The middle of April is the ideal time to plant squash, according to Nick’s Spring Seeding Guide. Squash like warm weather and warm soil to sprout, so the middle of April can be a bit marginal around here. In my shady garden, any extra time for the winter squash is a benefit worth going for. If we have a cold snap and the seeds rot in the soil, I can always replant.
I appreciate squash that likes to go places. Vines should take off to the edges, fill in the paths, overtake their neighbors and climb the fences in joyous exuberance. You’ve got to give them space, and imagine where they will be by the end of the summer. There is a tradition of planting squash with the corn – but I find that corn planted in rows is too shady to make the squash happy. This year I plan to let my squash overrun the garlic patch and the strawberries, and if they want to compete with the corn, they can.
There are always too many things I want to plant. Ellen always wants some Zucchini, and Patty Pan summer squashes. I like the Yellow Crookneck. For the winter squash, I have my squash breeding project that needs at least three or four hills just to check out last year’s saved seed. How can I not plant seed from the delicious 25 pound Marina de Chioggia I saved last year? Then there are Butternut, Spaghetti squash, and Delicata, all favorites with fresh saved seed from last year to plant. Very soon I counted over a dozen hills. I don’t have the space for all those, but I crowd a little and give them what running room I can.
My precious compost stock diminishes rapidly as I build the hills. Each hill gets three good shovelfuls worked into the mound. The compost always generates a few squash volunteers. I plant my seeds in a regular pattern around the center stake so I have a better chance to eliminate the interlopers from the compost when they sprout. With saved seed there is no shortage, so I plant 8 to 10 seeds in each hill. Eventually they will get thinned to two or three plants. Planting early and thinning ruthlessly for only the most vigorous plants helps to ensure that the next generation of seed will produce even more vigorous and cold-hardy vines.