GROWING SUMMER SQUASH IN NORTH FLORIDA
Old timers say not to plant your warm season vegetables until after Easter in north Florida. With the weather we are experiencing now, itís easy to see the wisdom in those words.
The cold and wet weather we have had recently wonít be good for the summer squash plants out in my front-yard garden. Iíll watch them closely. If they donít get off to a good start, Iíll pull them up and replant.
Getting off to a good start is very important with squash. It seems when the plants get a slow start, they never recover. Itís especially important in north Florida because conditions here donít favor squash production. While summer squash loves warm soil and hot weather, it does not stand up well to our humid summer days. So, getting a good yield from squash is often a hit or miss proposition in north Florida.
For the best chance of success, try this:
-- Plant as early as the weather allows, if your plants donít get a good start, replant;
-- Plant in full sun if you can;
-- Fertilize your squash plants sparingly until after they begin setting fruit. Squash is very sensitive to fertilizer. Give it too much early and it will stunt the plant;
-- If you irrigate with overhead watering, do so in the early morning, before the blooms open;
-- To increase production, consider hand pollinating. I use a makeup brush to collect and transfer pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers (female flowers have a small swelling at the base of the blossom). Pollinate daily for best results;
-- Early on begin applying a fungicide to help prevent disease, I use a copper based fungicide or a biofungicide;
-- I use a Bacillus thuringiensis product to protect squash plants from worms (Thuricide or Dipel, for example). Apply in the evening about once a week and after rain. If I see damage from worms or borers, I use Sevin or Borer, Bagworm, Leafminer & Tent Caterpillar Spray by Fertilome (spinosad).
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