Q: Is the difference between summer squash and winter squash that you plant them at different times, or just that they’re ready at different times?
A: You can plant them both at the same time. Plant squash seeds or transplants when the soil has warmed up. In Duluth, that usually means waiting until after June 1. Summer squash such as zucchini will start to produce earlier than winter squash such as acorn, butternut or Hubbard. Either kind will take up a lot of room in the garden. The plants typically form vines that run along the ground.
Summer squash are very easy to grow here — so much so that you can wind up with more than you (and your friends and neighbors) can use. Many winter squash varieties will also do well, but check to make sure that they don’t require a longer growing season than we have.
Q: Can I put my tomato plants out yet? I started them from seed indoors, and they’re getting tall and spindly, leaning against the window.
A: It’s not a good idea to put tomato plants out before the weather warms up and stays warm. There’s no real advantage to putting them in the garden early. They won’t start growing until the temperatures rise, and you risk injuring the plants with chilly weather. Even above-freezing temperatures can damage tomato plants.
A better option is to transplant your tomatoes into larger, deeper containers. Unlike most other vegetables, tomatoes don’t mind being planted deeper than they were growing. They will form new roots along buried parts of the stem. This makes for a sturdier plant.
Seedlings raised in a window often get leggy. They just don’t get quite enough light. Next year, you might want to experiment with growing them under lights. Hang a shop light on chains so you can keep the light a couple of inches from the tops of the plants.
Be sure to “harden off” your plants before planting them outdoors. Expose them to wind and sun gradually over a week or so, with a bit more time outside each day, so they’ll toughen up.
Written by U of M Extension Master Gardeners in St. Louis County. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.