Sow seeds between 1/2 cm and 1 cm deep and expect germination in 7-12 days. Plants can reach 45-80 cm or more depending on growing conditions. Squash like very warm weather and direct sunlight.
Best method (if possible): If you live in an area where soil temperatures can consistently be 15 C or more, squash seeds may be sown directly into the garden when the soil is warm. A row cover to protect from frost and insects is beneficial.
Alternate method (for cool growing/high altitude areas) Squash can be difficult to transplant but it can be done if careful. Plant in individual peat pots with a rich potting soil 3-4 weeks before you plan to transplant into the garden. Once the seedlings are 2 weeks or 5-10 cm high plant the entire peat pot the same level as the plant stem. Harden seedlings off gradually and ensure there are 2-3 true leaves before transplanting outside. The soil should be 15-21C and 2 seedlings per hill work well.
The amount of rain that falls during the week will help supplement how much you should water. Soil should remain moist with an approximate moisture level of 2.5cm to 5 cm per week depending on temperature. Avoid getting water on the leaves to help control diseases. Water in the morning if possible to allow leaves to dry if they do get wet. This will help in preventing leaf diseases. Decrease watering later in the season to encourage fruit to mature.
For larger gardens in higher altitudes. In our high altitude gardens, we start squash in raised beds topped with 10 cm of aged manure compost. This bed is covered with a low tunnel frame made from 6 mm greenhouse clear plastic. Once the squash has germinated, we lift the sides of the tunnel up during the days to allow the squash to harden off and have direct sunlight. Once the squash has 2-3 true leaves and the main garden soil is 18 C they are gently transplanted to the main garden for growing. Mulched straw is used around and on top of the plants to provide extra protection. We water transplants very well at this point to allow roots to develop and ensure they are kept from weather extremes, through the use of a row tunnel, mulch, wooden shingles etc.
For smaller gardens, the best is to plant in peat pots or large containers. These can easily be covered during the evenings or brought inside on colder nights. Plant the entire peat pot out into the garden when the soil has reached at least 15 C. Cover with mulched straw or row cover especially in the evening when frost is possible.
One of the most common mistakes people make when growing squash is attempting to plant multiple varieties without first reviewing all of their traits. When it comes to squash, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of breeding habits. Cucurbits (the scientific family to which squash belongs) produce both male and female blossoms that are most commonly pollinated by insects. In some accidental cases, even people can transport pollen from one bloom to another. Consequently, it’s easy for cucurbits to produce some unintentional hybrids.
Of course, you won’t be able to tell if these unsavory combinations have actually occurred until the following growing season, and even then you’ll have to have saved your own seed. Only the offspring of your first-generation squash will bear signs of cross-pollination. If you don’t save and plant your own seed, you may find that this problem isn’t a particularly big deal. There are several tips and tricks you can try to avoid nature-made squash combinations.
You’ve already learned that squash are members of the Cucurbita family. Within this family are several cultivars, each of which tends to cross better with a certain set of varieties. Most gardeners plant squash from the C. pepo, C. moschata, or C. maxima groups. Common squash types in these categories include:
C. pepo: Pattypan, Acorn, Straightneck, Zucchini, Gourds
C. moschata: Butternut, Crookneck, Long Island Cheese Pumpkin, Tromboncino
C. maxima: Hubbard, Buttercup, Arikara, Candy Roaster
It’s important to research the different squash groups you’ll be planting and find out which ones are safe to grow near one another. For instance, because C. pepo squash can only cross with other C. pepo squash, you’ll have no problems planting them next to C. moschata or C. maxima types. If the varieties you’re planting all belong to different groups, you’ll generally be able to grow them together with little to no worries. If, however, you’re planting more than one kind of squash from the same group, you’ll have to do a little extra work. If there are other squash, either in your garden or a garden close to yours that have squash you may find that there are problems with cross-pollination. To avoid cross-pollination between compatible types or varieties, the need to be separated by a distance of one kilometer. You can reduce this risk by both covering and hand pollination.
All of our open-pollinated squash seeds have been both covered and hand-pollinated to avoid and cross-pollination and to ensure the purest of heirloom open-pollinated seeds. Our sister farms in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta each grow varieties of squash and have a minimum of one-kilometer distance from other squash of the same category. This provides our fellow gardeners with the purest locally grown squash available.