When summer rolls around and it's time to start preparing your vegetables for storage, there is no doubt that you'll be looking for ways to make the most of your hard work in the vegetable garden. One great way to do this is by ensuring that your summer squash seeds are well-protected. While there are certainly various means of protecting your squash seeds, from metal cages to sheds or even plastic bags, all of these methods can be somewhat time consuming. Fortunately, there are a number of alternatives that will save you precious time when trying to get those squash seeds off the ground.
For starters, let's begin with the least time consuming way of protecting your summer squash seeds - planting them directly into the ground, preferably right after the last frost. To ensure that you have strong root growth, plant seeds directly about 1 foot deep. Dry summer squash seeds can usually germinate up to the first month if they are deeply buried, but the resulting plant might not form as deeply of a root structure and therefore might not be as productive as you would hope. But if you're dead set on trying to grow a big squash crop this year, this is definitely one of the easiest ways to go about it.
For another time-consuming, but extremely effective method, simply dig a hole about the same depth as your main plant, spread out your seedlings, cover with dirt and water and allow them to grow into a nice, healthy plant. If you are using metal pots, you may need to turn the pots upside down to keep the soil in place while the plant grows. Once your seedlings reach a certain length, it's important that you prune them back to a desired length. If you want to grow more than one tomato plant, this process can make it much easier to harvest the healthy plants you've grown. Once your summer squash seeds are harvested, just turn the pruned plant upside down and pick off any extra fruits or seeds.
You could also save money by buying your summer produce at the peak of ripeness. The problem with this is that ripening takes about fifty days, meaning you'll have to wait at least fifty days before you can actually harvest your fruits or vegetables. If you buy seeds and plant them immediately, they won't mature for an additional fifty days, at which point their natural juices begin to run out and wilt away. The longer you allow your produce to ripen, the less healthy it will be. This means you'll need to buy seeds more often, increasing your costs considerably.
In addition to the problems you will encounter with harvesting your fruits and vegetables, another problem you'll run into is insects and pests. Aphids, bugs and snails love cucumbers and tomatoes, so keeping these pesky critters away from your crops is important if you want to protect your crop from early damage. Unfortunately, many gardeners and farmers don't realize how important aphids are to successful vegetable production and end up letting them destroy their crops completely.
Some common garden problems that can affect your plants include stem diseases, leaf blight, freeze damage and stem rust. All of these issues are exacerbated by moisture being present above the soil's surface. While it's good to occasionally water your plants to help them thrive, if there's no excess moisture present, there's no reason to water. Instead, use a sprinkler or a hose to water down the area where your plants are located and cover the soil with a blanket or loose material in order to provide the necessary support. Leaving the soil damp invites pests like aphids into the crop, where they feed on the fruits or vegetables until you pluck them, resulting in damaged plants and crop loss.
Aphids, beetles and caterpillars are among the most destructive insects and pests that can harm your harvest. Fortunately, many summer squash varieties are resistant to common pest attacks, making it relatively easy to avoid a complete harvest catastrophe. You can protect your crops with anti-greenhouse compounds that inhibit growth and development of pests and prevent them from hatching. These compounds are generally applied during the late winter or early spring, before the plants have had a chance to grow fully.
Plants that are selected for early planting are typically resistant to disease and insect infestations, so they will usually grow better than plants grown in drier conditions. To encourage robust growth, fertilize your garden every three weeks during the growing season and make sure to water them only when the soil is dry. Also, be sure to mulch the soil around your plants, especially after the first year. Mulching will provide protection from soil erosion and helps plants stay cool in the summer months. If you haven't already started using pesticides, do so as soon as possible, as many pests and disease-causing organisms are killed or weakened by it.