How to grow squashes in your garden
1. Soil Preparation:
A sunny spot protected from strong winds is very important. The soil should be well drained and rich in humus for the best results. Fertilise the spot 1 week before sowing.
2. Sowing & Planting:
Squash are best sown directly into the plot after the last frost. Dig a hole 12 inches wide by 12 inches deep and fill it with a mixture of soil and compost, leaving a low mound at the top.
Sow 3 seeds a few inches apart into the centre of the mound at a depth of 1 inch. To hasten germination, place a small cloche over the seeds. When the first leaves have appeared on the seedlings, cull the weaker seedlings leaving only then strongest to remain.
3. Looking After the Crop:
Keep the soil around the plants moist — but do not water on the plants. Place black plastic, straw or other mulch around the plants in the early summer or when the plants begin to flower. This will increase the soil temperature. Once the fruit begin to swell, feed the plants with a good liquid fertiliser every 14 days.
4. Harvesting the Crop:
For zucca /courgettes, harvest the fruits when small — approximately 4 — 8 inches in length. Zucca are not only best utilised at these weights, but regular harvesting will encourage production. Cut the stem of each fruit with sharp clippers, taking care not to injure the plant. For Pumpkins and Winter Squash, leave them to mature completely before harvest.
Zucca, although perishable, are suitable for freezing. To freeze them , cut each fruit into 1/2 inch slices and blanch the for 2 minutes. Allow them to drain and cool before packing them into freezer bags. They will also keep in the refrigerator for around 1 week packed in poly bags. To store winter squash or pumpkins, always allow them to mature before harvesting. Store them in a cool dry room where they will keep during the winter.