I would like to plant yellow squash and cucumbers and I live in central Oklahoma. When would be the best time to plant and what varieties are the best?
Both of these are warm-season crops and cannot tolerate freezing temps, so don't plant until at least a couple of weeks after your county's last frost date. (Remember that the last frost date is an average, so in 50% of the years, your last freeze will fall before that date, but in the other 50% of the years, it will fall AFTER that date.)
If you are going to start your plants from seed sown directly into the ground, wait until the soil temperature is at least 60 degrees and has been for a few days. You can take your soil temp. approximately 2" beneath the surface using a soil thermometer or meat thermometer, you can check the mesonet data for your county or (at least our local TV station does this in the spring) listen to soil temp. data on your local news.
If you want to plant purchased transplants, you can do that, but I wouldn't plant them into the ground any earlier than the date you can sow seed as they will not grow fast until the soil is warm enough for them. Plants that are transplanted into soil that is too cold for them tend to just sit there and sulk. To make matters even worse, squash and cukes that are planted too early and exposed to too much cold weather can remain stunted and produce poorly for the rest of the growing season.
I have planted squash and cucumbers as early as late March here in southern Oklahoma, but only if we have had a really warm spring. Late April is much better and, if we have cold weather late into the spring, mid-May is even better.
As far as recommended varieties, if you are purchasing transplants, you won't have a really big choice. You'll be restricted to whatever the nurseries or big box stores have on hand, and sometimes they only offer the more common varieties. If you are starting your own from seed, you will have many more varieties available.
Here's a few squash we've grown and enjoyed over the years:
FOR SUMMER SQUASH:
YELLOW STRAIGHTNECK: Prolific Yellow Straightneck (AAS winner), Multipick, Lemon Drop
YELLOW CROOKNECK: Early Golden Crookneck (AAS winner), Dixie, Goldie
SCALLOP (PATTY PAN): Peter Pan (a light green one) or Burpee's Summer Scallop Hybrid Mix (has a yellow one, a golden one and a pale green one in one seed packet), Sunburst
ZUCCHINI: Butterstick (a yellow zuke), Eight Ball(a round zuke), Burpee Hybrid (an old variety that produces glossy, medium-green zukes on fairly compact plants), Senator, Costata Romanesco (Italian variety, very tasty)
FOR WINTER SQUASH:
HUBBARD: Baby Blue, Red Kuri, Blue Ballet, Chicago Warted
KUBOCHA: Confection, Sunshine (an AAS winner)
BUTTERNUT: Waltham (an AAS winner), Early Butternut
BUTTERCUP: Buttercup, Bonbon
SPAGHETTI: Hasta La Pasta (very compact plant that produces early), Tivoli
ACORN: Table Queen (an heirloom that predates the Civil War), Burpee's Bush Table Queen (bushier plants that are more manageable and can even be grown in large containers), Table King, Cream of the Crop, Tiptop
DELICATA: Cornell's Bush Delicata, Sweet Dumpling, Carnival
PUMPKINS: Technically, pumpkins are squash, so here's a few: Sugar Pie, Long Island Cheese, Howden's Field, Big Moon
CUCUMBERS: You didn't say if you wanted them for slicing/eating or for making pickles, so I'll list some of each.
PICKLING: Picklebush (compact, great for smaller gardens), Burpee Pickler, Homemade Pickles, Miniature White,
SPACE-SAVING BUSH TYPES: Salad Bush (VERY compact, slicing cukes)
BURPLESS: Sweet Success (an AAS winner), Tasty Green
SLICING: Straight Eight (an AAS winner decades ago and still popular), Fanfare (also an AAS winner in more recent times), County Fair (great resistance to powdery mildew), Dasher II,
HEIRLOOM: Lemon Cucumer (yellow, round, makes great bread-and-butter pickles, and also great as a slicer)
SPECIALTY: Mexican Sour Gherkin (tastes 'pickled' fresh off the vine)
Hope this helps. If you have more questions, ask.
Oh, and in early June keep an eye open for those little yellow butterflies/moths whatever they are. They lay eggs in the main stem of yellow squash and zucchini. Be prepared with something you can cover your plants with. I use old curtain sheers that I bought at a garage sale. If the moth can't get to the stem, she can't lay the eggs, and you will be free of the worm that eats its way up the stem and kills your plants. You know you have them when the leaves start wilting.
Put the sheers on as soon as you see the butterfly. When you don't see them anymore you can take them off. I think it'll only be a period of a week or maybe two. The sheers allow sun and rain to still get to the plant while its covered. I did that for the first time last year and I had the best crop of zucchini and yellow squash I had ever had. The zucchini got infested with squash beetles later on, but by that time I had all the zucchini I wanted so it wasn't a big deal. Usually my plants are dead before time for squash beetles.--Ilene
Ilene, do you just lay the sheers across the squash plant? I find I have better luck with transplants rather than seeds. Would I just cover the plant when I set it out? That would prob help a little with the wind that is so hard on them too. thanks, Janet