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Squash, Winter

Annuals, Vegetables

Winter squash is grown for harvest in late summer or fall; it stores well and is used for baking and for pies. Varieties come in many shapes (turban, acorn, and banana are a few), sizes, and colors; all have hard rinds and firm, close-grained, good-tasting flesh. Blossoms and tiny, developing fruit at the base of female flowers can be eaten as delicacies.

Winter squash is planted and grown on vines like pumpkins; it typically needs plenty of space. If space is limited there are a few bush varieties, such as ‘Cream of the Crop’, a yellow acorn type, and ‘All Seasons Hybrid’, a buttercup type. Most kinds are ready to harvest 60 to 110 days after sowing. Types for storing include small kinds such as ‘Table Ace’ and other acorn types, butternuts, and buttercups; and the large blue Hubbard varieties and banana squash. Spaghetti squash stores as well as any other winter squash, but when you cut it open after cooking, you find that the nutty-tasting flesh is made up of long, spaghetti-like strands. Winter squash doesn’t grow well in high heat and humidity.

Bush varieties can be planted 2–4 ft. apart in rows. If planted in circles (“hills”), they need more room; allow a 4-ft. diameter for each. Vining squash needs 5-ft. spacing in rows, 8-ft.-diameter hills.

Give all kinds of squash rich soil and periodic fertilizer. Roots need regular moisture, but leaves and stems should be kept as dry as possible to prevent leaf and fruit diseases. Squash should stay on vines until thoroughly hardened; harvest with an inch of stem and store in cool place (about 55°F/13°C).

Squash bugs cause leaves to wilt and may damage fruit. To control, destroy yellowish to brown egg clusters on undersides of leaves; trap adults with boards or burlap set in the garden at night, then collect and destroy your catch each morning. Various insecticides are also labeled for control of squash bugs.

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