Growing Squash in Florida is Not So Easy

In New England squash and zucchini were always part of my summer gardening design.  Usually a couple of plants gave me more squash than I could eat.

In Florida I have had no luck growing any type of squash.  Now I read that “summer squash” is not grown in summer here.  In fact, I am discovering that not much does grow well here in summer, except the tropical plants and citrus.

The Summer Squash Gardening Solutions page at the University of Florida has some recommendations when it comes to planting and growing squash.  My garden is very small so I’ve tried to grow squash in my fabric bags.  The plants begin fine, but eventually rot away.   The types suggested are: Black Beauty and Spineless Beauty zucchini, and Summer Crookneck and Early Prolific Straightneck.  I’ve never grown pattypan squash, but the site recommends Early White Scallop.

Another mistake I may be making is buying my seedlings (and seeds) at Home Depot.  I have not had luck growing any plants that come from that store!   Both of my caladiums have disappeared totally from the garden!  I don’t know much about growing caladiums but I guess they need attention I did not give them.

Recently I visited a local nursery called Lindleys, in New Smyrna, where I found my Staghorn fern and Fiddle leaf fig tree, and a little thyme plant, but I’m thinking they might have seedlings to plant as well.  I believe the real growing season begins in February here.  I will go back and see what they have next month.

Picking Zucchini Every Day Now!

Freeze zucchini to preserve it for later, when there is too much to use fresh.

zucchini in the garden
Growing Zucchini

Anyone who grows their own zucchini knows that once those suckers begin to appear, it’s zucchini picking every day.

When I begin my vegetable garden in June, I include two squash plants, and one is always a zucchini. Usually I have yellow squash too, but this year both plants are zucchini. Within the past few days I’ve picked two zucchini each day. My neighbor gets some, but she lives alone and won’t need all that many.

Most people know to pick their squash when it’s medium size. Any zucchini that gets overlooked, and it’s easy to do, may end up the size of a small baseball bat. I found the one pictured below, stuck under the stems of the plant last year. It was a monster!
big overgrown zucchini

Usually I just slice and boil the veggies, as it’s the easiest way to eat them. Fried zucchini is really good also. And of course there is everyone’s favorite – zucchini bread. In fact, if you search online, you’ll find a numerous variety of recipes that use the green squash as an ingredient.

Unfortunately the zucchini comes in at the time when summer gets hot. It’s the time of year when I do not want to heat up the kitchen by baking bread.

With all that squash ready to use, the only other way to keep it fresh to use for a later time, is to freeze it. This is the first time I’ve frozen my excess zucchini, but I don’t know why I haven’t done it before.

It’s so wonderful to pick fresh ingredients from the backyard, but if they are picked and then sit around for days, the vitamins deteriorate, and you might as well have bought them from the store. Preserving them fresh is most important, so pick, shred, package and freeze the zucchini as soon as you pick them.

Pick, shred, put in freezer bags (with date and label – it will keep for 8 months from what I’ve read), and store to use at a later time. Bake that bread on a cool day, or add to a batch of homemade soup. How simple is that?

The First of June, Weekend Gardening in The Heat

flowers zucchini
Flowering Zucchini

This is a picture of one of my zucchini plants from last years growing season.

This weekend I plan to get my zucchini planted along with the tomatoes and basil. The little pots are now a tight fit for my growing tomato seedlings and they are ready to spread out.  If I can get my big, fabric bag filled with good dirt, I will have extra space to plant the cukes and herbs too. Lack of sunny areas is my biggest problem.

First I need to order more dirt, which I will do today. This weekend will be hot, so I’ll have to get out early and then again later in the day. I think the black flies are dwindling – hooray! So I won’t have them to run me off.

I’m used to working outdoors in the heat. In Florida I had to parse my gardening time into 10 minute increments. I’d dig and weed until I had to go jump in the pool, then go back and do some more. I can certainly work in the New England heat.  But the trick to gardening in hot weather is to take it slow and cool off every now and then.  And drink lots of water – until 4pm – then switch to beer!
So my weekend gardening plans are to move dirt, plant and water. Then sit back and watch it grow!  I can almost taste those tomatoes.