Thursday, March 20, 2014

Growing Squash Plants from Seed

grow squash from seed
Squash are one of my favorite vegetables to grow, and start from seed. Here in Florida, they grow very well and are usually one of the first vegetables I transfer from the greenhouse to the garden, and also, one of the first to produce. 

Growing squash from seed is very easy and great for beginners. They are also a fun vegetable for kids to grow, mainly because they grow rather quickly, are fun to pick and don't require a lot of maintenance. 

Though growing squash seeds is rather easy, there are a few precautions you will need to take and we will go over those below, along with how to grow squash from seeds. 

Two Ways to Start Your Seeds: Indoors & Outdoors

You have two options when it comes to planting Squash seeds: you can plant them straight in the garden and reduce the work, or you can start them indoors near a sunny window or in a greenhouse. 

I personally, always start my seeds in my greenhouse, then transplant them out in the garden a few weeks later. I enjoy watching them sprout up in the greenhouse, caring for them and I can also help control their environment considering the Florida weather can be very unpredictable.Plus, in the event that the ants find them, or if we get a lot of rain, I don't have to worry about them rotting or washing away. And, I can start them earlier and put them out in the garden earlier since I won't have to worry about a late frost.

Either way is fine!

How to Grow Squash from Seeds

Insure a great start for your squash plants by using quality seeds. I always use Burpee or Ferry Morse seeds that I purchase from my local Wal-Mart. They are inexpensive {usually $1.50 for about 30 seeds}, and are treated to avoid bacterial and fungi rot.


squash seeds
Squash Seeds
SoSimplyStephanie.com
See the blue coating? That's the good stuff that will keep them safe! It's not harmful for your skin, but shouldn't be ingested. {Besides, I'm not sure how good squash seeds would taste?!? }

Starting Squash Seeds Indoors


Start with the Soil
The first step in starting your squash seed is to prepare the soil. Sounds pretty simple, right? Just keep in mind that you need to be sure to use a fresh, quality potting soil or compost. I typically use Miracle-Gro for all my planting/potting needs, but, feel free to use whatever you find on sale.


potting soil in seed trays
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You can use seed trays, Jiffy Cups or small pots with drainage holes for planting your seeds. I use seed trays just because I plant hundreds of veggies of plants each year for my own garden and to give away.

Using a clean seed tray or pot, fill each cell with potting soil {or a rich compost}. Then, use your finger, a popsicle stick, or something similar to create a small hole in each cell. You want the holes to be twice the size of the seed, and since squash seeds are pretty big, make your hole about 1/2 deep.

Now, pop a single seed into each hole, and then cover them with soil.


planting squash seeds
Sowing Squash Seeds
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Now, that they are planted, water thoroughly but, gently! Use a gentle sprayer on the shower or mist setting.

Place the your trays in a warm area that receives indirect light most of the day. This can be a sunny window, greenhouse, or under a nice tree that gets plenty of sun, but will also provide shade for the hottest part of the day. Squash seedlings need plenty of sun, but not bright scorching sun that will dry them out in a matter of just a few hours.

Watering Your Seeds/Seedlings
Continue to water daily {or as needed} to insure the soil is moist but not soggy. Squash don't like wet feet! They are very susceptible to a variety of fungi which, will cause them to rot and die off. Just make sure the soil is moist. If your not sure, simply wait for the top layer of soil to become dry before watering.

Emerging Seedlings
Your squash will start to emerge in 5-7 days. Sometimes sooner, sometimes a little longer. It really depends on the temperatures. I sow mine around early to mid-March here in Florida and it usually takes around a week. 95% of them will germinate with in a day or two of each other, but there are always one or two that are a little slow and come up a few days later. This is normal- remember, some of us are late bloomers. ;)

When they first start two emerge, each seedling will have two leaves that are oval shaped. These are called cotyledon, and are baby leaves. The next leaves will be the true squash leaves.


squash seedlings
Squash Seedlings
SoSimplyStephanie.com


Just be sure that if you have any cold snaps or extreme temperatures to make sure they are protected. If you have them outside in the open, simply bring them in for the night, put them in the shed or garage.

Fertilizing Squash Seedlings
This is the important part! Squash plants are heavy feeders and require plenty of fertilizer---- but, it's important to know that any seedling or young plant can easily be burned by too much fertilizer.

As soon as The first couple of times that you apply fertilizer, do so at 1/2 recommended strength. This means use half of the amount of fertilizer in the water that the package calls for. 

For example, if you are using Mircale-Gro All Purpose Fertilizer and it suggests one scoop per gallon of water, the use 1/2 scoop per gallon of water. Use the right amount of water, but only 1/2 of the amount of fertilizer. This helps to dilute it and insure that you don't burn your young seedlings.

Planting Your Squash in the Garden:
Once your seedlings have put on at least two sets of true leaves and all dangers of frost have passed, you can safely plant them in out the garden. Tiller the soil and add a rich compost or garden soil to the planting area. Dig a small hole and place two or three squash seedlings in each hole. Plant them so that the soil level from the pot is level with the soil of the garden. If you plant them too deep, the stems will rot and the seedling will die.

Water your newly planted seedlings well using a gentle shower setting on your nozzle, and continue to do so daily - or as needed- to insure the soil stays moist but not soggy.

Continue to fertilize every week or according the package directions. To help with weeding and retaining moisture in the soil, mulch your squash plants cover the ground with pine straw. This works wonders for both weeds and retaining moisture.

Within in one to two weeks you should start seeing squash blooms, which means your squash are on the way!


squash blooms
Squash Blooms
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Tah-dah! pretty simply, huh?

Here is a photo of my daddy picking his quash plants last year. He only planted 9 plants but they were HUGE! He would pick a dozen or so every day and between his 9 plants and the 10 that I planted in my garden, we had squash coming out of our ears!


squash plants
Daddy picking squash in his garden :)
SoSimplyStephanie.com

Oh, and notice that he mulched his garden rows with leaves. Just regular ol' oak leaves he raked out of the yard. As you can see, it works wonders for keeping the weeds under control. Yes, he still has to weed and pull a few here and there, but nothing like he would have had to do if he hadn't mulched.


Sowing Seeds Directly In the Garden


When sowing seeds in the garden, it is best to use the 'hill' method. When sowing the seeds into the hill, sow 2-4 seeds per hill. This will insure at least one healthy plant per hill. Keep the soil moist at all times but do not allow the soil to get soggy.
Squash seeds should sprout in 7-10 days. Once seeds have sprouted continue to water as needed to keep soil moist. Once the seeds are 2 weeks old, fertilize with an all-purpose fertilizer at ¼ recommended strength.
Once the squash plants are large enough to determine their health, reduce the number of plants per hill to 1-2 plants each. Simply plucking out the weakest plants will suffice but, it is suggested that the weak plants be cut down to the dirt to prevent disturbing the roots of the healthy plants that will remain.
Continue to water and fertilize on a regular bases. Use a fungicide and insecticide often, following the package instructions. Squash is susceptible to blight as well as other foliage fungi that can cause serious problems. Using the fungicide on regular bases will help prevent a rapid spread.

What are Your Thoughts On Growing Squash from Seed?

Do you grow squash from seeds? Have questions or need help? Leave a comment below with your thoughts, tips or questions.

3 comments:

  1. Very informative post, and good photos! Cheers, Carol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Carol! Glad you liked it! :) Now that spring is here, I will be posting many more gardening posts including tips, how-to's and ideas. Hope you enjoy!

      Delete
  2. I love squash. I usually plant 4 plants and have squash coming out my ears. I can't image how many 9 plants would produce. I start my seeds indoors under grow lights in mid to late march and plant them out in early to mid May.

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