The word “squash” comes from the Native American word, askutasquash, which means to eat raw, though most of today’s squash is cooked before eating.
Squash is part of the cucurbit family, which also includes cucumbers, watermelon, and pumpkins. Most varieties of squash are native to North America, with some imported from South American countries.
Types & Varieties
Squash is divided into two categories: winter and summer. Both are warm weather crops, with summer squash grown for fresh and winter squash often grown for storage over the winter.
Winter squash is often unsymmetrical or oddly shaped, have harder rinds for better storage, up to several months. Popular types of winter squash include acorn, spaghetti, butternut, buttercup, and hubbard.
Summer squash refers to squash that grows quickly and is harvested immature including zucchini (which has its own profile), yellow (straightneck and crookneck), and scallop squash. These have softer rinds and are often eaten before full seed development when the flesh is still tender.
All squash need warm weather to grow and should not be planted until the risk of frost has passed and ground temperatures are at least 60°F, preferably 70 to 90°F.
Squash is best planted from seed (transplants are very fragile) and prefer well-drained, sandy and loamy soils, rich in organic matter with a pH level of 6.0 to 6.5. Crops should be rotated on an annual basis.
Winter squash takes 80 to 120 days to mature. Two pounds of seed will yield an acre of vining winter squash. Summer squash yields fruit in 40 to 50 days, can be planted every 2 weeks for continuous production, and up to 60 days before the last frost. Four pounds of seed will yield an acre of summer squash.
All squash require adequate water and good drainage, and a barrier or platform of some sort to keep fruit off of the soil can prevent rot and pest damage.