Probably no other vegetable comes in as many shapes, sizes, and colors as squash. Summer squash (including the ever-popular zucchini), winter squash, gourds, and pumpkins are all part of the same family. The crops may look different, but they all grow in pretty much the same way.
Squash is a warm-season annual, so wait until the air temperature reaches 70 degrees F before direct-sowing seeds in the spring. In cool-summer areas, start your seeds indoors 4 weeks before your last spring frost date; transplant seedlings after the danger of frost has passed.
All types of squash need rich, fertile soil plus adequate warmth and water to produce their best. Amend the soil with a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost or other organic matter, such as Miracle-Gro® Organic Choice® Garden Soil, before planting.
All squashes, but especially large pumpkin varieties, need a constant supply of moisture to reach their full potential. Apply 1-2 inches of water per week, and water more frequently during dry spells. Feed with a balanced plant food, such as Miracle-Gro® Shake 'n Feed® All Purpose Plant Food, at the time of planting and apply a follow-up feeding when the squash vines start spreading.
Summer squash - zucchini, crookneck, or straightneck - taste best when picked small, about 6 inches long. Use a clean, sharp knife to cut the stems about an inch above the fruit. Leave winter squashes, pumpkins, and gourds on the vine until they size up and turn the appropriate color for that variety. The rind will feel hard when you press it with your thumbnail. Harvest before a hard frost. Cut the stems 2 inches above the fruit.
Zucchini, scallopini, and other summer squashes are best eaten while they are young and tender. They don't store as well as other squashes, so try to use them within 2-3 days after picking. Cut them up raw to toss in salads, or they can be grilled, steamed, boiled, sautéeed, deep-fried, or stir-fried. They cook up especially well in vegetable mixes with tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms.