The following details are are about Growing Squash and Cultivation Methods.
Along with corns and beans, the squash is considered to have originated in Mexico and in Central America; the consumption of squash is seen more in these places. Now-a-days the squash is cultivated all over the world and are also very popular. Some people identify them as a vegetable, but they are always considered as fruits since they contain seeds of the plant within them. The squash belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. They are scientifically named Cucurbita. The squashes are divided into two categories they are:
- Summer Squash
- Winter Squash
In these two categories, there are again many different varieties, which have different color, size, shape and many other characteristics. These are also used for feeding the livestock. These are edible and can be cooked, boiled, stir fried or sometimes consumed directly. The seeds and the blossoms are also consumed.
Characteristics of squash:
- These varieties are quick growing, but the size is small.
- The plants of summer squash are non-trailing.
- Plants of summer squash reach up to 18-30 inches of height.
- Fruits may be flattened, oblong etc.
- The fruit colours also change from white to cream, cream to yellow and yellow changes to green.
- The surfaces of these fruits are scalloped, smooth, warty and ridged.
- Squash fruits of the summer variety develop very quickly and the harvesting should be done before the seeds and rinds get hardened and the fruits should be used as soon as possible after the harvest.
- These are harvested in summer season.
- The winter varieties of squash are of the Vining type.
- The fruit size of this category is large.
- The plants are also long-seasonal.
- These fruits are found to have a wide range of sizes, colors, and shapes.
- The rinds are harder than the summer squash rinds.
- They are not the consuming variety.
- The skin of the fruit is hard, thick structured.
- The flesh is firm and takes a long time in cooking.
- They have specialty that they can be stored under unrefrigerated conditions for a month provided the place is dry and cool.
- These are harvested in autumn season.
Properties of squash:
- The energy content in Squash is 16 kcal.
- Squash has carbohydrates of 3.4 g.
- Fat content in Squash is 0.2 g.
- In this 1.2 g of Vitamin C is present.
- The squash contains these minerals; they are Magnesium, Iron, Calcium, Manganese, Potassium, Phosphorous and Zinc.
- The vitamins that are present in squash are Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Folate B9.
Cultivars/varieties of squash:
SUMMER SQUASH VARIETIES:
- Golden bush scallop
- Peter pan
- Benning green tint
- Yellow crookneck
- Golden egg
- One ball
WINTER SQUASH VARIETIES:
- Table queen
- Honey bear
- Bonbon buttercup
- Burgess buttercup
- Winter sweet
- Shokichi shire
- Discus bush buttercup
- Muscee de Provence
Soil and climate requirements for growing squash:
The soil that is most preferable and suitable for growing squash plants is well-drained sandy loam soil. The pH level of the soil should be maintained at 6.0-7.0 for growing squash. For early maturity lighter soil is most desirable. Mostly for growing squash soil must be moist and conditions must be shaded. These are cultivated throughout the world in tropical, sub-tropical and temperate climates. During the period of germination the temperature required is 13˚C and the time taken for germination is around 7-10 days. For optimum growth of summer squash plants the temperature should be between 24˚C-27˚C.
For winter squash plants the soil temperature should be around 21˚C-35˚C for germination, but in general the plant needs frosty climate for good growth. These are harvested in September or October.
Land preparation and planting of growing squash:
The soil and the land should be prepared with lots of organic matter. On the land 2-3 inches of organic matter should be spread like composed leaves, plants and farmyard manure should be applied to the land to improve the fertility of the land. Stones and weeds should be removed completely.
In hilly areas the plantation should be done 18-48 inches apart in rows 3-8 feet apart. The Vining plants need more space than the bushy plants.
In plain field the plantation should be in such a way that 1 inch deep hole should be dug and 5-6 seeds should be planted in the hole. The seeds should be lightly watered after sowing. As the seedlings grow, they should be thinned to 3-4 per hole.
For the plants a support should be set as the roots so that they are not disturbed by freeze or by disasters like floods etc.
Propagation method for growing squash:
Squash propagation happens through the seeds. The summer squash is sown at the end of February and the winter squash is sown in August. They are either directly seeded into the main fields or are sown in pots in a nursery and later transplanted to the main fields. The seeds should be sown when the soil is warm and the temperature of the soil must be 15˚C. The seeds must be sown in the soil at a depth of 1.3 -2.5 cm, but the distance between the seeds must be 120 – 150 cm for facilitating the brushy plants. The Vining plants must have 4-5 feet distance between each plant. The rows should be spaced at 1-3 m and the spacing also depends on the variety. Transplanting the seedling should be done in 3-4 weeks before the last frost. The second set will be transplanted when the first set starts leaving. The germination generally takes 5-10 days and it also depends on the temperature of the soil.
Manure and fertilization method in growing squash:
The land should be supplied with farmyard manure@ 15-20 tonnes and also the mixture of NPK should be applied to the land as 100 kg @ nitrogen, 75 kg @ Phosphorous and 50 kg @ potassium. The nitrogen, which is excessive helps in the vegetative growth and reduces the yield, but an appropriate amount of nitrogen supply can help in good fruit yield and plant development.
Irrigation methods in growing squash:
Through furrows, irrigation is supplied to the fields. The flood irrigation should never be encouraged as it leads to diseases like foliar diseases and it also affects the shape and colour of the fruit. Depending on the soil and weather conditions, irrigation should be given or supplied to the plants. Frequent irrigation is required when planted in lighter soils than in heavy soil types. The fruit yield gets decrease significantly at the time of flowering and fruiting. The percentage of the moisture which should be maintained is 60%. The total water content required by each plant in a week is 2.5 – 3.0 cm.
Flowering and pollination in squash:
The squash is pollinated by the method of cross-pollination. The crop is produced by the monoecious production form. In the pollination process the honey bees play a vital role. The minimum isolation of 500 m is required to maintain the purity in the seed genus. For the seed production the fruits are allowed to ripen completely as they make the pollination easy. The only symbol of seed maturity is that the fruit rinds get hard and tough and the fruit becomes yellow – orange.
Intercultural methods in growing squash:
Weed control: Weed control around the field also helps in deterring other pests in the field. The below measures can be used for the weed control.
- Before planting seedlings, to kill the emerging weeds we must use the pre-emergence herbicides.
- Selection of the herbicides should be in such a way that the grass which is around the crop should be killed but it shouldn’t harm the crop.
- The weeds can also be removed manually.
- Before the weed plant starts spreading, use the contact herbicides if necessary.
Mulching: Through mulching, weeds can be removed. Earthing up should be done after 2 months from planting.
Shallow cultivation: through this process, we can check whether any weeds are growing. It is another good intercultural operation which helps in safe farming.
Pest and disease control measures in growing squash:
The pests that cause harm to the plants are Pumpkin flies, Aphids, and Thrips.
- These can be controlled by applying mercaptothion @ 35-40 litres mixture per hectare. Also, we can spray the mixture of 300 grams of mercaptothion and 8 kg of sugar in 35-45 liters of water under the foliage.
- The aphid pest can be controlled by using mercaptothion 15 – 30 kg per hectare. Mevinphos, fenthion or Dimethoate can also be used for preventing aphids.
- Thrips can be prevented by spraying endosulfan or mercaptothion on both sides of the leaf or by wetting them on both sides.
The diseases occurring in squash plants are Powdery mildew, Downy mildew and Anthracnose
- These diseases can be controlled by copper oxychloride/sulphur @ of 10-30 kg per hectare. Also benomyl can be applied @ 250-500 grams per hectare; these should be applied 3 times per season.
- It can be prevented by spraying the Bravo, Cupravit or Dithane. These all should be sprayed or implemented as soon as we notice the diseases on the crops.
Harvesting techniques in growing squash:
After fruits set on the plants, maturity is attained in 4-5 days and they are harvested almost after 50 – 60 days of planting. The tenderness of the fruit can be judged by the colour which is bright green and also by the presence of pubescence. The harvesting is done almost daily or alternate days as they are fast growing crops. The tool which is used for harvesting is a sharp knife and the fruits are retained in small tubs or buckets.
Post harvesting techniques in growing squash:
In the post harvesting there are mainly 4 techniques which are implemented they are:
Cleaning: In this process, the squash should be cleaned of all the dirt which is attached to it.
Storage: The squash can also be stored in refrigerator for 4 weeks. In a large cold storage the Squash can be stored for 3-4 months. The temperature, which is maintained in cold storage is 5˚C -10˚C and the humidity percentage should be maintained at 90-95%.
Transportation: The squash should be transported in cold containers by packing them in ventilating boxes where air flow is good so that the leaves remain turgid.
Marketing: These can be marketed in local markets as well as in international markets by exporting them to other countries. In the local areas where the demand is more they would be generating good revenue and would make a profitable business.
Packing: They are packed in baskets. They are stored and also marketed immediately.
Yield in growing squash:
The main factors of good yield are variety which is cultivated, soil, climate, and crop management practices. The average yield of squash obtained in a year is 15 – 18 tonnes per hectare.