Squash: A Vegetable With a Surprise Inside
by: Liz Roberts
What vegetable holds a surprise?
The spaghetti squash!
it open and you’ll see a whole dish of pasta! The squash’s
interior is just like your favorite brand of noodles and can be
served in any pasta or lo mein dish. An even bigger surprise is
that the spaghetti squash is relatively easy to grow. Plant a few
for stress free gardening. Even a novice green thumb can cultivate
them and get a successful harvest.
Spaghetti squash is a winter squash (Cucurbita pepo) and belongs
in the same category as the acorn, dumpling and delicata squashes.
Winter squashes are a misnomer. They are usually harvested in the
fall and kept throughout the colder months (hence the name). Spaghetti
squash can either have yellow or orange skin and are oblong shaped.
Their sizes vary, making it perfect for any type of garden. For
smaller plots, consider growing the compact “Tivoli” it
matures in only ninety to one hundred days, perfect for gourmands
who are eager to create new dishes with it's flesh. Its’ fruits
are large however, growing ten inches in length. The Tivoli’s
skin is a rich creamy yellow. If you want a more picturesque squash,
then consider the Vegetable Spaghetti kind. This will grow long
vines that can wrap around any trellis or fence, adding to the
rustic beauty of your backyard. The Vegetable Spaghetti produces
heavy fruits weighing anywhere from two to four pounds. If you
decide on this squash, remember you also have to support the fruit
with slings made from old pantyhose. Vegetable Spaghetti is a creamy
yellow color, usually reaching its; harvest within a three month
time span. Looking for a more nutritious squash (although all of
them are chock full of vitamins)? Then try growing “Hasta
La Pasta” s which are rich in Vitamin A. They are smaller
than the other types and are a bright orange in appearance. Whatever
kind you decide on must be planted in a warm, sunny location with
well drained soil. The dirt should also be slightly acidic with
a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. Do a soil test before planting if you’re
Most squashes need a lot of room to grow. Plant your seedlings
four feet apart in rows of ten to fifteen feet apart. You have
to space the smaller varieties usually 2 feet apart with rows with
rows 4 feet apart. The vining ones, such as the Vegetable Spaghettis
have to be planted 4 feet apart. If growing vertically on trellises,
then space seeds and plants 15 to 18 inches from each other. Depending
on where you live you can plant anywhere from late May to early
August. Remember, however, that spaghetti squash can become easily
infested with diseases and pests during the early Fall season.
Planting too early or too late may also affect your plants. Cold
soil can inhibit growth and even cause seeds to rot. Wait until
the earth has been warmed and there is no danger of any frost.
You may want to cover the ground with black plastic sheeting to
warm it up faster. When planting, add a good shovel full of either
manure or compost. You can also use ½ cups of complete organic
fertilizer. Use an additional ½ cup more after your plants
begin to vine. Plant several seeds together in a group 1 to 11/2
inches deep. If you are planting seedlings, then plant three plants
per hole. Squash plants should get roughly one inch of water per
week so water on a weekly basis. Water biweekly if you’re
in a dryer climate. If you’re going to plant squash every
year, then rotate the crops to different areas of your garden.
Control weeds with shallow cultivation or using organic mulch to
Once in the developmental stages, the squashes become monoecious;
growing both male and female flowers. The female flowers will have
a large swelling just beneath their flowers. This will develop
into the fruit that will be pollinated mainly by bees (as well
as other insects). Strangely enough cross pollinating affects next
year’s harvest. You can hand pollinate for a purer crop..
Just cover the plants with paper bags to prevent any bee or other
Pollinating insects are the only helpful bugs for your squash.
There are others that you have to watch for because these could
decimate your whole plot. Be on the lookout for cucumber beetles(both
the striped and the spotted varieties),squash bugs and vine borers.
The first is your squash’s worst enemy. If there is corn
growing nearby, it will hide and lay its’ eggs in corn stubble.
Remove any nearby stalks. If your plants are suffering an infestation,
then cover them with a lightweight, floating fabric (gauze or muslin
will do the trick). Remove once the plants are ready for pollination.
Surround them with yellow sticky traps (you can buy these at your
nursery). They are effective in trapping the beetles. Squash bugs
are just as deadly. They can lay hordes of yellowish orange colored
eggs on the leaves undersides. To get rid of them, you can purchase
their enemies, tachinid flies to eat them. For a more gentler approach,
plant natural repellent plants such as radishes, nasturtiums or
marigolds as your plants' companions. The last insect , the vine
borer,is a type of caterpillar that bores into the stems of the
squash vines. Control these pests with a hot pepper/garlic repellent
spray. If that doesn’t work, then buy their natural predators,
trichogramma wasps from your local nursery or insectery. You can
also mound mulch or soil over the vines to protect them.
Harvesting your spaghetti squash occurs once it has reached its’ buttery
yellow or deep orange coloring. The vine tendril opposite the fruit
will be now positioned opposite it and will also be brown and shriveled.
Another sign of maturity is the squashes' skins hardening. Carefully
cut your squash from its’ vines, leaving two inches of stem
attached if possible. Avoid cutting and bruising fruit. Store your
squash in a cool, dry place such as your basement (temps should
be between 50 and 55 degrees. F for storage).
Spaghetti squash is a great vegetable to grow. Not only is it
easy to care for but also fun to harvest. After all , it holds
a neat surprise inside. You can’t say that for a potato!