Cucurbita pepo

Tried and Trouble-free Recommended by 2 Professionals
Common Name: summer squash
Type: Annual
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Zone: 2 to 11
Height: 1.00 to 2.50 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Annual, Vegetable
Flower: Showy
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Tolerate: Rabbit

Culture

This annual vine can easily be grown from seed. It is best grown in fertile, organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained loams in full sun. Seeds may be planted outdoors when soil temperatures have risen to at least 65 degrees F., typically about the time of last spring frost. Distance between plants varies depending on the plant variety and growing method. In general, if row planting for bush type, place 3 seeds together 2-3' apart in rows 3-6' apart. Thin later to 1 or 2 plants per hole. Vining types need to be spaced 3-4' apart in rows 8' apart. Seed can also be started indoors about 3 weeks before the last spring frost date, with young plants set out after last frost date. Seedlings are cold sensitive. Fertilize well, as plants can be heavy producers. Fruits resting on mulch, straw or boards resist rot. Plants will continue to produce until the first frost if all fruits are picked prior to maturity. Harvest summer squash when young before flesh gets woody and seeds harden. Harvest winter squash when mature but prior to first fall frost.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Squashes can be divided into two general categories: summer squash (eaten as immature fruits before seeds harden) and winter squash (eaten only after fruit has grown to maturity). Curcubia pepo is a large and diverse species that was probably first domesticated in Mexico. It primarily consists of summer squash including crookneck (var. torticollia), straightneck (var. recticollis), scallop (var. clypeata), vegetable marrow (var. fastigata), cocozzelle (var. inoga) and zucchini (var. cylindrica), but also contains several notable winter squashes including pumpkin (var. pepo) and acorn (var. turbinata). Summer squashes mature rapidly and can be harvested in as little as 50 days, while winter squashes can take over 120 to fully ripen. These squashes primarily come in vine or bush form, are usually prickly, and usually have conspicuously-lobed leaves. All varieties need ample room.

Genus name comes from the Latin name for a gourd.

Problems

Cucumber beetles carrying bacterial wilt, squash vine borers and squash bugs are the most common insect pests. Squash borers (caterpillars) tunnel into stems, causing that portion of the vine to wilt. Look for entry holes with droppings outside, make a vertical slit in the problem stem, and remove the caterpillar. Squash bugs can be removed by hand or by placing boards near the plants at night (bugs hide under the boards and can be destroyed the next morning). Additional potential insect pests include aphids, cutworms, pickleworm, leaf miners, white flies, squash bugs, and stink bugs. Watch for mites. Potential disease problems include bacterial wilt, fusarium wilt, blossom end rot, downy mildew and powdery mildew. Watermelon and cucumber mosaic virus may appear.

Garden Uses

Summer squashes can be eaten raw in salads or stir-fried, batter fried, steamed, or cooked in a variety of additional ways including such things as zucchini breads. Summer squash blossoms are excellent in soups and stews, sauteed, stuffed, or dipped in batter and fried.