Nothing beats using fresh squash from your garden. However, growing squash can be tasking, especially if you don’t have a large garden. The good news is you can cage your squash and take up less space in your garden—but should all squash be caged?
Not all squash should be caged. Heavy varieties like pumpkins, Hubbards, and Calabazas cannot be caged. Such squash types are better left to crawl into the garden to support their growth. However, lighter varieties such as courgettes and zucchini do well in cages.
Read on to understand more about caging your squash, the benefits of squash caging, and the different caging options.
Summer Squash vs. Winter Squash
Whether or not to cage squash depends on the specific variety you’re growing. Squash is generally categorized into two classes:
- Summer squash
- Winter squash
Let’s take a closer look at these squash varieties and whether they should be caged.
You Can Cage Summer Squash Fruits Because They’re Not Heavy
Summer squash includes fruits that are harvested young when they’re still tender. Some of the varieties include:
- Zucchini or courgette
- Pattypan or scallop
- Yellow crookneck
- Yellow straight neck squash
These fruits are perishable and are consumed as fast as they’re harvested.
Summer squash plants mostly grow in bushes. The fruits start growing on the stem and continue growing until they mature.
Summer squash fruits are not heavy and can grow well in tomato cages in the garden. Their stems also grow a little taller as the fruit mature, making them perfect for growing in cages.
Lifting summer squash plants off the ground with cages allows the fruit to grow downwards, with enough room for full maturity. It also gives you more room to grow more squash or other vegetables in your garden.
If you’re limited on space or would like to grow more vegetable and fruit varieties in your garden, summer squash is the ideal variety to grow.
You Can’t Cage Winter Squash Fruits Because They’re Heavy
No, winter squash is not grown in the winter. The fruits in this class are grown in the summer and stored to be used in the winter.
The main difference between summer and winter squash varieties is the type of fruit and their growth patterns.
Winter squash fruits have a longer shelf life, and you can store them in your pantry to use in the winter. They’re also heavy compared to summer squash fruits.
The weight of these fruits can’t allow them to grow in a vertical position. If you grow these in a cage, they’ll most likely fall off before they’re fully matured.
Winter squash fruits have short stems and long weak vines. The stems and vines can’t support an upward growth pattern while supported by a cage.
Winter squash includes varieties such as:
- Spaghetti squash
If you have enough space in your garden or prefer squash varieties that will last you till the end of winter, winter squash is your ideal choice. However, keep the tomato cage idea out of your garden, at least until the fruits are mature and ready to be harvested.
Benefits of Caging Your Squash
While most squash varieties naturally grow on the ground, the benefits of caging them outweigh letting them grow naturally. Well, unless you have enough space in your garden.
Here are some of the benefits of caging your squash:
- More space: Did you know that a squash vine can spread up to 15 inches (38.1 cm)? Growing your squash vertically in a cage saves you space. You can use the extra space to grow more squash or other vegetables.
- More air movement in the garden: Lifting your squash from the ground and growing it vertically in a cage encourages better air circulation around your plants. You’ll have a healthier harvest at the end of the season.
- Less rotting: Growing your squash on the ground exposes it to soil and dampness that causes it to rot. However, growing your vinyl vegetables vertically on cages lifts them from the ground and reduces their chances of rotting.
- Better harvesting experience: When your squash is ready, you need to harvest it before it becomes rodent food. By growing your squash vertically, you can spot the fruit easily when harvesting instead of fishing for the fruit on sprawled vines on the ground.
- Better lighting for your fruit: Squash thrives in the sunshine. However, if the plants are sprawled on the ground, they don’t get enough sunshine. Growing your squash in cages allows the plants better exposure to sunlight, resulting in a better harvest.
- Fewer pests and rodent attacks: Your garden’s soil is a breeding ground for pests, and sprawled squash presents a great cover for rodents. However, by raising your squash away from the ground, you’ll discourage pests and rodents from eating your vegetables.
- Cleaner fruit: Before harvesting, you know how dirty the fruit is if you’ve grown squash on the ground. While a dirty fruit can be seen as an expected outcome in gardening, you can harvest cleaner fruit by raising your squash off the ground with cages.
- Better movement in the garden: It can get hard to maneuver through the sprawling plants on the ground when tending to your squash vegetables. However, growing your squash vertically on cages leaves enough space on the ground to move around the garden.
- More beautiful and organized garden: Raising your squash with cages will give your garden a better look, with more space for lighting and movement around it.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Caging Squash
If you’d like to try caging your squash and have no idea how to go about it, here’s a detailed guide for you:
- Plant your squash seed on the seedbed for transplanting later, or sow your seeds on soil molds each. Before caging your squash plants, ensure that they’ve sprouted from the ground and grow the vines.
- Buy the cages or build some from scratch. Depending on your preferences, you can scout the market for the different available options of tomato cages to use on your squash. Alternatively, you can make some plastic or metal cages at home if you’re more of a DIY farmer.
- Place the cages around your squash plants. Push the cages down in the soil until the soil touches the first ring. If your tomato cage is not steady, you can support it with rebar, or you can tie it to a stake.
- Mulch your plants. Place organic mulch around the foot of your plant to give it nutrients, and keep the soil underneath moisturized. Keep the mulch a few inches away from the stem of your plant.
- Guide your squash plants up the cage. Squash plants grow horizontally, so you need to guide them to grow vertically.
How To Guide Your Squash on Tomato Cages
Squashes naturally grow horizontally, so you have to work to grow vertically. Here’s what you need to do:
- Tuck the vines around the trellis or cage mesh gently.
- Weave the vines loosely and carefully. The tendrils will take over the role of climbing up the cage.
- Use jute twine to wrap the vines loosely on the cage frames. Use more twines as the vine grows until you have enough coverage.
- Keep checking the vines and tuck them again whenever necessary—do this during the hottest summer days.
What Are the Different Cage Options for Squash?
There are different cage options to choose from for growing your squash vertically.
The different cage options for squash include:
- A-Frame Trellis
Pergolas are generally more difficult to design and build than arbors, whereas A-frame trellis is typically cheaper than arbors and pergolas. Be sure to choose the right option to suit your needs.
Arbors Are Made of Wood
Arbors are wooden benches with roofs you can use in your garden for growing your squash vertically. They don’t have to be very tall. You can make them to your ideal height, enough to let your squash grow away from the ground.
You could easily confuse arbors with pergolas.
Pergolas Are the More Complex Versions of the Arbors
Pergolas have the same structure as arbors, but they’re more complex to design and construct. If you have space in your garden, they’re a worthy investment. With your squash plants growing on the walls and roof of the pergolas, you’ll create a beautiful illusion for your garden.
An A-Frame Trellis Is Mobile and Affordable
A-frame trellis is a cheaper option to help your squash plants grow vertically. The frames offer great support to your plants and are mobile. In case you want to grow your squash or other climbing plants in another section of the garden, A-Frame trellis is your most ideal option.
If you’re working on a budget or like to DIY things for your garden, you can make the frames with PVC pipes or plastic poles at home.
Squash fruits are a delicacy in every meal, but growing them might take up a lot of space in your garden. However, you could save on space by using tomato cages to grow your plants vertically.
You can use options such as arbors, pergolas, and A-Frame trellis to grow summer squash varieties. However, you can’t use cages for winter squash varieties such as pumpkins, butternuts, and calabazas.
Using cages for squash varieties and other climbing plants will help you save on space, have a more organized garden, and encourage more air and sunlight movement in your garden.