By Sal Sharpe

Squash is a southern staple. Who doesn't love fried squash, squash on the grill, baked squash, squash soup? Is your mouth watering yet? Squash is actually a fairly easy crop to grow, but a nlittle work is required.


You can plant squash from the last frost until late fall. I like to plant early and then plant a second crop a little later. The most readily available squashes are crook neck, straight neck, zucchini, and scallop. Plant your seeds about ½ inch deep, 3 to a hole, and about 36 inches apart in soil that drains well. Fertilize every other week with an all-purpose fertilizer like 10-10-10. Espona makes a wonderful and affordable organic fertilizer that works great too.


Now for the two most common problems. Too many harmful squash bugs and not enough bees! Squash plants need bees to pollinate. No bees, no squash. It seems like you can't get rid of the squash bugs without killing the bees. It is possible.


Squash bugs are hard to kill, and nothing eats the nasty little bug. My guineas won't even eat them. The best thing you can do is to use a trap. You should be able to find squash bug traps at your local feed store. Set the trap up on the other side of the garden far away from your plants so the bugs won't stop and snack on your squash on their way to the trap. Also keep a look out for the squash bug eggs. They are bright orange and appear on the underside of your plant leaves. Rake them off with your finger. To check to see if you have a squash bug problem, just wet the plant. The squash bugs will come to the surface. Then you can squash them- pardon the pun. Spread a little Hi-Yield Garden Dust around the bottom of the plant on the ground for added protection. Don't put it on the plants. We don't want to kill your busy bee workers.


Now to attract the bees, plant red flowers around and near your squash plants. I love to plant red petunias. They are easy to grow, and the bees love them. You can also put up some hummingbird feeders over your plants. The bees will come to the feeders and stop by your plants too. The hummingbirds will even lend a hand at chasing out garden intruders like songbirds wanting a little nibble. That little hummingbird packs a mighty punch.


The drastic decrease in bees has brought to attention the need to work with nature, instead of against it. Bees and hummingbirds are our friends. Squash bugs, not so much. So, enjoy your squash casserole this summer and raise a glass of iced tea to your hard-working garden friends.


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