Squashes are greedy feeders and require a deep, moist, fertile soil, so dig in plenty of well-rotted farmyard manure or garden compost in the autumn before planting. Then, a week before the young plants are planted out into their final positions, apply two good handfuls of general fertiliser and take in well.
Squashes are tender plants and will not tolerate frost. Get them off to a good start by sowing in April in individual pots, one seed per pot, filled with multi-purpose or sowing compost. Place in a heated propagator set at 18C (65F) and cover until germinated.
Uncover as they appear and reduce heat to 10-15C (50-60F). Give the plants at much light as feasible depending on type you may want to give each plant a short cane – i.e. for climbing squashes such as cucumbers and melons.
Your plants can be planted out once all frosts are over and they have been hardened off thoroughly for a week to 10 days to acclimatise them to outdoor conditions. Plant on a mound of 50:50 soil and more well-rotted manure or garden compost. Plants grow rapidly and may require regular watering during dry spells, also regular feeding using a high potash tomato feed throughout the season.
The fruit of summer squashes such as ridge cucumbers and courgettes should be ready to harvest in as little as three weeks after planting with marrows and spaghetti squash following closely behind. Winter squashes such as pumpkins. Turk’s turban and butternut squashes can be harvested in September and October and stored for many months.
Pest and Disease Watch
STEM ROT: The base of the stalk of most kinds is vulnerable to rotting so keeping this part as dry as possible and abo undamaged is vital. When tying the stems of climbing sorts not to damage the stalks take care.
POWDERY MILDEW: All squashes are vulnerable to this disease and will often suffer attacks late in the season. Plants are especially vulnerable if dry during the summer and should never be allowed to wilt. Maintain watering and remove badly affected leaves promptly and spray with a mixture of 30:70 milk to water as a preventative every 10 days before the first sign of damage.
More information about pest you can find here.
PUMPKIN DILL’S ATLANTIC GIANT: The one to use for that record breaker – but bear in mind the record stands at well over 2000.
COURGETTE ‘ONE BALL’: Distinctive round yellow fruit. Very heavy yielding, and ideal for stuffing.
MARROW ‘TABLE DAINTY’: Small fruits, that are more manageable than some of the large-fruited types.
BUTTERNUT ‘BARBARA BUTTERNUT F1’: Unusual large, striped fruit with a very small seed cavity and tasty, orange flesh.
TOP TIP: After cutting winter squashes leave them on the surface of the soil for the skins to cure for a few days before moving them under cover.