Winter squash for storage are one of the vegetables I’ve never managed to like. I used to grow all kinds of them for the family and even though the growing was easy, the eating was not (for me). I do know that baked squash with butter and a touch of brown sugar was a staple in the fall.
When to Plant
Sow the seed of all storing squash in the first week of June in zone 5. Warmer zones can bump this up a week or two while colder zones should delay until the ground is warm enough.
This ensures the soil temperatures are high enough for good germination and ensures the plant flowers later after cool nights are over.
Cool nights prevent good pollination.
Where to Plant
Squash all grow much better in full sun in a well-drained and fertile soil.
Heavy clay or water-logged soils will rot either the roots or the ripening squash on the ground (or both).
How to Plant
- Plant in small hills at 4 seeds per hill.
- The hills should be 1-2m (6 to 8-feet) apart.
- Plant the seed approximately 1.2 cm (1 half-inch) deep and firm the soil on top of the seed to ensure it is in contact with soil (not air).
Care & Maintenance
Remember that a squash plant is a shallow rooted plant so weed with a hoe quite carefully to avoid cutting off feeder roots.
Do not allow to fully dry out in drought or you’ll cut back your harvest.
- Harvest before the first frost and allow the fruit to ripen outside for a week or two to harden up the skins. Without this curing outdoors, the squash might not overwinter well.
- Do not try to store unripe fruit but eat immediately. Contrary to popular belief, fruit that has been heavily frosted will not store well either.
- Store squash in a warmish 15C, dry space. Treat them gently to avoid bruising and if you can, leave a space between fruit for air to circulate and stop any mold from developing.
- The only pest of major consequence is the squash bug. You can use rotenone, diatomaceous earth or handpicking to control them.
Flowers But No Fruit
A question that often comes up is that the plant is producing lots of flowers but no fruit.
Causes for this are that
- the temperatures are too cold for pollen to be viable,
- no honeybees are flying to yellow flowers yet but are focussing on other colours, or that
- the plant is still only producing one sex of flower.
This is one reason we like to grow many plants so there is a better chance of pollination.
The remedy is always to relax and wait; there’s not much else you can do.