Squashes, for the most part, are native to South America. First Nations have been using them for millennia in the famous association of the three sisters. This companion planting is composed of corn that serves as a stake for beans that provide nitrogen (the fabaceae or legumes bring the nitrogen contained in the air into the soil) to corn and squash that protect the soil and promote moisture preservation.
Squashes were introduced to Europe in the early 16th century after Christopher Columbus’s travels. Because these fruit-vegetables are “unstable” (they easily give birth to different plants because they naturally hybridize with each other), they are at the root of many forms.
Squashes are good for your health because they contain phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, manganese, copper and vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B9, C and K.
They come from three major species.
This category includes zucchinis, long and more or less green, and pattypan squash, round and flat fruits, more or less large, pale green or yellow. These are summer squashes that you pick as they ripen.
The others are winter squash that you harvest just before the first frosts and which you can keep for several months. The best known (not only for making decorations, they are also eaten) are pumpkins. More or less big and orange, they have a slightly sweet flesh.
Spaghetti squashes, with pale solid yellow elongated fruits, and stripetti squashes, streaked with green, when cooked, give filaments that look like spaghetti. Tasteless, the flesh must be seasoned.
Acorn squashes are much tastier. They are round or elongated, green or orange, with deep furrows. The flesh is orange.
Delicata squashes are pale yellow, with thin green or orange streaks. Their yellow flesh has a sweet taste of fresh corn or nuts depending on the variety.
Buttercup squashes, round but flat on the top and bottom, have dark green skin with light green streaks. The orange-yellow flesh is soft and rather sweet.
Often confused with pumpkins, winter squashes are round and flat squashes at both ends. They have an orange skin that varies from dark to pale. Their flesh is fine, orange and very sweet.
Ambercups are quite similar to pumpkins, but the top is pear-shaped and the skin is dark orange. Their yellow flesh has the flavor of chestnuts.
Hubbard squash have the shape of pears. Their hard, ribbed skin is mainly gray-blue, but also dark green, orange-red. The yellowish flesh is moderately sweet.
Turban squash is probably the most spectacular squash. A rounded, flat squash, mostly orange, is surmounted by a smaller outgrowth, with variable shades of white, green, and orange. The soft, very sweet flesh, has aromas of hazelnuts.
They are mainly represented by butternut squash. These are elongated, more or less swollen at the base. The very orange flesh is tasty and moderately sweet.
These are small, very colorful squash, whose flesh is not edible. They are used for decoration.
To successfully grow your squashes, you need to combine three elements: space, very rich soil and lots of water.
Many squashes are called “runners”. They grow by developing long stalks that crawl on the ground. You must therefore reserve a lot of room for them. You can always grow them high, but you will have to find a way to support the fruits that usually become quite heavy. If you run out of space, you can grow them in pots (not too high) and let the stems run in a flowerbed, on a patio, or even on a driveway.
In order to obtain rich soil, before planting the zucchini, generously improve it with compost. If you choose to do a direct seedling in the garden or in a pot, plant three or four seeds in holes 2 cm deep. Once the plants are 10 cm tall, keep only the two most vigorous ones. If you decide to use seedlings, install your squash when the soil is warmed up, along with your tomatoes.
Add natural fertilizer (not too rich in nitrogen) one month after the first flowers to restore vigor to the plants. In pots, use a slow-release fertilizer or make two distributions.
Squashes like to have moist soil, so you need to monitor watering between planting and when the fruits are ripe. In pots, it is imperative to follow watering properly.
Squashes also need heat to grow well, but in this case, you can only submit to the weather conditions. By looking for the warmest places in your vegetable garden, you improve your chances for success.
Whether it’s for seeds, seedlings, fertilizer or soil mixture, Passion Jardins garden coaches in your area are there to help.