How do I stake summer squash or zucchini?
GOOD REASONS TO STAKE: Keeps it up off the ground, keeps the leaves growing on the lower levels, may keep the vine shorter (spending more energy on fruit production), keeps the fruit growing lower on the vine--yet up off the ground, keeps fruit from rotting against wet soil and drawing bugs.
TOOLS TO USE: This early in the year, stakes are probably cheaper--or free, if you have a straight branch lying around. 4 feet is plenty long for the stake in an 8-inch raised bed. You also need *several* ties per squash. Use a figure-8 tie with old pantyhose strips or soft stretchy fiber, like narrow green bias tape. (Save, wash with bleach, and reuse.) Trellises work if you have a low enough starting point.
They also do very well in cages, the commercial inverted cone type. Use the large size of cage. as the plant grows help work it up through the cage. This can give a very interesting look and assists with pest control as the leaves are easier to reach and it holds them up off of the ground. The large wire cones also work for eggplants and peppers, and come fall, for brussels sprouts.
SECRET OF SUCCESS #1 (STAKING IN STYLE): Plant the stake first--firmly (steady, no wiggling). Then put the plant/seed in beside the stake. (No root damage from driving in a stake!)
PLANTING PATTERNS: In Texas, small items can grow near the center of the 4 squares, because they are grateful for the shade! Elsewhere, you can stake your squashes on the edge of the beds, 2 in a 1 x 3 squares line--stakees may take up 18-24 inches in width for big zucchini leaves. You can also plant in a corner square, near the outer corner, or devote the big middle of 4 squares to a summer squash, with shade lovers down below (like heat-tolerant lettuce followed by beets or short carrots and radishes) and sun lovers along the outer 6 inches of the blocks, as shown in the following pitiful text-art drawing (planted 4/1): SSSS SSSS SHH-X-HHS SHH-Z-HHS SSSS SSSS
S = Sun lover H = Heat tolerant (planted in the squares *around* the squash and stake, giving the summer squash a few inches of room) X = stake (planted near the center of the 4 squares) Z = Zucchini or other summer squash (planted near the center of the 4 squares, right by the stake, very snug and friendly-like)
SECRET OF SUCCESS #2 (BABYSIT EARLY AND OFTEN): Check your summer squashes every other day--they want to grow *out*. You must keep coaxing them *up*.
SECRET OF SUCCESS #3 (BABYSITTING PAYOFF): You check the plants every two days, right? You will *find* your squashies before they grow into baseball bats (or pattypan UFOs.....)
PLAN AHEAD FOR FALL: Brussels sprouts do great in 1/1 (1 per square foot). So do broccoli and cabbages, but they don't need stakes--so you can plant between the staked 'sprouts, and don't bother to move the stakes.
Description by Jacque_E_TX with comments by Michael_ut