How to Grow Squash in Compost
Convert your compost pile into productive garden space by using it to grow squash. You can plant directly in your existing compost pile, or create a special heap dedicated to squash production. This innovative growing technique features easy set-up, and compost-grown vines typically offer wonderful yields.
Winter squash, including pumpkins, adapt readily to compost growing. These long-season crops usually require an average of 90 to 100 days to mature, and their rambling natures are notorious for overtaking small garden plots. Tuck their seeds into a compost heap, and you can plant these garden gorillas where you can let vines roam. Good candidates for compost culture include butternut, ‘Delicata’, ‘Blue Hubbard’, ‘Marina di Chioggia’ and many other winter storing squash. Summer squash like zucchini, patty pan and yellow straight or crookneck varieties also thrive in compost garden plots.
Squash plants have hearty appetites, especially the larger types. When you grow them in a compost pile, hungry roots have a ready and abundant food supply. Expect larger squash and more of them when you raise compost-grown squash. It’s a great way to grow extra-large and even giant pumpkins.
Create mini compost piles to grow a host of squash vines, or simply use a corner of your permanent compost pile. The most important step in raising squash in compost is preparing the base. Start with partially-decomposed or finished compost, and add some available garden waste. Layer materials as you would in a compost pile. Include a soil layer to supply squash vines with a healthy footing and readily available minerals. Work about 2 cups of slow-release organic fertilizer into the pile.
Planting is the easiest part of the process. If you don’t have actual squash on hand, sow seeds directly into the compost pile in early spring. If you have squash on hand that you grew or bought at a road-side stand, each time you eat one, bury the seeds and skins from squash in the compost piles. Continue this practice through fall, winter and early spring—as long as your weather allows you to dig into unfrozen compost.
In spring, seeds will sprout as the compost warms. Using scissors, thin seedlings to three or four per compost pile. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around seedlings especially if slugs, pill bugs or earwigs in the compost pile start to nibble vines.
Direct squash vines as they grow so they won’t travel into play areas or nearby garden beds. Watch for squash bugs and hand-pick them from vines, dropping them into soapy water.