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Lucas Holman: Grow some savory squash

Lucas Holman • Updated May 1, 2018 at 10:30 PM

One of my favorite fruits from the garden is summer squash. Our family enjoys it fried, baked and even pickled. There is absolutely nothing better than a bowl of pinto beans with pickled squash.  

Squash and zucchini are some of the easiest fruits to grow in the summer garden from seed or from transplants. If you are planting either transplants or seeds, be sure to wait until the danger of frost has passed, squash is very sensitive to cold soil and frost. Plants need to be at least 24 inches apart because the foliage can get quite large on these plants.  

Zucchini can one of those quick crops in the spring if you’re looking for some easy to grow fruit. Most of the time, zucchini will only take around 45 days to produce, and once they start producing, there is not stopping it. Daily picking will help capture the right size of the fruit. ‘Black Beauty’ is one of the standard dark green cultivars of zucchini that was as All American Selection (AAS) winner from 1957 and it’s still one of the best.  ‘Easy Pick Green’ and ‘Easy Pick Gold’ are two new cultivars that don’t require tools to harvest, you simply twist and the fruit comes off of the plant.  Two heirlooms that I enjoy growing are ‘Golden’ Zucchini and ‘Cocozella Di Napoli’ (pictured below), which is a striped zucchini from Italy.

Squash must be picked when the large end of the fruit is 1-2 inches in width. This will help ensure the fruit is still tender and able to be consumed. Yellow squash typically comes as straight neck, crookneck or patty pan cultivars. ‘Multipik’ and ‘Dixie’ are both excellent crooknecks that can thrive in Tennessee. ‘Zephyr’ is a straight neck with a unique color pattern because three quarters of the fruit is yellow, while the rest of the fruit is green. ‘Peter Pan’ and ‘Sunburst’ are both patty pans that help to add some unique shapes to the dinner table.

The one issue we have with summer squash in Tennessee is the dreaded squash vine borer. If you see a plant basically wilt down within a few days, the squash vine borer was probably the culprit. These little borers lay their eggs on the squash plants, then the larvae will feed through the stem, and this will result in the blocking of water flow throughout the plant. It’s easiest to prevent them in the first place, because once a borer invades the stem, it is difficult to control. Some organic control methods would be spinosad, neem and pyrethrin. These should be applied at the base of the plant as opposed to the leaves because that is where the borers are.

There will be a free vegetable gardening 101 class May 2 from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the School Exhibits Building at the Wilson County Fairgrounds presented by the Wilson County UT-TSU Extension Service. Be sure to bring your lunch. RSVP is required by calling 615-444-9584.

The University of Tennessee Extension offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability and is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. ag.tennessee.edu. If you have any questions regarding your peppers or any other horticultural matter in your garden or lawn, feel free to contact Lucas Holman, horticulture UT-TSU Extension agent in Wilson County at 615-444-9584 or [email protected]

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