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!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

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