Squash melon and pumpkin seeds

I’ve been working in my garden lately to plant squash, melons, and pumpkins.  I love to grow all kinds of varieties – summer squash, winter squash, watermelons, muskmelons, pumpkins, etc.  Many people are unaware of how many great varieties there are and how useful squash are.

Here are a few of the varieties I’ve grown (let me know if you’d like us to add any of these to our inventory):

Summer Squash

  • Zucchini – Black beauty, Gray, Cocozelle, Round
  • Yellow squash – Straightneck, Crookneck
  • Scalloped squash – White Scallop, Green Tint

Winter Squash – Butternut, Acorn, Banana, Spaghetti, Delicata

Melons – Cantaloupe, Honey Dew, Casaba, Banana, Silver Line

Watermelons – Georgia Rattlesnake, Daisy or Yellow Shipper, Orange Flesh Tendersweet

Pumpkins – Connecticut Field, Howden, New England Sugar Pie


Growing Requirements

Squash, melons and pumpkins like loose, rich loamy soil with plenty of organic matter.  They need good drainage, so loose soil is particularly important.

Make Your Soil Amendment Mixture

Before I begin the specific steps for planting, it’s important to note that as with many gardening tasks, it’s helpful to do certain things in preparation before starting a process you will repeat.  The big picture of this entire process is that we’re amending the soil, and while you can simply add amendments as you go, I’ve found it’s much easier to pre-mix your amendments, and it gives a more consistent result.

To make a soil amendment mixture, you can use many different amendments depending on availability and the composition of your soil (informing what you need to supplement the most).

There are also many different ways to mix amendments together, but I’ve found there is no better way to mix dry components together (and even semi-wet ones) than with a garden auger like the one pictured below.  While designed for digging small holes for planting, I actually use it much more for mixing by soil blocking mix and soil amendment mixes like the ones we’re talking about here.  I recommend that you use a secondary handle with your drill if it has one, because mixing dirt can use a lot of torque and the extra handle helps you control it.

Garden auger on drill

In a 10 gallon tub, I mix about 3 gallons of well-rotted compost with 3 gallons of peat moss and about 1 gallon of sand.  Mix it together.  If the auger is below the surface of the mixture, you can use high speed on your drill, which will speed the mixing process.  Add amendments as available and needed – I use a large scoop and add a scoop or so of each of the following: feathermeal (3), rock phosphate (2), Azomite (minerals), greensand, kelp meal and garden lime.  Mix thoroughly so it attains a uniform color.  Now your soil amendment mix is ready.

Steps for Planting Squash, Melons, and Pumpkins in Hills

1. Dig a hole 6-12 inches deep and 12 inches wide and put the soil into a 5 gallon bucket.  See below for info on plant spacing.

Soil amendment for hill planting

2. Add 1-2 scoops of your soil amendment mixture.

Soil amendment for hill planting

3. Mix the amendments into the soil.  The garden auger is awesome for this, because not only does it mix in the amendments, but it breaks up the soil and makes it a nice loose consistency.

Soil amendment mixing with auger

4. Dump the bucket of amended soil back into the hole.

Soil amendment for hill planting

5. Form the soil into a mound, leaving a slight depression around the outside of the hill so that rain pools and soaks down into the loose soil beneath the plant.

Soil Amendment for Hill planting done

6. Plant 3-6 seeds in the mound, evenly spaced.  If your germination is very good, you can thin your plants to the strongest 2-3.

Squash hill planting

Image from Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Gardening and Landscaping Techniques

7. Water thoroughly to soak the soil and keep it moist by watering daily until you attain germination.  Hand watering or soil soaking with drip irrigation are best, because too much water at once can erode the hill and expose the seeds.

Plant spacing for squash, melons, and pumpkins

Growing habit is what determines spacing for planting any crop.  All of these crops have large growing habits, with summer squash being unique in that they form a bush instead of vining like winter squash, melons, and pumpkins.  Also keep in mind that placing different varieties right next to each other may result in cross pollination if the plants grow into each other.  Here are some guidelines for spacing:

  • Summer Squash – 24-36 inches
  • Winter Squash – 24-48 inches
  • Melons – 24-36 inches
  • Pumpkins – 24-48 inches


Some thoughts on growing squash

Most gardeners have limited experience growing squash, melons, and pumpkins.  Most love fresh summer squash, but end up dreading the peak of the summer squash harvest when they are overwhelmed with zucchini and trying to give it away.

Some ways of getting the most out of your squash are to use successive plantings to space out the harvest across a longer time frame and preserving the harvest through methods such as shredding/freezing or canning (including making squash soup and canning it).

For vining plants, considering placing them in an area where they will not be in the way, such as along a fenceline or in a back corner of your yard.  You can also use the “three sisters” method the American colonists learned from the native Americans where winter squash or pumpkins are planted between rows of corn, and pole beans are grown with the corn, using the corn stalks as a trellis.

Winter squash (and pumpkins) are so-named because they will keep for long periods in the proper conditions.  Many winter squash can be kept for 4-8 months in a root cellar.

Growing squash can be extremely rewarding.  There are few things better than grilling zucchini, slicing open a juicy watermelon, or enjoying a fresh pumpkin pie in the fall.

Let me know what questions or tips you have for growing squash in the comments.