Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.
News article for May 21, 2018
I have seen a number of farms harvesting fresh squash over the past few weeks. Squash not only makes a good spring crop, but it can still be planted for harvest into the summer.
A number of you have contacted me to say that your squash would not grow. It is putting on small fruit, but then the size never increases. There are several possible problems that can cause this condition.
Squash are members of the cucurbit family, which includes all of the gourds such as cucumbers, cantaloupes, watermelons and pumpkins. All cucurbits are monoecious, meaning that they have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. For pollination to occur, you must have both male and female flowers open at the same time plus a pollinator, like a honey bee, to move the male pollen to the female flower.
At the first of a growing season it is not uncommon for female flowers to open first. The female flowers are the flowers that are attached to the small fruit. Male flowers show up a week to 10 days later (they refuse to stop and ask for directions). The fruit that is not pollinated will usually just fall off. Male flowers will be the bloom on the stem with no small squash at the end of the blossom. Once you see the male flowers show up, those small fruit will be pollinated and the small squash will grow quickly.
If you think pollination may be your problem, you can check it out. Pick a male flower and hold it upside down and directly over a female flower. Thump the male flower, which will allow the pollen to fall into the female flower. Now, mark that female flower and see what happens. If that squash grows, then you know pollination is the problem.
There is a similar problem that I see annually that has a different cause. Squash vine borers can cause squash and cucumbers to stay small and not grow also. When squash vine borers are present you will see small holes in the vines near the base of the plant. The moth of the borer is attracted to cucurbit plants and will lay eggs at the base of the plants. The holes are the larvae or grubs that hatch from the eggs and then drill into the plant. The grubs consume plant juices while in the vines and rob nutrients needed for the fruit to develop.
Unfortunately, there is no good cure for squash vine borers, except prevention. In a small garden with a few plants you might be able to slit the vine and remove the grub but it is very impractical on a larger scale.
As I mentioned, squash can take the hot summer sun so you can still plant. I like to plant squash in hills. Put 4 to 5 seed in one hill and space your hills out every 36 inches, once plants come up, thin to 3 plants per hill.If you want to plant individual plants, space seed every 18 inches.
Consumers usually prefer yellow straight neck squash and recommended varieties include Goldbar, Liberator III, Enterprise, Cougar, Multipik, Patriot II, Superpik and Fortune.
For those who like yellow crocked neck squash, try Prelude, Dixie, Gentry, Goldie, Supersett, DestinyIII and Medallion
For zucchini, recommended varieties are Justice III, Independence II, Tigress, Spineless Beauty, Lynx, Senator, Gold Rush and Payroll.
Scallop or patty pan varieties would include Peter Pan and Sunburst.