Squash, Zucchini & Cukes

When Your Squash Won’t Climb A Trellis

I was misinformed.

Somehow, as a result of skimming gardening articles, I had convinced myself that summer squash (yellow squash & zucchini) would grow vertically if trained.

It will not.

Summer squash are bush plants. They grow low to the ground, and sprawl.

It’s winter squash (butternut, acorn, delicata) that will grow vertically, because they’re vining squash varieties.

I have a small raised bed, so my original plan was for my yellow squash, zucchini, and cucumber plants to grow vertically, up a trellis in order to use my space more efficiently.

My cucumbers have been happily cooperating with my plan. They’ve been throwing out tendrils, grasping the trellis and climbing up.

My squash and zucchini were not doing this… which made me head back to google.

That’s when I learned that there isn’t really a good way to grow yellow squash and zucchini vertically, because it’s just not in their nature. Unfortunately, I had planted my yellow squash a little closer together than is optimal, thinking that they would share a trellis, and not crowd each other.

But, now that I realized they would not be climbing, I needed to give them more space.

Now, I do NOT recommend transplanting squash plants past a certain point. They don’t like being moved, and often suffer from transplant shock if you try. (In fact, when I got my seedlings from the nursery and planted them in my garden, they had a case of transplant shock. They wilted and looked pretty unhappy for about week before rebounding – see photo below.)

However, it was either cut down one of the squash plants, or… try to move it. So I dug up a little root ball, careful not to disturb it or its neighboring plants, and moved it to a space where it would have more room. As expected, it’s been wilting the past couple of days, but it’s tolerating the move surprisingly well. (I’ll update once I know if it survives or not.)

But, even so, I will be much better prepared next season when it’s time to plant my summer squash.

My top 3 tips for growing summer squash:

  1. Give your summer squash WAY more space than you think it needs. It is really tempting to try and pack a bunch of little seedlings into your garden when they’re small. But summer squash grows huge. Actually follow the instructions on the plant tag, they’re there for a reason.
  2. Don’t assume that just because a nursery sells multiple seedlings per pot, that the seedlings should actually be planted that close together. In fact, planting plants too close together can increase the chance for disease and decrease your overall yield.
  3. When it’s time to thin your squash, pick the healthiest looking plants, and then cut the others off at their base. That way you don’t risk disturbing the roots of the neighboring plants. I also suggest thinning early, otherwise you may grow attached and be tempted to leave the plants because you’ve put energy into growing them.

To give you a frame of reference for just how much your garden will grow in a month… Here’s a side by side. The photo on the left is when I first planted the bed, in early May. And the photo to the right is this week, mid-June (even after thinning several plants!)



  1. Thank you for this post 😀 I was considering starting zucchini in a pot, but after reading this I am reconsidering. I grow veggies in pots on a balcony and the sunny spots are scarce, so I am not sure I have enough room for a huge bush that won’t grow vertical.

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