If you planted squash in your garden this year, you may not have any fruit on the plants just yet. In that case, you may be wondering when your squash plants will produce fruit, and if there is anything you should do to help them along.
So, when does a squash plant produce fruit? A summer squash plant produces fruit in the summer, 40 to 60 days after planting and 3 to 7 days after a flower is pollinated. A winter squash plant produces fruit in the fall, 80 to 120 days after planting and 60 to 90 days after a flower is pollinated. Squash plants will continue to grow until they are killed by cold and frost.
Of course, depending on the variety of squash plant you choose, it may take a longer time for your plant to begin producing fruit. Other factors such as improper pruning, over fertilization, and environmental conditions can all delay the growth of fruit on your squash plant. Let’s take a closer look at squash plants, when they bear fruit, and the factors that can affect your harvest.
When Do Squash Plants Produce Fruit?
Depending on the variety, a summer squash plant can produce fruit 40 to 60 days after planting. Fruit will usually appear 3 to 7 days after a flower is pollinated.
A winter squash plant can produce fruit 80 to 120 days after planting. Fruit will usually appear 60 to 90 days after a flower is pollinated.
You should harvest a summer squash when it is 6 to 8 inches long, with a diameter of 2 inches or less. For a scallop (Patty Pan) squash, you should harvest when the diameter is 3 to 4 inches. If you wait any longer, the skin will become tough and the flesh will become bitter.
For more information on summer squash, check out this article on squash from the University of Illinois Extension.
Remember that transplanted squash plants often get damaged. If you do decide to transplant, be very careful not to disturb or damage the root system.
A better option is to sow squash from seed directly into your garden. You should wait until the soil temperature is 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 21 degrees Celsius) before planting.
You should also wait until the last danger of frost has passed in your area. To look up frost dates in your area, check out this frost date calculator from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Plant your seeds to a depth of about a half of an inch. Your seeds should germinate in 7 to 10 days if the soil is warm and moist enough.
For more information, check out my article on how long squash seeds take to germinate, and how to speed it up.
After germination, you should thin the plants so that they are 8 to 12 inches apart. For more information, check out this article on growing squash from the University of Minnesota Extension.
How Much Fruit Does A Squash Plant Produce?
Squash plants are known to be very generous producers of fruit. A single plant should produce at least 6 to 12 squash in a season. Some people report harvests of up to 40 squash on a single plant!
Of course, the harvest will depend on the variety of squash you choose to sow and the quality of care you give your plants.
The fruit on a summer squash plant is yellow or green with white flesh. The fruit on winter squash is tan with orange flesh.
Once the fruit is mature, be sure to harvest and use immediately. If any fruit gets too ripe, pull it off so the plant can use its energy to produce new fruit.
Do Squash Plants Die After Harvest?
Most squash plants do not die after fruiting. Instead, they can survive until cold and frost in the fall kill them off.
According to Michigan State University, “Summer squash plants produce fruit until they are killed by frost, but production drops after about 4 weeks. Fruit develop rapidly and fields should be harvested every 2 or 3 days. Remove all fruit of usable size at each harvest. Fruit left on the plant will reduce the subsequent set of other fruit.”
For more information, check out this article on growing squash from the University of Michigan Extension.
What Kind Of Squash Plant Should I Get?
There are both summer and winter varieties of squash to consider. In addition, you can choose squash plants that have a shorter height and smaller width. This is ideal if you want to grow them in containers, either indoors or outdoors.
Before choosing squash plants, you should also consider the length of your growing season and the time to maturity for the squash plants you choose. Remember that winter squash take much longer to mature than summer squash.
Here are some squash varieties from Burpee that you can try – the first three are summer squash, and the last three are winter squash.
- Burpee’s Best Hybrid Squash – this squash plant produces green fruit (7-8 inches long) that matures in 40 days. This variety grows to a height of 28 to 30 inches. For more information, check out the Burpee’s Best Hybrid Squash on the Burpee website.
- Saffron Summer Squash – this squash plant produces yellow fruit (7-8 inches long) that matures in 50 to 55 days. This variety grows to a height of 24 to 30 inches. For more information, check out the Saffron Summer Squash on the Burpee website.
- Golden Egg Hybrid Summer Squash – this squash plant produces golden yellow fruit (4 inches long) that matures in 41 days. This variety grows to a height of 26 inches. For more information, check out the Golden Egg Hybrid Summer Squash on the Burpee website.
- Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato Squash – this squash plant produces tan fruit (7 to 8 inches long) that matures in 85 to 90 days. This variety grows to a height of 10 to 12 inches. For more information, check out the Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato Squash on the Burpee website.
- Waltham Butternut Winter Squash – this squash plant produces tan fruit (12 to 15 inches long) that matures in 85 days. This variety grows to a height of 10 to 12 inches. For more information, check out the Waltham Butternut Winter Squash on the Burpee website.
- Vegetable Spaghetti Winter Squash – this squash plant produces yellow fruit (15 to 18 inches long) that matures in 100 days. This variety grows to a height of 10 to 12 inches. For more information, check out the Vegetable Spaghetti Winter Squash on the Burpee website.
Do You Need Two Squash Plants To Produce Fruit?
No, you do not need two squash plants to produce fruit. However, having more squash plants increases the chances of pollination. This is important if your garden is lacking bees due to chemical or pesticide use by nearby businesses, farms, or neighbors.
A squash plant is monoecious, meaning that it has separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Often, the male flowers will show up on the plant a week or two before the female flowers.
Eventually, the male flowers will drop off the plant – if this happens, don’t be alarmed! Your plant should continue producing male flowers, along with female flowers, unless temperatures are too cold.
If you don’t have any bees, you can pluck off a male flower from the plant and use it to pollinate female flowers. For more information, check out this article on squash pollination from the Iowa State University Extension.
What Other Factors Can Affect Fruit On Squash Plants?
The quality of care that you give your squash plants will help to determine how much fruit you get each year. Some of the most important factors are temperature, watering, fertilizing, and pruning.
Early fall frosts or late spring frosts can spell death for both young and mature squash plants. Soil temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius) early in the season may delay germination of squash seeds.
If you already planted squash seeds outside and a frost is threatening your plants, check out my article on how to protect plants from cold and frost.
Avoid letting the soil stay dry for too long. If you find that you have a problem with dry soil, check out my article on how to treat dry soil.
On the other hand, over watering your squash plants can lead to root rot and eventual death. Since squash vines grow along the ground, moist soil also poses the threat of rotten vines and leaves, along with disease from the soil.
The best way to decide when to water is to feel the soil with your fingers. If the soil feels dry 2 or 3 inches below the surface, then go ahead and water.
For more information, check out my article on over watering your plants.
Try to water early in the morning, rather than at night, to allow water to soak into the soil. Avoid getting the leaves wet to prevent rot, mold, and diseases.
Before you sow squash seeds in your garden, add some compost to your soil. It will provide organic material and nutrients for your plants as they grow. The best part is that you can make compost yourself from ordinary yard and kitchen waste!
For more information, check out my article on how to make compost.
It may be necessary to use fertilizers as a supplement to compost, in order to provide extra nutrients if your soil is lacking. The best way to tell if you need fertilizer is with a soil test.
For more information, check out my article on soil testing.
Finally, remember that it is possible to harm or kill your squash plants by over fertilizing them. For example, too much nitrogen can prevent your squash plant from producing any fruit.
Some gardeners choose to pull off some of the flowers on a squash plant. This allows the plant to conserve energy so it can spread out its production of fruit over a longer time period.
If you are growing squash indoors, pruning can help to keep the plant manageable and within the confines of its container.
By now, you have a much better idea of when your squash plant will produce fruit. You also know a bit more about how to take care of squash plants and how to avoid the problems that can affect your harvest.
I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information. If you have any questions or advice about squash plants, please leave a comment below.