Straight-neck’, `Sweetnue, ‘White Bush’, ‘Yellow Bush Scallop’ or ‘Yellow Custard’, ‘Zuc-chini’.
Vining types ‘Acorn’ (may be grown as a winter squash and there is a bush form), ‘Butternut’ (may be grown as a winter squash), ‘Green Vining’, little Gem’ or ‘South African Marrow’, Totherside Orange’, ‘Vegetable Spaghetti’, ‘White Vining’.
Winter squash varieties
All vining types ‘Banana’, ‘Buttercup’, ‘Golden Delicious’, ‘Hubbard’. The ‘Cushaw Squash’ is generally classed as a pumpkin.
These are really just another kind of squash and need a long growing season. Seeds are best sown in pots under glass in April. Slight heat may be necessary for good germination in colder parts of the country. Thin the seedlings to leave one in each pot and harden them off for setting out of doors in early June. The soil must be very rich for the production of large pumpkins. Few gardeners have sufficient well-rotted farmyard manure for the con-struction of a special bed as was once the custom. As an alternative, incorporate manure or garden compost in the soil as generously as possible.
The main shoots of pumpkin plants attain a final length of about 12 feet. Although 3 feet between plants in a single row is a suitable spacing, sufficient room must be left at the sides for the long shoots. To prevent these from wandering too far, pin them to the soil with pieces of soft wire bent to the shape of a hairpin. No stopping or pruning of the plants should be necessary. If the female flowers do not set they should be hand pollinated in the same way as vegetable marrows.
In a dry season, the plants need watering regularly. As soon as the small fruits begin to swell feeds of liquid manure should be given. Both water and liquid manure may be applied to the roots via a flower pot sunk alongside each plant. To prevent slugs from damaging the soft skin of young pumpkins, stand the developing fruits on pieces of slate or tile.
As soon as the pumpkins reach their maximum size, stop all watering and feeding. Allow the pumpkins to ripen on the plants and harvest them in late September or early October. Store them in a dry, frost-proof place.
Varieties include ‘Mammoth’, and ‘Hundredweight’. ‘Small Sugar’ is preferred for flavour. The plants of this variety make far less growth than those of large-fruited kinds.
The marrow is one of the most popular vegetables in this family. If you grow and keep ripe marrows for the winter, cook them like squash. You will be thrilled by the difference in flavour.
The marrow is a popular, half-hardy vegetable, and plants are generally raised from seeds sown under glass in April or early May. Sow two or three seeds in pots filled with John Innes seed compost. In colder parts of the country a little heat may be necessary to assist germination. Thin the plants to leave one seedling in each pot and wait until all risk of a late spring frost has passed before setting the plants in their growing positions in the open. Alternatively, give the plants cloche protection until late June or early July.
A very rich bed is essential for a regular supply of marrows between late July and the autumn. Soil which has received a generous dressing of well-rotted farmyard manure or garden compost is ideal. Planting distances depend on the type of plant. A bush variety needs almost one square Yard of surface area ; a trailer needs a great deal more if allowed to roam at will over the ground. Trailing or vining marrows may also be trained on tall supports. These may be bamboo canes or even the garden fence.
Water is essential and the plants must on no account be permitted to become dry at the roots. Liquid manure feeds should be given weekly when the first marrows begin to swell. To ensure that both water and liquid manure reach the roots, many gardeners sink a clay pot alongside each plant. The water and the liquid feeds are poured into the pots and run directly to the root area. Weeding is necessary until the large leaves shade the surrounding soil and inhibit weed growth.
The plants bear male and female flowers. Bees, flies and other insects transfer ripe male pollen to the female blooms. Where female flowers fall off without setting fruits, natural fertilisation is not occurring. In such cases, hand pollination is advisable. Do this before noon. Pick a male flower for each female to be hand pollinated. Strip the petals from the male and twist its core into the centre of the female. The females may be recognised quite easily because they carry an embryo marrow behind them.
Bush plants need little attention. Trailers may be guided between other crops or, if they are to be trained to supports, the main shoot must be tied in regularly. Cut the marrows when they are young and tender. They are old if the thumb nail does not pierce the skin easily. Marrows for jam or for storing are allowed to ripen on the plants until September. The storage place should be cool and dry. The marrows are sometimes hung up in nets for storage purposes. Smaller marrows are now preferred. Up-to-date varieties include `Zucchini F, Hybrid’ (bush), ‘Productive’ (bush), ‘Prolific’ (trailer), ‘Cluseed Roller’ (trailer). `Rotherside Orange’ is a prolific variety of excellent flavour. ‘Cocozelle’ (the Italian vegetable marrow), a bush variety, produces dark green, yellow-striped fruits up to 2 feet long.
Courgettes, or French Courgettes, have become increasingly popular in recent years. In the natural course of events the fruits do not grow very large but, in any case, to obtain the best results, they should be cut when not much bigger than thumb size and cooked unpeeled. Constant cutting will ensure the steady production of fruits throughout the summer. Cultivation is otherwise the same as for the larger marrows. For exhibition purposes, ‘Sutton’s Table Dainty’ is a popular variety.
As stated earlier, bush varieties can be confined to one square yard of soil surface. Before they are planted and in the early days after planting, the area immediately around their stations can be used for quick maturing crops such as lettuce, radish, chervil. The trailing types will cover much more ground. They can be useful to you if you are making a new garden for they can be left to cover large areas of what might otherwise be bare or uncultivated soil until such time that it can be treated as planned. So long as the area in which the roots are growing is properly prepared and enriched the surrounding area needs only to be cleared of weeds. Later the plants themselves will suppress them.
A vigorous plant or two will soon cover an old wall, even a low building. They can hide unsightly piles of debris. They will clothe banks. They can be used decoratively to cover pillars and pergolas. They have been used as archways over garden paths. They can be grown as patio screens and overhead as arbours. Tie the plants to the supports in the early stages. If the fruits produced by supported plants become very large, relieve the plant of its weight by making a sling of string or mesh. Attach this to part of the support.