We are starting the planting phase of Squash Hunger 2021.
Here are a few pictures and tips on handling and planting your squash starts. You can see in this first picture that the true leaf is starting to yellow. Squash are heavy feeders. They grow quickly and need rich soil and root room. Be very careful when buying squash seedlings. They can easily outgrow their pots and may be root bound. If the colour is poor or the leaves are not in good condition you may want to look elsewhere for your starts. Always check the condition of the roots before you buy.
The first true leaf on this one is turning yellow. The plant has run out of nutrient from the seed and there isn’t enough nitrogen in the starter mix to support it. The seed leaves are in still good condition. If it was too early to plant I could give it a dose of liquid organic fertilizer but checking the root shows that they are just starting to circle in the corner of the pot. Adding fertilizer would give it the nutrient it needs but the roots would grow more too and it would start to get root bound. This squash needs to go into the ground!
You will want to soak the plants before you set them out. You want the root ball to be quite moist so the plant has minimal transplant shock. You may not be able to see it in this picture but I’ve got these plants sitting in a tray of water while I prep the bed. Watering from the bottom encourages the roots to grow down to the water and reduces the tendency for nutrient to wash away when the plants are in pots.
I want the soil I’m planting into to be nice and loose so the roots can spread out easily. Since I practice no-dig that shouldn’t be a problem. I simply rake away the mulch, loosen a wide circle of soil with my garden knife, and make my hole. I want the plant to end up at the same ground level as it was in the pot so I’m not digging deep.
If you aren’t sure your soil is rich enough add half a bag of composted steer manure or mushroom compost for each plant.
If your starts are ‘leggy’ because they’ve been stretching for the light you can’t fix it by burying them deeper. Squash rambles all over the ground so if they’ve only stretched a bit they may be alright.
I’ve gently loosened those circling roots, snugged up the soil around the plant, watered it in to settle the soil around it and make sure there are no air pockets. Now I simply draw up the mulch around it; making sure it doesn’t rest against the wee plant. Done!
I’ll be watching the leaf colour for the next week or so if it stays yellow I’ll top dress with more compost or water with a liquid organic fertilizer.