If you’ve still got space to fill in your allotment or vegetable garden and you can offer sun and fertile, moist soil then squash could be for you! Summer squash (such as courgettes) are harvested in the summer, have soft skin and don’t store. Winter squash (such as pumpkins) are harvested in autumn, have hard skin and keep well for use over the winter months. Members of the cucurbit family, if you give squash plenty of compost or well-rotted manure before planting and keep them watered well in times of low rainfall, you’ll be rewarded with a plentiful and nutritious crop.
Winter squash need space! They should be planted about 2m apart. Courgettes need about 90cm between each plant. If you have little room to spare then think vertically – let Monty Don show you how to grow pumpkins and squash in a small space. Staying horizontal, you can try growing vigorous varieties in a spiral. As the stems grow, pin them down gently with tent pegs or ‘pins’ made of garden wire. Place a stick in the middle so you know where to water. Once they get going the leaves of squash are great at covering the ground and stopping weed seeds from germinating.
Squash have separate male and female flowers and usually pollinating insects will ensure that adequate pollination takes place. If the summer is cold and wet and there are few bees around, the flowers can be pollinated by hand. Once the fruits set and start to develop you’ll need to keep them off the ground by placing them on a tile, brick or straw to stop the possibility of rotting. You can also cut away any leaves which are shading the fruits so that they ripen more quickly. Don’t forget that squash flowers are also edible, making a tasty and interesting addition to your plates!
Butternut squash is one of the most familiar and popular squashes to grow. Easy, delicious and nutritious! It has sweet orange flesh and thin skin. Suitable for roasting, risottos – and it makes great soup!
‘Turk’s Turban’ is a very distinctive-looking winter squash with it’s very own ‘turban’ or ‘cap’. The large fruits have great flavour and they look good in the garden too. Useful for roasting, stuffing, making into soup or baking like a marrow.
‘Acorn’ squash are treated as winter squash and were prized by Native Americans because they stored well and could be cooked whole in the coals of a fire. ‘Celebration’ is an attractive, smallish acorn squash, with a marbled outer skin. It has sweet, orange flesh with a tasty, nutty flavour and is delicious baked in the oven or stuffed. A bushy squash, it performs well in the garden and has medium resistance to powdery mildew.
‘Uchiki Kuri’ squash (AKA Potimarron, Onion, Red Kuri or Japanese squash) looks a bit like a small, smooth pumpkin but is far superior! Another winter squash, each fruit weighs about 1.5kg on average. The skin is orange red and the golden flesh has a wonderful chestnut flavour with a good texture. Great to grow on a frame!
We currently have 4 kinds of courgette plants in stock – both green and yellow long and round forms. Also marrows, pumpkins and all the squash varieties listed above. All are £1.40 each or any 5 for £6.50.
(Dill’s Atlantic Giant pumpkins are £1.99 – great for MONSTER halloween lanterns! Very limited stock available.)