Awash in Squash

By Jim Janke | Apr 01, 2013

We hadn’t grown summer squash in over a decade. Too many nightmares of baseball-bat sized fruit and a terminal illness called zucchini bread. But for some reason we decided to try some new varieties last year that were advertised to produce smaller fruit on more compact plants.

We experimented with 2 zucchini types (‘Bush Baby’ and ‘Cube of Butter’) and 2 Patty Pan types (‘G-Star’ and ‘Sunburst’.) On April 15th I filled peat pots with seed starting mix and sowed 3 seeds in each pot indoors. Peat pots were used because when they are moved to the garden the roots aren’t disturbed as much, minimizing transplant shock. The seeds germinated in 3 to 4 days.

A few days later I cut off all but the strongest seedling in each pot with scissors. After 2 weeks they were taken outside for increasing lengths of time to harden off. Twenty five days after seeding the plants went into the ground. I made sure that the top of each peat pot was beneath the soil line; otherwise it would act like a wick to suck moisture out of the root zone. Each plant was covered with spun row cover for a week to minimize sunscald. All the plants grew quickly. ‘Cube of Butter’ produced its first edible-sized fruit by June 10th, and the others about a week later.

‘Bush Baby’ was an early casualty. Production was good and fruit were an attractive green with gray stripes, but the flavor was a bit bitter, so we pulled these plants out. The 2 Patty Pan types were firm and great for stuffing when they reached about 4 inches across. We liked ‘Sunburst’ better than ‘G-Star’ because the flesh was firmer and it produced more fruit. ‘Cube of Butter’ was amazing: copious quantities of firm fruit with flesh up to a half inch thick that was perfect for roasting on the grille.

But by the Fourth of July we were awash in squash, and had to harvest every day to keep the fruit from getting too large. We got tired of roasted squash, squash casseroles, and squash soup. The freezer got full. And we couldn’t give away the excess fast enough. So later in the month we pulled out ‘Sunburst’ and ‘G-Star’. The remaining ‘Cube of Butter’ plants produced all we could use (and give away) for the rest of the summer.

Even though these varieties were supposed to be more compact than standard types, they were still quite large, requiring about a 4 foot by 4 foot area for each plant. We liked ‘Sunburst’ and ‘Cube of Butter’ best. Next time we’ll put in 1 plant each of these 2 only. Maybe. And avoid the sleepless nights.

Jim Janke is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Haywood County. For more information call the Haywood County Extension Center at 828-456-3575. © 2013 NC State University.