Squash: which ones are bushes, vines, climb trellises?

knoxvillegardener(7a)February 24, 2010

My (very amateur) understanding is that some types of squash grow in a bush-like fashion, some spread out as vines, and some of the ones that spread out as vines will climb a trellis or other structure. (I heard that some vine-type squash aren't climbers.)

How do I tell which ones are bush-type, which are vine-type, and which vine-type squash are climbers?

Right now I'm planning my garden for this year and it would be a huge help to get this figured out.

I do know that squash fall into different types such as C. pepo, C. maxima and C. moschata. Does this have anything to do with it?

Are there any rules of thumb I can use? (For example, assuming that the squash are bush-type and not vines unless a description of them notes otherwise.)

Finally, a couple of different but related questions: Do the different types of squash vary a lot in terms of how much space the plant requires? (Assuming an apples-to-apples comparison such as two different bush types, not a bush type and a vine type.) Are there rules of thumb as to how to figure out how much space a particular type of squash requires? (Note that I plan to use raised beds rather than row cropping.)

Thanks for any info / guidance you can give!

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Well, squash as a group is not really an homogenous gardening grouping despite their genetic similarities. To start to answer your question, I would point out that pumpkins are vastly different from zucchini. So, are you talking about summer squash (zucchinis, crookneck, button, etc.) or are you looking to grow winter squash (butternut, pumpkins, acorn, etc.)?

As far as allotted space goes, opinions will vary, but in terms of greatest square footage required to least, I would say the following is a rough guide to the most popular:


Personally, I give my pumpkins about 36 square feet of growing space (6 feet between hills) and even that gets pretty crowded. Butternut 25 square feet, or 5 feet between hills. Zucchini and other summers are a "meagre" 16 square feet, or 4 feet between hills. That's a little more space than usual for summers, but I like to be able to keep some space free in between for the frequent harvesting and pest control.

It is hard to describe any squash as a bush growth unless you have a specific dwarf variety. Summer squashes have a more bush-like growth to them, but given the space and favourable conditions, they will usuall fill up to 25 square feet. You would really have to specifically search out a specific variety bred for bush growth rather than trying to force a standard variety into a bush space.

As far as climbing goes, you can train any vine to climb a trellis, from tomatoes, to cucumbers, to squashes. All squash vines will try to send out roots as the grow horizontally, but these tend to serve more as an anchor rather than a feeder system. The chief problem you are going to encounter with vertical growing squash is the sheer size, volume and weight of the plant and the fruit.

Most of the successful squash and melon trellises I have seen are climbing up a south facing wall equipped with a very sturdy, anchored grid trellis. It would have to be a very well engineered free-standing trellis to support a full grown squash vine, plus mature fruit, in a moderate to heavy wind.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 2:10PM
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angela12345(7b NC Mixed-Humid)

I do not know what kinds of squash do grow up a trellis, but I know what does NOT ... yellow straightneck squash and zucchini do not grow up a trellis. I found out the hard way last year thinking they would vine, so I planted them on my trellis and used up valuable trellis space.

This year I will try staking my squash ala snibb style. I bought steel utility fence u-posts that will be pounded into the ground next to the squash when it is planted. As the squash grows, I will tie it off to the post with pieces of pantyhose or soft rope (not string). As it grows, it will try to lay down, unless you tie it up.
This thread has an extensive discussion and pictures on it ... http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/sqfoot/msg0310241914233.html

I bought 4 foot posts from Lowe's for $1.87 each. Although, now that I am looking at their website, I may have bought 3 foot posts. I am not sure that will be tall enough for the plant and also to have room to push the post into the ground as a yellow squash or zucchini plant can grow up to about 36-40" tall. I might be making a trip back there for an exchange. Looks like the 4 foot posts are $2.80 and the 5 foot are $3.28. Snibb talks about using an 8 foot post, but I cannot imagine that length would ever be necessary.

Here was my sqaush last year on the trellis. As the trellis was not working, I used a piece of white curtain rod last year to tie the squash to. You can see part of it in this picture where it goes up behind the flower next to the ruler.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 5:21PM
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angela12345(7b NC Mixed-Humid)

I forgot ... I asked a similar question last July as to what vines and got the following in response ...

"Posted by susancol 7 Atlanta (My Page) on Tue, Jul 28, 09 at 13:23

Zucchetta rampicante 'Tromboncino'
This is the vining zuccini. As far as I know there are no vining yellow squash or pattypan squash. They are all Bush.

There are also the cucuzzi (rareseeds.com), which are an edible gourd. They are light green, elongated and are eaten like zuchini.

Also the tatume (victoryseeds.com) are round light green summer squash, that grow on a vine.

I've listed one source only, but I'm sure other seed sources probably carry these varieties.

Hope this is helpful,

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 5:37PM
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Territorial seeds has a vining zuke called Black Hawk. I havent tried it because it is expensive and the shipping is 7.95 for shipping 1 packet or 100. I would like to try it. Thompson and Morgan has another one, particularly for containers and trellises called Black Forest - quite a bit cheaper.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 9:36AM
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susancol(7 Atlanta)

I posted the list that Angela reposted, and just to be clear those were examples of vining Summer Squash which are exceptions to the rule as most Summer Squash are Bush varieties.

With Winter Squash, vining is more the rule. Some Winter Squash Bush exceptions are Acorn Squash and Bush Delicata.

Another rule of thumb, I think is that the C.pepo (if it's not a pumpkin which vines) will tend to be bush.
C.maxima (mostly hubbard, buttercup like types) and
C. moschata (mostly butternut like types) are more typically vining.

You can trellis any vining squash that you can also support the fruit for. Obviously a giant pumpkin on a trellis will fall off due to gravity. But if the fruit is small enough to hang on it's own or be supported by a small sling, then you can trellis it. Likely you will have to weave the vines in the trellis to help it along, and maybe even tie in some places. They don't have tendrils like peas or cucumbers to grab the trellis on their own.

Best of all, the vining squash tend to have harder stems and therefore are more resistent to the dreaded SVB (Squash Vine Borer).

Does that help?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 11:21AM
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angela12345(7b NC Mixed-Humid)

Isn't it nice to be quoted ?

I do like the idea of SVB resistance ! I will have to try one of those vining summer squash at some point. It was too late for me last year. The funny thing is, when people say squash, in this area, one automatically assumes yellow squash. Zucchini are zucchini. And if you mean winter squash, you must specify 'winter squash', otherwise if you just say squash you will be getting yellow crookneck or straightneck.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 3:23PM
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susancol(7 Atlanta)

Yes, it was my first quoting here at GardenWeb! I've finally been around long enough that when other people post, I can jump up and down and say ooh ooh, I know, I know! Of course, usually by then one of the big experts like DigDirt or FarmerDilla have offered their wonderful sage advice, and no need for me to jump in. So it's exciting when I can help and doubly exciting when someone not only reads my post, but quotes it to someone else. It's a steller day in the neighborhood for me. :)

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 4:24PM
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Thank you everyone for your input. It's much appreciated!

Two remaining questions:

m_lorne, when you say (for example) 36 square feet per hill, you're assuming one plant per hill (meaning 36 sf per plant), right?

Second - and this is a matter of curiosity than an urgent need to know - some squash are referred to summer squash and some as winter squash. I would think that this would be because winter squash prefer cooler temperatures than summer squash but I read something that suggested this isn't the case. Any insight into this?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 8:50PM
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Summer squash and winter squash need the same growing conditions. Usuage is the major determinate. Summer squash are eaten in the immature stage. Most of them do not form edible flesh when ripe but dry like a gourd. All winter squash have edible flesh when ripe, but many like the Trombocino can be used either way. In fact most butternuts can and frequently are as summer squash. Acorns are also frequently used as summer squash. Winter squash are called that because they can stored for winter use. It was a great advantage before modern preserving and storage technologies.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 9:44PM
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I plant initially three or four seeds per hill, then thin to the healthiest one plant when they are about 5-8 inches tall. Each hill is given three feet on all sides of the hill, meaning 6 feet between hills. This is usually enough space, but sometimes they get tangled up into a giant mess.

The terminology between summer and winter squash comes from the typical time of consumption. Summer squash are eaten right off the vine during the growing season (which is considerably shorter than winter squash). Winter squash on the other hand are generally harvested in the fall, cured, then stored. They are generally consumed during the winter months.

Hope that helps!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2010 at 10:45AM
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Hope people don't mind me digging up threads...

I had the same question and this thread was first on Google. I think I'll stick around too, this forum looks very interesting.

So far looking up what squash will grow on a trellis, it seems any squash will. I intend to have some on the ground while others climb, so I'd rather the climbers do so on their own. I know Cucumber and Watermelon plants have tendrils from growing them on a trellis, but I don't know about others. If anyone grows squash this year, could you post which ones have tendrils?

Funny space was mentioned. I don't have much space (4x8 cinder block raised bed) so I grew 5 plants in a 4x4 area of different types with 3 seeds per mound w/o thinning them as a test because I use to do it a little more spread out in Nevada. The watermelon grew up the trellis and grew a green golf ball, the cucumber also grew up a trellis but produced a lot of fruit, the straight-neck & zucchini turned into bushes turning out a lot of zucchini and a few straight-neck, and the pumpkin produced no fruit. Learned that watermelon and pumpkin need their space, but cucumbers need very little space with a trellis. Zucchini have a tendency to outgrow the competition and leaving multiple plants per hill let me leave one to grow a big zucchini while the other 2 grew small ones ( I shred big zucchini for bread and cake ). I had corn in among the squash and on the other side and in the cinder blocks I had sunflowers, peas, tons of lettuce & spinach & carrots, a huge tomato plant and a new artichoke. All except the corn grew well. It's amazing what can grow in such a little area. BTW sunflowers have huge roots and will take all the dirt out of a cinder block, but they make a great trellis for peas.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 8:31PM
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