Farm stands are beginning to sell summer squash and zucchini, but these farmers likely started their seedlings in greenhouses and warmed the soil with hoop houses or row covers to give them a good start.

Squash reacts poorly to low temperatures, so if you didn’t give your squash the extra help early on, now is the time to plant seeds directly into the soil and be able to harvest them in September. If you find squash seedlings at a garden center or farm stand, that will put you ahead. But even from seed, most summer squash and zucchini will produce their first crops in six to seven weeks.

If you planted squash early, a second planting helps, as the plants run out of energy and stop producing after they have been in the ground for a while.

Pick a sunny location. Squash are heavy feeders, so dig the soil well and add a lot of compost and/or organic fertilizer before planting. Plant three seeds in a small area and thin them out to the strongest-looking seedling after they have sprouted. Most summer squash are bush (as opposed to vining) types, so you can plant them as close to 3 feet apart.

They are thirsty plants; if you don’t get a decent amount of rain in any given week, give them a good drenching with a bucket or hose.

And remember – the key to enjoying summer squash and zucchini is to pick them small, about 6 to 8 inches long, not as easy as it sounds, as turn your back and they can grow into monsters (with a mushy texture and less delicate taste). Right-sized, they are great grilled, pan-seared with mushrooms, onions and/or peppers or lightly steamed with butter and pepper.

— TOM ATWELL