Garden Help Desk: Learn to pick summer squash in its prime | Community News

Question: My garden doesn’t look the way I want it to look, especially my summer squash. I pick the squash every weekend, but most of them are tough and bumpy, like warty. How can I fix this for next year?

Answer: This is something you can fix right now, this year. Start picking your squash more frequently.

Summer squash fruits mature very quickly. A squash that isn‘t quite ready for harvest on the day you’re out picking can reach “old age” by the time you are back in the garden harvesting again a week later.

Summer squash that is past its prime will be large and have a tough or warty skin. The color may look either bleached or darker than usual.

Try going out into the garden two or three times a week. Pick crookneck and straight neck yellow summer squash when they’re about 6-to-9-inches long and zucchini varieties at about 8-to-12-inches long, depending on the variety.

Don’t let your squash reach the size that strikes fear in the hearts of your neighbors. Pick them while they’re younger and you’ll never have trouble keeping up with the volume.

The squash will be more tender, flavorful and nutritious; if you do end up with more than you can use, your neighbors will be glad to see you instead of hiding from you. More frequent picking also will help to prolong the harvest from your plants.

Depending on the variety, crookneck and straight neck yellow squash is ready to pick when the color is a warm yellow without green undertones, and the blossom has dried. The blossom might or might not drop off the squash. Pick zucchini as soon as it reaches the ideal size for you.

Check out today’s photos for examples of squash at their best.

Question: I live in central Utah County. Is it OK to turn off my sprinklers for the season now?

Answer: It’s a little too early to stop watering. That little cold spell this week probably surprised more than a few gardeners, but we’re not done with summer just yet.

We still have plenty of warm-to-hot weather ahead. Trees and shrubs will still need a deep soak every 7-10 days. Flower beds and vegetable gardens will still need to be watered, too.

What you can do now is begin to increase the interval between waterings but continue to water deeply each time. If you’ve been watering twice a week, about once every three days, now is the time to increase the interval to once every four days for a couple of weeks, then once every five days, and so on, until you’re watering your lawn about once every seven to 10 days when it’s time to shut off your sprinkler system sometime in October.

Depending on the weather, broadleaf and needleleaf evergreen trees and shrubs will need a deep soak at least once after you’ve shut off your sprinkler system in the fall. This helps the plants and soil go into the winter well-hydrated and better able to tolerate our dry winter winds.

Question: Is it too late to plant peas for a fall harvest?

Answer: Probably. Depending on where you live in the county, there probably isn’t enough time for peas to mature and be harvested before our first hard frost.

Peas grow well in cool, fall weather, and the vines tolerate quite a bit of frost, but the pea pods themselves can be damaged. To grow a successful fall crop, you need to plant early enough in the summer for the plants to produce pods that are ready to harvest before frost.

Next year make note of the number of days to harvest for the variety of peas you want to plant. Add about 10 days to that number, and you’ll have the number you need to determine your fall-crop planting date.

Use your new number to count back on the calendar from the average first frost date for your area. The date you land on is the date you’ll use as your planting date. Mark that date on your calendar so that you don’t forget.

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