Gardening Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Summer Squash: Harvest Early and Often

20160713A.JPGSummer squash such as zucchini and pattypan produce an exceptional number of fruits, enough to share with the whole neighborhood… or better yet, to give to a food bank! But you have to harvest them every 3 or 4 days to keep them producing: as soon as some fruit on the plant begin to mature, production will stop.

At any rate, if you leave summer squash on the plant too long, seeds begin to form and they loose their tender taste.

Summer squash are a total contrast to winter squash, such as pumpkins, sphaghetti squash and buttercup squash, which you let fully mature and therefore harvest it in the fall. But then you eat summer squash skin and all, while they’re still young and tender, while you grow winter squash for the thick flesh that forms over time.

The Right Size

A mix of summer squashes.

In general, you can judge the harvest readiness of a summer squash by its size. Harvest zucchinis, straight necks and crooked necks when they are about 6 to 7 inches (15-18 cm) long, at most 8 inches (20 cm), round zucchini when they are 3 to 4 inches (7-10 cm) in diameter and patty pans when they reach 2 to 3 inches (5-8 cm) in diameter.

Harvest summer squash by breaking the fruit free at its base, bending its stem and giving a slight twist, or by cutting through the stem with a knife. Do wear gloves: some squash have stems prickly enough to scratch and irritate your skin.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and harvest!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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