Most of our winter squash varieties will naturally climb, and growing them up a trellis, fence or other support is a great option if you don’t have the space to let them sprawl on the ground.
Here are some pointers:
- Put the support at the back of your plot – once the squashes are growing you don’t want them to block the sunlight from other crops.
- Make sure the trellis/fence/support is strong – they will have a heavy weight to bear once the fruits come in, so be sure to choose a strong, steady support that won’t wobble around.
- Plants may need training at first – loosely tie the stems of the squash plants to the support to begin with. Soon they will naturally find their way.
- Give plants the same planting distance – they will still need space for their roots, but the benefit is that you open up the soil in front of them and you can happily plant other veggies with them (try quick growing lettuces in between them as well)
- Feed & water more regularly – if they were sprawling on the ground the plants would put down extra roots and access water that way, but grown vertically they can’t do that, so will need a little help from you.
- Pinch off tips as they reach the top of the support – This isn’t always necessary, and you’ll be able to judge as your squash grow. But if they are getting much taller than you would like, simply cut off the stem at the highest point.
- Do I need to make a ‘hammock’ for the squashes? – We often see this advice, that idea being that the heavy squash will break off their stalk and fall to the ground. In practice, we have never experienced this. It may be that you choose to support larger varieties, like Hundredweight and Queensland Blue, but certainly for smaller varieties like Uchiki Kuri and Butternut you shouldn’t need to.
- You may find the plants do better grown vertically – we have had some reports that gardeners growing their squash vertically experience fewer problems with powdery mildew and other fungal diseases. Worth a try if your plot is particularly prone to these problems!
- Plant up the soil in front of them – this is the major benefit of growing squash vertically. You can use any exposed soil in front of them to plant other crops – lettuces, carrots, beets etc
- You will need to choose a trailing variety as opposed to a bush variety – Within our collection, avoid these bush varieties (and assume everything else is trailing!) Green Bush Courgette, Atena Polka Yellow Courgette, Custard White Summer Squash, Cornells Bush Delicata Squash, Tondo Chiara Courgette