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Summer Squash

Searcy, Ark. –

Summer squash (also known as vegetable or Italian marrow) is a tender, warm season vegetable. It is grown throughout Arkansas during the frost-free season. Summer squash differs from winter squash because it is harvested before the rind hardens and the fruit matures. It grows on bush type plants that do not spread like the plants of winter squash and pumpkin. A few plants will produce abundant yields.

Summer squash grows on non-vining bushes. Many varieties have different fruit shapes and colors. The three main types include the yellow (straight neck or crook neck), the white (saucer shaped, scallop or pattypan) and the oblong (green, gray or gold zucchini).

Warm soil is necessary for germination of seed and proper growth of plants. Plant seed directly in the garden after the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed above 62 degrees F in the spring. This is generally after April 1 in southern Arkansas, April 1015 in central Arkansas and April 2130 in northern Arkansas and at higher elevations. With ample soil moisture, summer squash thrives in warm summer weather. A second planting for fall harvest may be made in mid-July to mid-August. For single plant production, sow two to three seeds 24 inches apart or three to four seeds in hills 48 inches apart. Cover 1 inch deep. When the plants are 2 to 3 inches high, thin to one vigorous plant or no more than two plants per hill. Any well-drained garden soil produces excellent yields of summer squash. Squash plants are shallow-rooted and require ample soil moisture at all stages of growth. For best yields, incorporate compost or well-rotted manure before planting. Fertilize the garden by broadcasting 2 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet of garden and incorporate into the soil. If transplants are used, apply a transplant fertilizer starter at the time of planting. Mix one tablespoon of a soluble fertilizer high in phosphorus (i.e., 10-20-10) into a gallon of water, and apply one cup of solution per plant.

To get the best quality summer squash, harvest when small and tender. Pick most elongated varieties when less than 2 inches in diameter or 6 to 8 inches long. Harvest pattypan types when 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Do not allow summer squash to become large, hard and seedy. Remove oversized squash and discard to maintain the yield potential of the plants. Squash grows rapidly and is usually ready to pick within two to four days after flowering.



Spotted and striped cucumber beetles attack seedlings soon after emergence from the soil. In certain years, they may attack squash in large numbers and stunt or kill small plants. Overwintering beetles carry bacterial wilt disease and spread it to plants when they feed. Control cucumber beetles by applying a suggested insecticide.  Squash bugs can be a problem on older plants. They can cause considerable damage to foliage and may even strip the plant of leaves. These insects are easy to control when in the nymph stage. As they reach the adult stage, squash bugs are nearly impossible to control. Squash vine borers are clear-winged moths that lay eggs near the base of squash vines. When the larvae enter a stem, little can be done. Chemical control is possible only if an insecticide is present when young larvae hatch from the egg prior to entering the plant. Watch for buildup of colonies of aphids on the underside of the leaves. Use a suggested insecticide if colonies appear. 


Do not handle, harvest, or work in the leaves and vines when they are wet to avoid spreading diseases. Powdery mildew is a fungus that attacks the foliage during cool, damp periods. It is commonly seen in the fall. The surface of the leaf takes on a dusty grey color. Use a suggested fungicide to control this disease. Leaf spots such as anthracnose and septoria will quickly defoliate a plant. These diseases are caused by a fungus and are controlled by making foliar applications of a suggested fungicide.

Belly rot is a soilborne fungal disease that attacks the developing fruit. Use mulches to prevent fruit contact with the soil. Blossom blight is a fungal disease that attacks flowers and young fruit. It appears during periods of rainy, humid weather and disappears when the weather dries. Allowing enough space around the plants for good air circulation will limit this disease.  Bacterial wilt spread by cucumber beetles is devastating. Plants are infected with bacterial wilt disease by the natural attack of cucumber beetles. The disease organism overwinters in the beetles from one year to the next. The beetles hibernate among the plant debris and weeds around the garden. Plants are usually infected with the disease-causing bacteria long before they show any symptoms. When the vines wilt and collapse, it is too late to prevent the disease. A number of mosaic virus diseases of squash are spread by leafhoppers. These diseases include CMV (cucumber mosaic virus), ZYMV (zucchini yellows mosaic virus), WMV2 (watermelon mosaic virus race 2) and PRSV (papaya ringspot virus). Leaves will be mottled in appearance, and distorted or twisted growth is common. The symptoms on yellow fruit are the formation of green spots and warts on the fruit; on zucchini, yellow spots are formed with warts. Plants are stunted and fruit yield is severely reduced. Plant virus resistant cultivars when possible.

By Sherri Sanders
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Sherri Sanders
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
2400 Old Searcy Landing Road Searcy AR 72143
(501) 268-5394


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