Days to germination: 7 to10 days
Days to harvest: 45 to 70 days
Light requirements: Full sun
Water requirements: Regular watering, more frequent in dry weather
Soil: Rich loose soil
Though zucchini may be the best known summer squash, the odd-looking pattypan is getting to be more popular with home gardeners. It’s small, round and kind of flat (some people call them flying saucer squash, or scallop squash).
Not only are the fruits smaller, the plants are more compact as well (more bushy, less vining). This is making the pattypan very appealing to the small-space gardener. You can eat the tender squash either raw or cooked in a number of ways.
The flesh is much lighter than winter squashes like butternut, but are still extremely healthy and packed with vitamin A. You can also get a sizable helping of vitamin C, fiber, potassium and manganese with a pattypan squash.
Starting from Seed
Pattypan needs warm soil and no risk of frost. So you can’t plant seeds in the garden until your frost date has passed. Since the maturity time for pattypans is relatively short, its not really necessary to start your seeds inside. But there is also no particular reason not to.
If you want to start seedlings, get them going about 3 weeks before your frost date. Use loose potting soil, and put the seeds in about an inch deep. Give them lots of sun and keep them well watered until it’s time to plant them.
Seeds or transplants will go out in the garden at the same time, about a week after your last frost date. Dig your soil well beforehand, and add a generous load of fertilizer (such as compost or aged manure). Choose a location in your garden that will get sun throughout the day as well.
Since pattypans grow in a bush rather than as crawling vines, you have to space them out differently than you would with zucchini. They don’t work very well in hills, so plant them out in rows instead with about 2 to 3 feet between them. Like with indoor seedlings, seeds should be no more than an inch under the soil.
Pattypan bushes are fairly sturdy and shouldn’t require much support, especially if you pick the squashes before they get too heavy.
Once your plants start to produce blossoms and fruit, make sure to water frequently if the weather is dry. Pattypans grow quickly and need a lot of water to develop properly. Don’t let them dry out.
It’s a very good idea to mulch your plants with a heavy layer of straw or other organic material. It helps keep the moisture in and it also keeps the weeds out. Pattypan squash has a fairly shallow root system so getting rid of weeds can be damaging to the plant otherwise.
Your plants won’t produce any squash unless they are pollinated, so don’t overdo it with insecticides when you see the blossoms coming out. You need to leave your plants alone long enough to let the proper insects do their job. This may be a little harder after the first “batch” of flowers have come out, but it is still something to keep in mind when tending your plants.
Because of its bushy shape, pattypans are great for container gardening. A 5-gallon pot is fine for each plant, and you won’t have it spilling over once it starts to grow. As pots will dry out faster than soil right in the garden, you definitely need to water your squash frequently so the fruits can grow without getting bitter.
Pests and Diseases
All the same insect pests that plague other forms of squash are just as likely to bother your pattypans. As usual, the worst of them are the striped cucumber beetles and the squash vine borers. You can pick the cucumber beetles off the leaves (and blossoms) by hand, and spray the plants with a natural insect repellent to keep them away.
But the borers are harder to take care of because they are right inside the stalk of the plant, right at the base. If your plants are suddenly wilting heavily (but not due to dryness), there is a good chance you have vine borers. Spraying your plants can sometimes keep them from getting established but once they are in your plant, there isn’t all that much you can do. A slight cut in the vine (lengthwise, not across) can sometimes let you pull out the grubs and not kill the plant.
If the leaves look like they have a dusty covering them, it means you have mildew. A few sprays of fungicide should clear it up, and you should try to water your plants right at the soil instead of over the leaves to keep it from coming back. Damp conditions make it worse.
Harvest and Storage
Pattypans are usually picked whenever you want to use one because they are edible and very tasty even when quite small. Around 3 to 4 inches across is best. If they get much larger, they will lose their flavor and get seedy inside. Your plants will need frequent attention as a squash can go from flower to vegetable in less than a week.
The plants are very fruitful, and you will get several dozen squash from each one. You should keep that in mind when you plan out your garden. A few plants will go a long way, unless you enjoy eating squash at every meal.
It’s highly recommended that you wear gloves at harvest time, since the plants are quite prickly. Since you will be harvesting many times through the summer, you want to leave your plants unharmed while you pick squash. Either snip the squash off with shears or gently twist them off. Don’t yank.
Winter squash (like acorn or butternut) store very well due to their thick rinds, but pattypan is a summer squash and much less durable. Store your squash in the refrigerator for about 4 to 5 days, possibly up to a week. They can be frozen but will be extremely soft when thawed, but still usable for soups or purees.