Squash Support

  

Winter squash is a great vegetable to grow in the garden.  Properly stored, squash will last until nearly the time that your first spring crops come in.  One problem with squash is that it takes a lot of room. It will spread out covering a much larger area than the amount of food other crops would produce. The solution is to grow squash vertically.  I grow cucumbers vertically with home made supports, but squash vines are much larger and need a larger trellis.

I made my squash supports out of 1” diameter steel electrical conduit. Conduit is great for construction projects. The stuff is relatively inexpensive, easy to obtain at any hardware store and lasts nearly forever.  The ones in the picture are over 15 years old.   

The drawing shows the basic construction of the squash trellis. The exact dimensions are not important.  The vertical poles are about 9’ long.  Conduit comes in 10’ lengths, so 3 horizontal braces are made from a single length. Pound the ends of the braces flat. This will make it easier to drill holes in them, and will make the structure more secure when it is screwed together.

  

Mooregold squash growing on the conduit squash tower.

Drawing of squash trellis

Drill sets of holes near the top for the upper set of braces. Drill another set about 2/3 of the way up from the bottom.  I used #8 screws.  I originally used regular screws and nuts, but have been replacing them with stainless. Save yourself some trouble and use stainless from the start. 

Put the structure together, but do not tighten the screws. Prepare the soil where you will plant the squash.  Place the trellis where  you want it, and pound the vertical poles until they are about 1 ½ to 2’ into the ground. You have to pound one pole a few inches then move to the next until it is fully into the ground. When finished, tighten the screws.

The next step is to add vertical strings for supporting the squash.  I use jute twine. At the end of the season I can just cut it off, vine and all and throw it into the compost pile. Tie a string at the top and tie the other end to the lower bar. Leave a little slack.  You don’t want the strings too tight. Put 3 or 4 for each face of the trellis.

You need a second set of strings from the lower bars to the ground. I string some wire between the posts about 2” above the ground. I then tie string from the lower braces to the wire to complete the structure.

With 3’ between the vertical poles I plant two squash plants on each side.  Normally I plant 4 seeds and leave the two strongest plants on each side.  As the vines grow, they can be gently twisted around a string.  If your squash variety branches a lot you might need to add extra vertical strings to support them.

I have used these supports for acorn and butternut squash successfully, but now I only grow Mooregold squash.  This variety was developed at the University of Wisconsin so it grows well here.  Mooregold is flavorful, never stringy and stores very well. I typically get 2-3 squash from each vine.

Growing squash vertically on a trellis saves a lot of space.  Another advantage is that the squash vine borer seems confused by vertically growing vines and is somewhat less of a problem.

  

© 2009 - 2014 Gary C. Sutcliffe

  

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