Introduction: Grow Squash Vertically

About: Steward to about 20,000 trees on 40 acres.

Gardeners are sometimes reluctant to grow squash because they tend to ramble, taking far more than their fair share of space.  We have overcome the space grabber tendency by growing our Butternut squash vertically on what we call a "squash tunnel".  This approach works for us because we have a few outbuildings on our rural homestead.   Urban or suburban gardeners may be able to find an appropriate place to grow squash, melons, small pumpkins and cucumbers using this approach.

Step 1: Getting Started

Select a south facing location with a structure to the north.  We plan for our squash plants to grow about 4' from the structure. Prepare the soil for planting.  You only need about a 1' wide strip.   Set the posts at least 8" deep.  Position the wire against the posts and use 5-6" pieces of wire to secure the wire mesh to the posts.  Install another section of wire panel so it bridges from the top of the upright wire panel to the structure.  Wire to secure as needed.  Plant your seeds per the packet instructions.  We put one seed about every 6" along the length of the wire panel, a few inches in front of it.

6' long T-posts (we use 3 for a 12' fence)
Cement reinforcing mesh (either roll-type or flat panel)*
3' heavy wire

Post driver or sledge hammer (this is harder to use)
Wire cutter

* we use cattle panels or sections from an old wire corn crib

Step 2: Growth and Harvest

Squash like fertile, well drained soil with normal watering.  If your soil isn't the best you could add some compost  or balanced fertilized.  Use a low nitrogen mix so you don't have an overabundance of leaf and vine growth.  

As the plants grow and start to vine you will need to guide them to the wire panels and help them get started up.  Every week give wayward vines a little help by feeding them back through the wire mesh.  

In the late September or October, in our area, we harvest the mature squash using hand pruners to cut the stem about 2-3" from the squash.  The harvested squash are placed in a space with warm temperature and good air circulation for a period of time, usually 10 to 14 days.  Once cured the squash will last for months in the basement.  You might want to wipe them down using a cloth dampened with a 10% bleach solution.

Our vertical squash plants produced 51 squash from just 12 square feet of garden space.

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