Its about that time of year. The garden is starting to blossom, and among the sea of green and brown, you’re starting to see little shoots of color popping up everywhere. If you’ve planted summer squash, large orange/yellow flowers will be among this sea of growth. But how best should you care for your growing greens, and most importantly, should you prune them when they start growing wild? Read on, for to prune, or not to prune.
If you’ve already planted your squash, chances are you already know what sort of soil you need, but just in case you went in blind, let’s recap. Squash like moist, loamy soil, so keep them well watered. The general rule of thumb is to hand water squash if you’re getting less than an inch of rainfall a week. Some folks do this once a week to mimic rainfall, ensuring the soil is wet at least eight inches beneath the surface. Personally, as it gets boiling hot where I live, I like to water less intensely, but every day, to keep things nice and moist. Leaving too long between watering can dry them out. In terms of PH level, neutral verging on acidic works best (think 6.0-6.8 pH, for the perfectionists).
Pruning and Staking
Generally speaking, pruning squash will decrease your yield and should be avoided, but as usual, there are exceptions to this rule. If you have dead or diseased growth, of course, cut it right off, as that will only harm your plants. You may even need to trim green growth, however. Squash are rampant growers, so if you need to cut them back to avoid having your garden taken over, do it! In this case you’ll likely be trimming vines that have developing fruit. Be sure to leave at least five fruits on the vine when you do so, to keep it growing. If you can, also keep your snipping a leaf node or two ahead of that last fruit. For vines not growing fruit, clip it right at the base. Finally, it should go without saying, but never cut the main vine.
Another problem can be air circulation. If it starts to seem like your leaves are smothering each other, you squash may start to mildew and develop a fungal infection. A potential option that will not decrease your yield, is to stake your plants with 4-5-foot tomato stakes. Giving them something to climb can help spread them out as much as necessary. If you still have to go the pruning route though, it’s best to cut only inner leaves, which should be trimmed right at the base of the stem. Outer leaves should be left alone, as cutting them will more greatly interrupt photosynthesis.
So to prune, or not to prune? Unsatisfactory perhaps, but the answer is “maybe.” It all depends on your particular situation.
A humble homesteader based in an undisclosed location, Lars Drecker splits his time between tending his little slice of self-sustaining heaven, and bothering his neighbors to do his work for him. This is mainly the fault of a debilitating predilection for fishing, hunting, camping and all other things outdoors. When not engaged in any of the above activities, you can normally find him broken down on the side of the road, in some piece of junk he just “fixed-up.”