Will Squash Grow In Pots: How To Grow Squash In Containers

Will Squash Grow In Pots: How To Grow Squash In Containers

By: Susan Patterson, Master Gardener

When garden space is scarce, it’s good to know that a number of plants will happily thrive in containers. This is good news for apartment dwellers that may have only a small balcony or patio space. Many herbs, vegetables, flowers and even small trees are quite happy in a container as long as the size is adequate, proper drainage is provided, and they receive the care that they need. Vegetables grown in pots often require more frequent watering than plants in the ground, so close attention must be given, especially during times of extreme heat.

Will Squash Grow in Pots?

Many cultivars of cucumbers, peppers, peas, leaf crops, tomatoes and squash can be grown in pots. Contrary to what you might think, these plants will produce just as much fruit in a container as they do in the ground, as long as you pick a suitable variety and provide the care that they need.

Squash Varieties for Container Gardening

There are a number of varieties of squash that are appropriate for container gardening. Some varieties to consider include:

  • Bush Acorn
  • Black Magic Zucchini
  • Bushkin Pumpkin
  • Bush Crookneck

Planting Squash in Pots

Two important components to successful container gardening are container size and soil type. Although it may not seem like it, one squash plant will fill a 24-inch (60 cm.) pot in no time. Do not overcrowd squash plants.

A couple of things can be done to promote drainage; drill several holes in the bottom of the container and place some fine gravel covered by a piece of wire mesh in the bottom of the container. This will keep the soil from clogging up the drainage holes.

The best soil mixture is loose, well-drained and loaded with organic matter. Mix together one part each perlite, sphagnum, potting soil, peat moss and compost for a well draining and highly fertile soil.

Caring for Container Squash

  • Place your squash container in a location where it will receive at least seven hours of full daily.
  • Provide a trellis or stake for your plant to help support the weight of the fruit. Squash is quite happy to grow vertically, and this is good for the plant. Vertical growing allows light and air to circulate and often reduces pest problems.
  • Plant a few marigolds and nasturtiums with the squash to keep pests at bay.
  • Keep an eye on the moisture. Water when the soil is dry a couple inches down.
  • Provide an organic fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season.

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Growing Squash in Containers

If you’re growing squash in containers, you’ll need a deep planter box, a large (15-30 gallon) pot, or a half-barrel and a rich potting soil to have any success. Squash are thirsty plants and heavy feeders, challenging to grow organically in the limited root zone of a pot.

Choose compact bush squash varieties for the best results. ‘Bush Baby’ and ‘Raven’ are good zucchini varieties for containers. ‘Sunburst’ and ‘Starship’ are good candidates for patty-pan squash.

Fruit size, density, and yields are generally smaller for container-grown winter squash. ‘Discus Bush Buttercup’, ‘Bush Delicata’, and ‘Honey Bear’ acorn are the best varieties to try.

Squash Varieties for Containers

Choose compact bush squash varieties for the best results. ‘Bush Baby’, ‘Raven’, and 'Patio Star' are good zucchini varieties for containers. ‘Sunburst’ and ‘Peter Pan’ are good candidates for patty-pan squash.

Fruit size, density, and yields are generally smaller for container-grown winter squash, compared to those grown in the ground, but if you choose the right varieties and tweak the soil you'll get comparable results.

In general, smaller winter squash varieties perform better in containers than larger squash. Acorn squash like 'Table Queen' and 'Honey Bear' work well, as does the 'Bush Delicata'.

If you love buttercup and butternut squash, as I do, there are a few varieties that work better than others. ‘Discus Bush Buttercup’ is similar to 'Burgess' buttercup squash, but produced on a smaller, squatter vine more suitable for containers. Some of the smaller kabocha squash, like 'Shokichi Shiro' will also work.

For butternut squash, 'Burpee Butterbush' is the best variety for containers. The squash are shorter and fatter than 'Waltham 29' and other field-produced butternut squash, but the flavor is the same.

If you're growing squash in containers, you're going to need a large pot or wooden planting box. Half-barrels make great containers for growing squash, but they're very heavy and hard to move. A 30-gallon fabric Smart Pot is an excellent, light-weight alternative that gives you enough soil volume for squash.

A large soil volume makes the plants more resilient, and less likely to dry out as quickly. Squash are thirsty plants and will need daily watering to maintain fast growth and steady fruiting in containers.

I always build slow-release organic soil amendments like good compost, worm castings, alfalfa meal, feather meal, and greensand into my potting mix before I plant (see Fertilizing Container Vegetables for more information). To learn more about organic soil amendments, see the Organic Fertilizers page.

For most people, it's simpler and cheaper to use a good, balanced organic fertilizer like Dr. Earth Organic Tomato, Vegetable, and Herb Fertilizer . You can mix some into the potting soil when you plant, and top-dress with a little more 6 weeks later for a mid-season boost.

If you have access to a worm bin, add ½-gallon of fresh worm castings–including worms–to the potting mix. The worms add beneficial bacteria and fungi to the potting mix, and help convert organic soil amendments into plant-available form for your vegetables.

See Growing Vegetables in Containers for more information on vegetable container gardening.

Welcome to Homegrown/Homemade, a video series from and our sister site We’ll be following a gardener (Danielle Sherry) and a cook (Sarah Breckenridge) as they plant, maintain, harvest, store, and prepare food crops – in this case, squash plants.

Summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash, etc.) have a tender skin and are best eaten when young winter squash (butternut, acorn, etc.) develop a hard skin and will keep for many months after they are harvested. In these videos, Sarah and Danielle are planting summer squash, but the methods shown apply equally well to winter squash.

Episode 2: How to Care for Squash

Squash borers, which tunnel into the squash stems and kill them from the inside, are the biggest problem with growing squash. The best defense is to keep them from getting in, and you can do this by wrapping the young stems with a short length of panty hose. If you do notice wilting squash plants, check the stems for signs of borer entry. Squash borers can be dealt with by slitting the stem lengthwise, removing and destroying the borer, then burying the stem in soil. This squash surgery is not for the squeamish, though.

Episode 1: How to Plant Squash

Don’t plant squash seeds too early in the season. It’s best to wait until the soil warms up to about 70°F.

Squash is often planted in mounds (hills), but Danielle shows Sarah a method that makes better sense in terms of watering. Squash need a lot of water, and a plastic pot dug into the soil makes the perfect water reservoir. You plant the seeds around the edge of the pot. When you water the growing plants, you simply fill up the pot, and the plants get water at the roots, where it will do the most good.

Plant four to six seeds 1/2 inch deep and 2 to 3 inches from the pot’s edge. After a week or two, the seeds will germinate. While the plants are young, water them directly, not through the pot, and thin to the strongest two or three plants.

Episode 3: How to Pollinate Squash

Once squash establishes itself, flowers will appear, followed shortly thereafter by squash. If you notice immature squash turning brown and rotting on the vine, lack of pollination may be the problem. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: you can hand-pollinate the squash. First, determine the difference between female and male flowers. Female flowers have a bulge at the at the base of the flower male blossoms, which are more numerous than female blossoms, have no bulge. Take a male flower, pull off the petals, and use the stamen and anther, which are covered with pollen, as a brush to pollinate the female flowers. Apply the brush to the central stigma of the female flower. Fertilization occurs, and fruit will develop quickly.

Episode 4: How to Harvest Summer Squash

Summer squash can be harvested when it’s tiny, but the optimum size for oblong varieties is 8 to 12 inches long, and for round types, 4 to 8 inches in diameter. The skin of the squash should be shiny, not dull. Squash can usually be twisted off the vine, but sometimes a scissors helps. Check your squash patch frequently for ripe fruit. The more you pick, the more the plants will produce.

Episode 5: How to Preserve and Store Summer Squash

Summer squash is hard to preserve. One option is pickling, and that’s best with small squash. To freeze summer squash, grate it, spread it on a parchment-lined baking sheet to freeze, and then pack in a freezer bag. Frozen squash generally has a mushy texture, suitable for soups but not much more. The best method might be grating it and using it in zucchini bread, and in the video, Sarah shows Danielle how to prepare a chocolate-nut zucchini bread.

Cooking with Squash: Summer Squash Linguine

Grilled zucchini and steamed squash are summer staples, so why not try something a little different? With the aid of a julienne peeler, you can turn your zucchini and yellow squash into strips that look like pasta. A little browned butter and chopped nuts add a lot of flavor to this unusual sauté.

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Squash (Curcurbita)

The Spruce / K. Dave

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Squash is an easy vegetable to grow, and squash blossoms are beautiful, delicate edibles. Most squashes require a lot of space and a reasonably large container. Ideal growing conditions include lots of light, good soil, as well as consistent watering and feeding. If you are going to grow winter squash in a container, make sure the variety you choose is not one of the giant types, which can weigh more than 20 pounds and topple the containers. 'Honeybear' is an award-winning smaller variety of acorn squash, and there are even tiny pumpkins you can grow.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 10
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Rich soil, good drainage

How to Grow Squash in Containers

Growing squash in containers is a great way to make vegetable gardening easier. There are several good reasons to grow squash in containers. For example, they can be moved into frost-free areas to extend the harvest period. Containers can be placed where they are easily accessible and easy to harvest. It is also easier to check water saturation in a container than in an outdoor garden. It is simply a very convenient solution for getting home-grown squash. Below are some steps to assure successful planting and growth of squash in containers.

Step 1 - Choose and Prepare Containers

Start with a new pot at least 12 inches high and wide. Half barrels are also good for planting squash, but always make sure there is drainage at the bottom through one or more drainage holes.

If you want to use a pot that has been used before, make sure it is thoroughly cleaned with soap and water, rinsed, and sprayed with a bleach-water mixture (seven parts water to one part bleach) to sterilize it.

Check the plant growth information to see whether the specific squash type you've chosen is bush type or vining. Vining squash plants will need to be staked. You can use a tomato cage, trellis, or sticks in a teepee shape depending on where the container is placed, the shape you prefer, and what materials you have available.

Step 2 - Choose the Right Soil and Plant the Squash

Use good-quality, well-aerated, and good-draining potting soil with lots of organic matter. Fill the container 3/4 full with with the soil if you are planting a young plant, or within one to two inches of the top if you are planting seeds. If you are staking your squash, place the stakes after you fill the pot with soil and before planting. You will generally want only one plant per pot depending on the growth pattern of the squash.

For a squash plant, place the plant close to the stake and fill in the potting soil around it. Water thoroughly and slowly. Then, after the soil settles, add more to fill the container within 3/4-inch of the top, press it down around the plant to settle it, and water again.

For seeds, press five to six seeds in the center of the pot and cover with 1/2-inch of soil mix. Water thoroughly and deeply. After the seeds sprout, cut back to two plants. When the remaining plants are eight to 10 inches high, carefully pull out and transplant one of them to a new container.

Step 3 - Find the Right Location in Your Garden

Squash need eight hours of sunlight a day and it needs to be planted after the danger of frost is past so the soil can be kept warm. It also needs to be protected from wind. Find a place in your garden that meets these requirements and where the container or containers are also easy to get to for maintenance and harvesting.

Step 4 - Container Watering and Maintenance

Water often enough so that the soil in the container stays moist but not soggy. Check the plants and soil regularly so you can water them again if the dirt is beginning to dry out too much. Remember that clay pots dry out more quickly than plastic pots.

As the squash blossoms and grows, fertilize the plant weekly with a water-soluble or granular fertilizer made for vegetables.

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