A type of winter squash, acorn squash is not often grown but its delicious taste and long storage time may have you reconsider your gardening plan. Learn when to plant acorn squash, how to grow it, and how to store it.
When to plant acorn squash: Acorn squash needs 80 to 100 days to grow, which is a very long growing season. Wait until after the last spring frost date and make sure the soil temperature is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit before planting. While you can start acorn squash indoors if you have a short growing season, the seedlings can be delicate and might not transfer well.
Planting Acorn Squash in Different Climates
Acorn squash can indeed grow in a tropical climate. They love warm temperatures and you just might find that the vines go a little wild with all the heat.
Be sure to prune back the vines to keep the nutrients focused on the squash. Depending on where you live, you might even get two growing seasons for acorn squash.
Growing acorn squash in a dry climate is not recommended. The plant needs a lot of water and moister soil.
A temperate climate is ideal for growing acorn squash. The mild spring weather means you can get a head start on the very long growing season.
While you can grow acorn squash in a continental climate, you will be hindered by the long winter season. Acorn squash needs up to 100 days to grow so you may want to start the seedlings indoors and then transplant them when the soil is warm enough.
A polar climate is not warm enough for acorn squash.
Choosing Acorn Squash Seeds
Acorn squash falls under the umbrella of winter squash. While there aren’t really specific varieties of acorn squash, there are many other types of winter squash.
Growing multiple types of winter squash in the same area is a good idea as they all need the same type of care and conditions. Here are a few complimentary types of winter squash to consider.
With a pale yellow outside and sweet, orange flesh on the inside, this type of winter squash is perfect for making a hearty winter soup. It is larger than acorn squash and can take a few more days to mature.
Health-conscious individuals will be well-versed with this type of winter squash. It has an oblong shape to it and after you roast it, the inside comes apart in a stringy texture, much like spaghetti noodles.
Anybody who likes a fall display will love this colorful squash. It has a bulbous orange top to it with a striped bottom. Although it is more decorative, it is still a great option to grow.
How to Plant Acorn Squash Seeds
Acorn squash takes a very long time to grow, sometimes up to 100 days. However, you can’t start them on the ground until it is warm enough.
It is best to direct sow your acorn squash, instead of starting them off inside, so wait until the ground and the air is warm enough. This is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit for the soil, although if you can wait until it is even warmer, the better your squash will take.
For timing, wait until the last frost date in the spring. If you can, wait a few extra weeks after this date.
If you live in an area with a very short growing season, you can start your acorn squash indoors, two to four weeks before the last frost date. However, the seedlings are very delicate and they might not transplant well.
Sun is key when planting acorn squash. This plant needs plenty of warmth and if there is too much shade, this can delay the start of its growing period. Such a delay can cause underripe squash if your growing season is extended to late fall.
While acorn squash is smaller than other types of squash, their vines are still just as large. Ideally, you should plant your crop in a corner of a garden or somewhere out of the way.
Vines need the chance to grow and if they spread out over pathways, you may accidentally step on them and break them. Furthermore, if you plant too close to other crops, the vines can get in the way of them.
Try to aim for 50 to 100 square feet of space for your acorn squash to grow in.
Build a hill
To help keep your little seeds warm, it is best to plant your acorn squash in a mound of dirt. Build a mound up so that it is a few inches above the ground.
Work a scoop of balanced fertilizer into the area along with some organic compost. Acorn squash needs a lot of nutrients so the better the soil is, the faster it will grow.
For each mound of dirt, plant three or four seeds. Press them into the dirt so they are about 1 inch deep. You can then thin these plants out later if need be.
How to Water Acorn Squash
Try to keep the soil around your acorn squash nice and moist. Watering should be done on a consistent basis and you should aim for about 1 inch of water per week.
As the summer heat intensifies, you may need to add more water. Try to water early in the morning to help the plants retain moisture.
When watering your acorn squash, aim the water for the soil and not the foliage. If the leaves on your acorn squash get too wet and don’t have a chance to dry out, the fungus can start to grow.
How to Grow Acorn Squash
If you plant a little early, or the weather isn’t cooperating, you can install row covers over your acorn squash seeds to help insulate them. After a few weeks of growing, the weather should be warm enough and you can remove the row covers.
Row covers can also help prevent bugs from getting to your plants. However, be sure to remove any covering before your plants start to flower as bees will need access to the blossoms.
Acorn squash seeds will germinate in about a week, as long as it is warm enough. If your seedlings don’t pop up after two weeks, plant more seeds.
After your acorn squash seedlings start to grow, you can add a thick layer of mulch. This will help the soil retain moisture and will also prevent weeds from growing.
Acorn squash have shallow roots at the beginning, so giving them extra protection will really help them.
To keep your acorn squash plants with enough nutrients, you will need to fertilize them. Wait until you see the first blooms on your acorn squash and then add two scoops of a balanced fertilizer around the soil.
When applying fertilizer, make sure it doesn’t touch the plants as this can burn them. Furthermore, water really well so that the fertilizer goes into the soil.
Another time you can fertilize is when the squash itself starts to form. Then, add another scoop of fertilizer and gently add this to your growing area.
While you don’t want to cut back the vines on your acorn squash, you can perform a light pruning. By taking away some of the foliage, it will focus the plant’s energy on the squash and not on the leaves.
There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing your acorn squash have large blossoms but then no fruit. This is a result of a lack of pollination.
To help guide bees and other pollinators to your garden, be sure to plant plenty of flowers around your vegetable patch.
If you are worried you don’t have enough pollinator activity, you can actually take a cotton swab and transfer the pollen from a male flower to a female flower.
How to store acorn squash
Acorn squash is classified as winter squash, along with other types such as butternut squash and pumpkins. It gets this term because you harvest in the fall and the crop can actually last through winter.
Therefore, acorn squash is an excellent crop if you want fresh produce in the winter and want to ensure you eat as much natural food as possible.
The trick to keeping your acorn squash as long as possible is to store it in a cool, dry area. You don’t want any dampness to set in and if the temperature becomes too warm, it can start the rotting process. A cellar is a perfect place to store acorn squash.
How long does acorn squash take to grow?
Acorn squash takes a very long time to grow, so be prepared to have some patience. Different varieties will take between 80 and 100 days, and all of these days need to be warm enough for the plant to really thrive.
Acorn squash should be planted after the last frost date and when the soil is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. After almost 100 days, it will then be ready for harvest in the fall.