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Growing Summer Squash - 3 Common Questions and Their Answers
by Betsy Cole

Summer squash is one of the more rewarding plants to grow on your own. Summer squashes -- such as zucchini or crookneck squash -- have a very short time to maturity for a vegetable and are very forgiving of mediocre soil or conditions, which makes them an excellent choice for people new to vegetable gardening. The excellent flavor and high yield makes them a favorite among many long-time gardeners, as well.

If you're getting started with growing squash, you may have some questions. Here are a few of the most common questions about squash, and the answers.

1. When should I pick my squash?

This is a matter of taste, up to a certain point. Certain recipes call for picking summer squash when they're still only 3-4 inches long, and cooking them it the flowers still attached. Most people like to pick them around 5-10 days after they begin to form, when they are around 7-8 inches long. The one rule is never to leave them too long. If you wait to pick your squash until they've seeded, the plant will stop producing, and you will get no more squash until next season.

2. I have lots of flowers, but no squash! Why isn't my zucchini plant making zucchinis?

Squash flowers come in two varieties: male and female. The female flowers will eventually grow fruit, whereas the male flowers will not. If you are seeing several flowers which all fall off and die without making fruit, it's likely they're all male flowers. Don't worry! Your plant will probably start making female flowers soon.

3. I get little squashes on my plant, maybe 2 inches long. But they never grow any further! They just die and fall off. What's happening?

When female flowers appear on your squash plant, you can recognize them by the little squash buds at their base. Whereas male flowers grow directly from the vine, female flowers will have what looks like a baby squash between the vine and the flower. This is not, however, a squash yet. If the female flower is not fertilized, the flower will wilt and die like the male flowers, and the squash bud will get no larger.

If most or all of your female flowers are dying like this, you may need to try hand-pollinating your squash. If it is just a few, don't worry about it! It's probably the result of temporary conditions.

Reprinted with permission.

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