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Publication #HS-861

Summer Squash Production in Miami-Dade County, Florida1

Y. C. Li, W. Klassen, M. Lamberts and T. Olczyk2

Situation

Summer squash is a very important traditional vegetable crop in Miami-Dade County grown annually on 3,000 to 6, 000 acres, and sold nationwide during the winter in the fresh market. The production cost in 1999-2000 was approximately $13.64 per bushel or $4,093/acre for an acceptable yield of 300 42-pound bushels/acre.

Varieties

Refer to the Vegetable Production Guide for Florida (SP170) for variety selection. The major varieties currently grown in the Miami-Dade County are as follows:

Yellow crookneck type: Medallion, Sunglo, Horn of Plenty, and Dixie.

Straightneck type: Enterprise, Lemondrop L, Fortune, and Goldbar.

Zucchini type: Senator, Seneca, Cashflow, Caiman, RSQ5058, and Dividend.

Soils, Land Preparation, and Transplanting

Squash in Miami-Dade County is grown on gravelly soils, but occasionally on marl soils. Also, sandy soils in the west Kendall area are suitable for squash. Gravelly soils must be a minimum of 6 inches deep above the bedrock. Periodic rock-plowing increases soil depth. Squash can be planted on flat ground or on plastic mulched raised beds following crops of tomato, eggplant, or pepper. Squash is relatively sensitive to flooding. There is a high risk of losing the squash crop by flooding of marl soils with high water tables.

The planting season extends from September into February. When squash is planted on flat ground, rows are spaced 36 inches apart; plants within the row are spaced 10-15 inches apart. Typically squash beds are 36-40 inches wide, 6-8 inches high and spaced 6 feet between the centers of adjacent beds. Transplanted seedlings should be spaced 10-15 inches apart, and set 2-3 inches deep. Usually double rows are used.

Fertilizer

Calibrated soil tests for the calcareous soils of Miami-Dade County are not available at present. Tissue analysis is recommended to determine the composition and rates of fertilizers to be applied. Instructions for tissue sample collection, preparation, and submission are provided in Plant Tissue Information Sheet (SL-131), which is available from the Miami-Dade County Cooperative Extension Service. Information on plant tissue analysis for squash is provided in the Vegetable Production Guide for Florida (SP170). The total amount of fertilizer required in Miami-Dade County depends on the variety, soil fertility, and other environmental factors. Preplanting fertilizer formulas of 6-6-6, 6-3-6, 10-10-10, or similar formulas are satisfactory. For squash as the first crop on plastic mulch, less than one-half of the fertilizer should be applied to the beds prior to planting. Fertigation should be initiated with a 4-0-8 or similar formula 3-4 weeks after transplanting to provide the remaining fertilizer. For squash as second crop on plastic mulch, only inject N and K through fertigation. For squash on flat land, all of the phosphorus fertilizer and 30-40% of N and K should be applied at planting, and the remainder should be side-dressed in 1 or 2 applications before the vines begin to spread. Magnesium nitrate or sulfate and EDDHA-chelated iron should be applied if deficiency symptoms appear.

Irrigation and Freeze Protection

For squash on plastic mulch, a drip irrigation system with one drip irrigation tubing per bed provides adequate water, although a second is beneficial especially while the plants' root systems are small. Water requirements for young plants are very low. Irrigation frequencies of once or twice per week suffice for most plastic mulched young plants until 3-4 weeks after transplanting. A tensiometer installed at 6” depth can be used for irrigation scheduling. Optimal plant growth and yields are achieved when the soil moisture is maintained at tensiometer readings between 10 to 15 cbars. The Miami-Dade County Cooperative Extension Service provides relevant information and calibrates tensiometers.

Squash sustains chilling injury when temperatures drop about 2 °F below freezing. Because of the cost of solid set overhead sprinklers, many squash growers in Miami-Dade County do not provide freeze protection for squash.

Insect Management

Refer to the Vegetable Production Guide for Florida (SP170) for extensive information on insect control. Major insects include aphids, whiteflies, melon and pickelworm, thrips Palmi, spidermites, armyworm, and looper.

Disease Management

Refer to the Vegetable Production Guide for Florida (SP170).

Weed Management

Refer to the Vegetable Production Guide for Florida (SP170).

Harvest

The harvest season extends from October into April. Squash is hand picked.

Multiple Cropping/Rotation

Squash is often used as second crop after tomato and eggplant on plastic mulch and can rotated with bean or okra on flat ground. There is risk in rotating cucurbits with solanaceous crops because of Phytophthora blight. This disease is caused by Phytophthora capsici, which develops explosively in moist conditions and produces large numbers of infective sporangia. The disease is very damaging and difficult to control.

Footnotes

1.

This document is HS-861, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Revised: April 2006. Reviewed July 2009 and September 2013. Please visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/. This document is written specifically for growers in Miami-Dade County as a supplement to Vegetable Production Guide for Florida (SP170) (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MENU_CV:VEGPROD). We thank many colleagues, growers and representatives from seed and chemical companies and grower services for reviewing the document.

2.

Y. C. Li, professor, Tropical Research and Education Center, Homestead, FL; W. Klassen, professor emeritus, Tropical Research and Education Center, Homestead, FL., Mary Lamberts, Extension agent IV, Miami-Dade County Extension, Teresa Olczyk, Extension agent IV, Miami-Dade County Extension, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.