Winter squash come in a variety of flavors, shapes and sizes. All are easy to grow in a home garden, easy to store and rich in vitamins A and C. Their nutritious orange flesh make them a great substitute for carrots and sweet potatoes in the winter diet. There’s really nothing not to love about winter squash, so make a little growing space for them in your garden and use these tips to grow your own crop of winter squash.
Choose your Squash
Take your pick from the many available winter squash varieties –
Spaghetti squash which is probably the most well-known produces oblong squash and stringy fibers that resemble pasta.
Butternut squash is another well-known winter variety and is a staple at many Thanksgiving dinners. The vines are rapid producers, producing bottle-shaped squash that is versatile in the kitchen and will store up to 6 months.
Buttercup squash are similar to butternuts in vine productivity and flavor, but that’s where the similarity ends – buttercups are squat and green when ripe.
Hubbard squash range in size from medium to huge and are typically planted as a trap crop to lure and trap squash borers from the favored crop.
Acorn squash are ribbed, round, green or gold and mature quickly on the vine. A good choice for growing in areas that have short summers.
Cushaw squash a large, bulbous squash that have a sweet flavor, but they need a long growing season (at least 4 months) to reach maturity. They will keep up to 4 months after harvesting.
How to Plant
Start with the seeds of your chose winter squash variety, then sow the seeds into prepared soil after all danger of frost has past in the spring. Winter squash grow best in a sunny location with well-draining soil. Test the soil and amend it (if needed) so it will have a pH balance of 6.0-6.5.
Prepare the soil with a deep tilling or turning, then work compost or well-rotted cow manure into the soil. Create soil mounds that are 3 wide and 3 feet apart and place 4 seeds in each mound, poking them into soil 1 inch deep. Add a layer of organic mulch (hay, leaves) after planting.
Harvest and Storage
Winter squash are ready to be harvested when you can’t easily poke your fingernail into their rind. Remove from vine, wipe away garden soil with a damp cloth and place winter squash in a warm location that remains 70-80 degrees for 2 weeks so it will cure. After the 2 week curing time, store winter squash in a cool, dry location for 4-6 months.