On Saturday, I wrote about pumpkins and promised that I would cover squash separately. Although the growing process is similar to pumpkins, in my experience squash are more sensitive to the cold. I therefore start them a bit later on, after I’ve sown the pumpkins. My butternuts are still in trays under the eaves of our house as I thought I’d plant the pumpkins first and see how they go.
Although I have grown various kinds of squash successfully in previous years, we’ve never had what I would call a bumper crop, a bit like pumpkins. Normally we only get one or two butternuts, despite sowing an entire packet of seeds (or more!). Part of the problem is that I’ve been growing squash amongst the pumpkins, so they tend to get overshadowed by their big cousin. Squash are smaller and more delicate, whereas some pumpkin varieties such as “Blue Hubbard” and “Queensland Blue” can get quite large and crowd out the squash. To rectify this problem, I’ve decided to give the squash a separate area to roam. I’m also going to give squash the same treatment as my melons and pumpkins this year and use black plastic underneath to keep the soil warm. Cynthia (my gardening friend in Foxton who was a finalist in the NZ Gardener magazine’s Gardener of the Year competition a few years ago) did this for her squash as well, with great results.
This year, I’m growing the following varieties:
Butternut – Quite possibly our favourite type of pumpkin. The flavour is incredible! I’m growing “Butternut” (Yates), “Babynut” (Kings), “Big Chief Butternut” (Kings) and “Butternut Chieftain” (Kings)
Kumi Kumi – I love having this steamed with a little salt, pepper and butter. An old personal trainer recommended it to me as an incredibly healthy veggie. There are lots of different kinds of Kamo Kamo. This year, I’m growing the variety from Kings Seeds
Spaghetti Squash – We discovered spaghetti squash a couple of years ago. It stores very well and tastes delicious cooked with some garlic, butter, salt and pepper. I’m growing “Tivoli” (Egmont) and the variety from Kings Seeds
African Gem Squash – When I first started gardening in 2013, my mother asked me to grow gem squash which, like her, comes from South Africa. We enjoy it cut in half, steamed with a little salt, pepper and butter. This year, I’m growing the gem squash varieties from Egmont and Kings Seeds
My advice for squash is very similar to growing pumpkins:
· You can start squash from seed indoors or purchase plants from the garden centre. You should be able to find Kamo Kamo and Butternut plants, but I’m not sure about spaghetti squash and gem squash. If you want to grow them, you may have to start from seed.
· Choose a sunny site. All fruiting plants need full sun in order to do well
· Make sure there is enough room as squash does like to creep
· Like pumpkins, squash are gross feeders. Work loads of compost, sheep pellets and fertiliser into the ground beforehand
· Don’t space plants too close to each other so they have sufficient room to grow
· Liquid feed plants regularly to promote growth. I plan on using my Yates Thrive Tomato Liquid Plant Food on my squash this year, which is appropriate for other fruiting veggies
· We like harvesting our gem squash when they’re immature because they taste more tender (we test if it’s ready by poking our fingernail into the skin. You should be able to pierce it). However, they don’t keep well at this stage. If the exterior is too hard to poke your fingernail into, then they are suitable for storage
Is anyone else growing squash this season? What varieties are you growing? Collette, are you doing gem squash as well?
NB The photo is of my Yates “Hale’s Best’ rockmelon plants, which are doing nicely in the greenhouse. I managed to get my phone sorted at Happytel in Westfield Manukau, who I highly recommend for phone repairs. It turns out that it just needed charging!