Here in Zone 7 we can prolong our summer squash season with a second planting. By the time the first crop is worn out, the second crop is producing nicely. You do love squash, don’t you?
This second crop is a super idea except for one problem. The seedlings of the second planting go into the garden in July. If you live in Zone 7, you know how hot it can be. This season it appears that we are breaking 100 most of the days this month. Steamy hot!
My seedlings went into the garden on July 7 and are doing quite well due to a little trick I learned from Oscar Hardcastle, my brother’s father-in-law and a great garden guru.
Here’s what I learned:
It is not the high heat but the blistering sun that will wipe out tender transplants.
The amount of sun on the transplants can be controlled simply and cheaply. It just takes a little patience and a few extra minutes.
Cut a portion of lightweight cardboard to use as a shade cover for each plant. Figure on the cardboard pieces being about 18 inches square. This size allows for plenty of shade, even on the soil. After all, even hot soil can burn plants.
Use 2-3 strong twigs to press into the soil around each seedling. These are the legs that hold up the cardboard “umbrellas”.
Use a sharp little knife to poke holes in the cardboard that correspond to the placement of the twigs. Don’t make the holes too big. You want the cardboard to slip onto the twigs and then stay put, not slip to the ground and squash your seedlings. I used pieces of rebar instead of twigs because the rebar was already in the garden, resting from its winter assignment of holding up hooped PVC over garden beds.
Keep the seedlings shaded and well watered for about 3 days.
Around day 4 begin uncovering the seedlings during the morning sun. Do this for a couple of days. Then add more sun time for a couple more days. You can see in our second picture that we shifted the shade to one side of the plant — this was to reduce the hot afternoon sun as they transitioned.
Your seedlings will harden off and adapt to their surroundings. They may need a little extra water for a couple of weeks while the roots spread. Then you will have a fresh stand of summer squash ready to spread and reward you until the first heavy freeze.
This shade method works well for transplants. If you must move a plant from one garden area to another in hot weather, use this method to help the transplant recover and adjust to its new neighborhood.