In a couple days I hope to be picking some of our first squash from the garden. Squash is one of those prolific plants that will produce for long periods of time as long as you do the right thing to it help it along. It likes to be picked on repeatedly. In fact squash peters out when the fruits are allowed to grow on the plant without picking. It’s best picked when it is 4-6 inches long – definitely don’t let it grow to monstrous proportions! Even if you can’t use the squash right away it’s best to picked anyway just to keep your plant producing. Throwing a squash away (I would hate to do this!) is better than letting the plant go since it will completely shut down production.
Other things to worry about are squash bugs and squash vine borers. The squash bugs can be prevented by watching for tiny little clusters of eggs on the leaves then smushing them with your thumb. (There we go again committing thumbicide! Gardening sure does evoke the violent tendencies within us all.) The borers are a bit more difficult to contend with as they drill into the plants and cut off the vascular system between the roots and the rest of the plant. If you see a sawdust like substance by the stalk of your plant you probably have borers. You can avoid their damage some by doing sequential plantings or using row covers. After they have infested the squash you can try to cut them out or possibly bury other parts of the stem to propagate new roots but this just suspends the ineveitable.
Squash flowers are male and female and are pollinated by the bees. The female flowers are easy to see because what looks like small squashes are just below the flowers. This is why bees are so important. Without them we would have to buzz around our own squash plants pollinating as we go just to get squash for our dinner tables. Sounds like a lot of unnessary work to me, I’d rather keep the bees!
Squash flowers are edible and are frequently eaten in a fried form. You can fry just about anything can’t you?