Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

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How do I grow pumpkins and squash?

Pumpkins and squash are warm season vegetables which should not be planted until the soil is warm and all danger of frost or severe chilling is past. In St. Louis this is around May 10.

Work the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches, incorporating compost or other organic matter into the soil. Add fertilizer if needed, based on a soil test. Sow seeds in hills of 3 or 4 plants about 48 inches apart or plant in rows. Allow at least four feet between plants of vining varieties, and three feet between bush and non-vining varieties. Summer squash, such as zucchini and patty pan varieties are of the bush or non-vining type.

As soon as the seeds germinate, spray or dust the young plants with the insecticide Sevin, to guard against insect damage. Apply as needed. Reduce applications if insect populations are low. Watch for squash vine borers, which can cause stems to wilt and die. If borers are detected, slice open the stem lengthwise a few inches and remove the insect. Mounding soil over the vines in selected locations along the vines will encourage rooting and can lessen damage caused by the borers.

Water plants weekly if rain-fall is lacking. Harvest summer squash types when the fruits are immature and still quite small. This is usually when the fruits are only 6-10 inches long, depending on the variety. Winter squash and pumpkins should be allowed to mature before picking. The skin should be hard and the bottom of the fruit cream to orange colored. Light frost will not damage winter squash.