Easy Steps on How to Grow Squash in a Container
If you have limited garden space, it is comforting to know that a number of plants thrive in containers. This is good news especially for apartment dwellers where you only have a patio or balcony space. One of the plants that you can successfully grow in containers is squash.
Growing squash in containers allows you to move them to a frost-free area when necessary. You also have the flexibility where to place the containers where it may be convenient to you. And contrary to what many believed, these squash container may produce as much harvest as those planted in the ground. This is as long as you choose the right variety to plant and provide the care it needs.
Varieties of Squash for Container Gardening
There are many varieties of squash that are good for container gardening. Some of the popular varieties to consider are:
Tip: When growing these varieties in containers, it is best to start from seed directly in large containers. This way, the plant can easily adopt to its growing medium.
How to Grow Squash in Container
2 - Procedures
Step 1: Choose the right containers
Prepare containers that are at least 12 inches tall and 12 inches wide and with drainage holes. Half barrels are also perfect for container gardening but make sure to drill holes at the bottom.
Step 2: Prepare the stake
Check the growth information of the squash you are planting. Squashes can be bush-type or vining. If you are planting the vining type, you need to prepare the stake in advance. You could use a trellis, tomato cage or sticks in a teepee shape.
Step 3 - Choose the Right Soil
Squash grow best in a well-aerated and good-draining potting mix. Also, it would be best to add a handful of organic fertilizer into the mix. If you are planting seeds directly, fill the container with soil, leaving about two inches from the top. If you are transferring a young plant, fill the container with about ¾ soil. It is ideal to just grow one plant per path.
If staking is needed, put the stake before planting the seed or moving a new plant.
Step 4: Plant the squash
Plant the squash after the frost is past so that the soil stays warm. Before planting, you need to first decide if you go for seeds or young plants.
Squash plants don't like having their roots disturbed. That is why direct sowing is preferred for most varieties. As they mature quickly while requiring warm weather, the best time to grow squash is following early spring crops such as spinach and lettuce. You can directly sow any time starting in the spring to midsummer. Planting seeds in midsummer helps you avoid vine borers and other pests that are common in the earlier season.
For seeds, press about 5 seeds in the center of the pot. Cover them with ½ inch of potting mix. Water thoroughly after planting. Check the soil from time to time and be sure to keep it moist. When the seeds start to sprout and are a few inches tall, reduce to two plants and remove the others. Be sure to keep the most vigorous and healthy ones. Let the two plants grow in the same pot until they grow up to 10 inches high. You can then pull out one of the two plants and move it to another container so that there will only be one plant per container.
Alternatively, many gardeners are also successful in growing young squash. But when transplanting a young squash to the container, you need to be extra careful to avoid disturbing the roots.
For a young squash, plant it close to the stake and then fill in some potting mix around it. Water it slowly and thoroughly. Once the soil has settled, add more to fill the container until you are able to fill about ¾ to the top.
Step 5: Place the pot in the right location
Find a good location where your plant can get up to 8 hours of sunlight a day. A good location is also where the squash can be protected from strong wind.
Step 6: Regular care and maintenance
Watering. Regular maintenance is crucial to keep your squash healthy. You need to water it regularly to keep the soil moist. Plants in containers generally need more water than those plants that are in the ground.
Mulching. While squash is a sun-lover, extreme heat can also stress this plant. And when it is stressed, it production is reduced. One of the primary needs of a squash plant is a moist soil. Under extreme heat, the soil can easily dry out. To avoid this, mulching can help. Mulch regulates soil temperature. When the seeds are about two inches tall, you could start applying loose mulch of clean hay, straw or grass clippings among others. As your squash mature, you could add more mulch.
Fertilizer. To boost the growth of your plant, adding organic fertilizer would do the trick. You could apply organic fertilizer every four to six weeks.
Pests. As part of regular care and maintenance, you’ll also have to check the squash for pests. Cucumber beetles, aphids and squash bugs are just some of the most common pests you have to deal with.
You can deter cucumber beetles by covering your plant with a row cover. You may then remove it when the squash starts to form flowers to allow pollination. Aphids are easier to deal with. You’ll just have to spray the plants with water to knock them away. For squash bugs, you’ll need
Step 7: Harvest
While most varieties of squash can get too big and still be edible, you will be sacrificing on quality and prevent a subsequent harvest if you allow the fruits to get too big. That is why, according to SFGATE guide, if you are growing yellow squash, it is ideal to pick the fruits when they are about 6 inches long and not wider than 2 inches. Letting the squash mature too much will leave you getting a tough flesh that is full of seeds.
Like most vegetables, squash are tastiest and tender when they are harvested young and before their seeds have fully developed. If you are growing zucchini, pick it when it is about 4 to 6 inches long. But if you will use them for stuffed zucchini, you’ll have to let it grow up to 8 inches long. Crooknecks, on the other hand, are best harvested when they reach about 6 to 8 inches long.
3 - Tips in harvesting
When harvesting squash, cut the fruit from the vine with extra care. You can do it using garden shears or a paring knife. Don’t cut the entire stem, but instead, leave an inch above the fruit. Don’t twist or yank the plant when picking the fruit as it could damage the plant and rip the skin of the squash.
Frequent harvesting could increase your yield. This is true for most varieties of squash. When you regularly pick the fruits, the plant will produce all season long.
As opposed to what many think, it is possible to grow squash in a container. You just need to have the right materials for this project. A huge container is a big plus. The right type of soil, watering, fertilizer and sunlight all contribute to having a successful harvest.
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