Native Americans said “askutasquash”; the early settlers heard squash. This member of the gourd family is indigenous to the Americas. There is summer squash and winter squash with so many varieties it’s hard to keep up with them because squash agressively cross-pollinates causing an endless creation of new hybrids. Summer squash includes crookneck, pattypan, straightneck and zucchini. All come in several varieties. Zucchini is a prolific producer of sweet and tender soft skinned squash. If your friends and neighbors run and hide when they see you coming with another bag of squash, you can grate and freeze it for using during the winter to make bread, cake and muffins. My pot belly pig, Ruby, oinks with pleasure while she eats the big zucchinies I toss in her pen.

Plant beans and squash with corn. The squash vines and leaves cover the ground and keep the weeds down and protect the corn from night raiding animals. The beans climb the corn stalks and also put the nitrogen that the corn depletes back in the soil. Beans, corn and squash, called “Three Sisters” by American Indians, is a perfect protein when cooked together. Poke three to five radish seeds in each squash hill when planting. Radishes protect squash from squash bugs. Let the radishes grow with the squash plants throughout the growing season. Radish blossoms attract many beneficial insects to the gardens.

Plant summer squash through April when soil temperatures reach 85 degrees (F). Plant again during the last two weeks of August. I plant squash on hills. I dig a hole at least a foot wide and two feet deep and fill it with composted cow manure and cover it with mounded soil. I then poke five squash and five radish seeds into each hill. As the plants grow, the roots will reach down into the buried supply of nutrients and produce an abundant crop of delectable squash.

Squash needs deep irrigation (at least 24 inches) for vigorous growth. Spread four to six inches of mulch such as alfalfa hay or cedar over the soil to conserve moisture, keep the soil cool and raise the fruit off the ground. Mound dirt up around the shallow roots as the squash plant grows to help keep the roots cool and increase production. Give the squash plants a good drink of fish emulsion or liquid seaweed water every two weeks to help increase heat tolerance. Some growers scatter a handful of rabbit food made of alfalfa meal and molasses around each plant. Plant nasturtiums several weeks ahead of the squash to protect from aphid and other insect damage. Nasturtiums are one of the most powerful antibiotic plants there is, so be sure to eat several leaves and blossoms a day to protect yourself from viral, bacterial and fungal attack. Grow big pots of mint near the squash and beans for insect protection. Mint will also keep mice and squirrels out of the gardens.

Harvest summer squash frequently to encourage fruiting. I start picking tiny squash with the blossoms still attached. Squash is an excellent summertime food. Squash contains vitamins A, B and C, potassium and calcium. Squash is an exceptionally good food for hot climates. It helps cool the body, balance high blood pressure and is great for weight loss, constipation, and bladder and kidney problems.

Listen to Jo Anne Boudreau on “Herb Talk” every Thursday morning from 8 to 9 on KMQX 88.5 and KSQX and KQSX 89.1 FM radio and

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