Tutorial #1 – A good spot to grow
Choosing a spot to grow squash
One of the biggest changes we’ve made this year is that we’ve decided not to grow in lawns. Growing in a lawn may seem like a good idea since it takes unproductive space and turns it into food growing space. However, growing in lawns has a couple of serious drawbacks.
Drawbacks of growing in lawns
First, sod usually has a thick mass of plant roots growing right down to the subsoil. Once that’s been removed, there is likely to be very little soil left. Most garden veggies want at least 30cm (12 in) of soil to grow in and 45cm (18 in) is better. Squash is a ‘heavy feeder’, which means it needs lots of rich soil to grow. When you think about how big a squash can get and how much plant it takes to produce those big beautiful fruits, it makes sense that it would need rich soil to grow in. Removing sod to grow squash leaves you with a spot of very poor soil with almost no topsoil.
Even if you replaced the soil that came out with the grass roots it may still not be a good place to grow squash because of a second drawback. Lawn is the preferred habitat for click beetles. They like to lay their eggs in it. Click beetle larvae are called ‘wireworms.’ Wireworms live in the soil for up to six years eating plant roots before they are ready to pupate and become adults. They like cool soil so they usually do their worst damage to young plants in the spring. The grass in your lawn is so vigorous you might never even notice. Peeling back the turf; adding fresh soil; and planting a squash seed or seedling is like offering wireworms a new and delicious food source. Once wireworms start nibbling on the squash plant’s roots, you will certainly notice. Wireworm in new beds can have a devastating impact on your crops.
Options for converting lawn to growing space
If you want to convert lawn to growing space there are some great ways to do that. Sheet mulching with cardboard can be done anytime of year but the spot has to be allowed to sit over winter. It takes time for the mulch to kill the grass and breakdown so you can plant into it. https://modernfarmer.com/2016/05/sheet-mulching/
Another option is straw bale gardening. This is quicker as the straw provides a ‘soilless’ growing medium. The bales must be properly conditioned with high nitrogen liquid fertilizer and liquid fertilizer is used throughout the growing season. There is a quick guide to straw bale gardening here: https://www.uaex.edu/yard-garden/vegetables/straw-bale-gardening.aspx
Suitable growing spaces for Squash Hunger 2021
What we’re looking for is space in existing beds either in your garden or in your landscape beds. We want to give you and your squash the best possible chance to produce an abundance of delicious food.
Finding a good spot to grow squash is a matter of thinking about what that plant wants. As I mentioned squash is a heavy feeder. It likes rich soil and good drainage. It prefers full sun (6 to 8hrs) but will be fine with a bit of shade from taller plants. With too much shade they will be less productive and the squash will be smaller. It needs lots of space for roots; 2 sq. ft. is minimum and more is better. It grows surprisingly well in compost heaps. It will even grow in coarse unfinished compost if it’s undisturbed.
The plants are big and they’ll ramble all over the ground if you let them but they can be grown vertically; trained on fences or a strong trellis. They are also prickly so they are quite deer resistant. Beware though; deer will eat anything that you water in summer drought so even squash might not be safe.
These are ideal conditions. Squash can also be grown in less than ideal conditions. In poor soil the plant will need fertilizer and side dressing with compost. In sandy soil a deep mulch will help hold the water. In heavy soil or poor drainage the squash can be grown on berm or in a raised bed.
Site evaluation & growing support
Seem too complicated? As part of our support for growers we will come and do a site evaluation. That way we’ll know what your squash will need and what kind of extra support to give them.