Whether you want to roast large chunks of it or puree it into a soup, butternut squash is a bright, flavorful delight. What’s better is that you can grow it right in your own vegetable garden. Read on to find out when to plant butternut squash and how best to grow this nutritious vegetable.
When to plant butternut squash? The best time to plant your butternut squash is between late May and early June. Butternut squash needs between 75 and 100 days to grow and you want them to be ready to harvest before very cold temperatures set in.
Butternut squash has long, creeping vines, so make sure your garden can accommodate them. However, you can expect to get a couple of squash per plant so you don’t need to plant too many.
Keep the soil well-fertilized and moist, especially during hot summers. With a bit of care and patience, you’ll be well rewarded come autumn.
Planting Butternut Squash in Different Climates
A tropical climate has both warmth and moisture to allow butternut squash to grow. The one consideration is that the soil may be too moist, which means it won’t drain enough and root rot could set in.
A dry climate may support butternut squash, as long as the temperatures are warm enough. However, you will need to contribute extra water in order for the squash to grow.
A temperate climate should be fine for butternut squash. Make sure you let the soil and the air temperature warm up before you plant your seeds.
A continental climate has the warmth to grow butternut squash. However, the growing season is shorter so you may want to start your seedlings inside before transplanting them to your garden.
A polar climate will not support butternut squash.
Choosing Butternut Squash Seeds
For those with a short growing season, you can try the Early Butternut variety. Another interesting option is the Butterbaby variety.
While it has the traditional butternut squash shape and taste, it is a mini version, and perfect if you are short on space or want to try growing your squash up on a trellis.
Even if you love butternut squash, you don’t actually have to plant too many seeds. In fact, each plant will produce a few squash, so you should have enough from just a couple of plants.
How to Plant Butternut Squash Seeds
There are many types of vegetables that only need a few weeks to grow and be ready to pick. Butternut squash, however, is not one of these types.
The growing period for butternut squash is between 75 and 100 days, so you need to plan accordingly and above all else, be patient.
Interestingly, while butternut squash falls under the category of winter squash, it is named so when it is ready and not when it grows. Therefore, most of the growing period for butternut squash is the summer and it is ready to be picked in late autumn.
Aim to plant your butternut squash between late May and early July. If you live in colder, northern areas, you will want to plant earlier in May, as if you leave it too late, the weather will be too cold to harvest it.
In southern areas, you can plant butternut squash up until early July as winters are milder and the plant won’t be exposed to early frosts.
If you’re still confused about when to plant your butternut squash seeds, aim to do so when both the soil temperature and the air temperature are above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t feel you need to rush this, though, as they do better when temperatures reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
While most people simply direct sow their seeds, you can try to start your seeds indoors if you are worried about a short growing season. However, their roots are quite delicate and some may not survive the transplant process.
When planting butternut squash, select an area in full sun. Like pumpkins, these squash have trailing vines and so need quite a bit of space to spread out.
As for the soil, you will want it to be nice and fertile. Make sure there is compost or manure mixed in with your dirt.
Furthermore, your soil should be able to drain well. If it is too soggy, it can affect the roots, leading to root rot.
If you are worried about space in your garden, simply plant your butternut squash at the end of your vegetable plot. Then, the vines can cross over your yard or walkway as they spread out.
Another alternative is to plant your seeds in large 5 or 10-gallon buckets. The plants will grow inside the buckets and then the vines will spread out outside of them.
Once your soil has been prepared, it’s time to start planting. Create hills for your seeds to better insulate them and keep them warm as they germinate.
Dig holes that are about 1 inch deep and place three to four seeds in one hole. There should be about 3 feet of space between each hill.
How to Water Butternut Squash
Even though butternut squash love the sun, they still need plenty of water. You will need to water every day so that the soil has enough moisture in it.
If you are not sure if your plants are getting enough water, check their leaves. If leaves become droopy, it is a sign they aren’t getting enough water.
For those that live in very warm climates, you may want to provide a bit of shade for hot afternoons. Furthermore, be sure to water in early morning or evenings so that the water doesn’t boil when in contact with the plants.
When watering, try to aim for the roots. Too much water on leaves can create an environment where pests and diseases thrive.
How to Grow Butternut Squash
Once your seedlings sprout, which takes about 10 days, you can think about thinning them out. You want two plants per hill. Just be careful about disturbing roots; if need be, simply cut the unwanted seedlings instead of trying to uproot them.
As your seedlings start to grow, you can add a layer of mulch to the ground. This will prevent weeds from propping up as well as create a moister environment for your squash.
If you see that your butternut squash leaves are attracting pests, you can use a row cover to protect them as they grow.
Just be careful with the vines as they are quite delicate. Do your best to weed thoroughly before planting as you don’t want to disturb the roots.
In order to create their large plants, butternut squash need a lot of nutrients. You can add fertilizer to your water in order to give them enough food to grow.
You can also add 2 tablespoons of fertilizer to the sides of the dirt mounts. Do this once the plants start to bloom; the plants will slowly absorb the fertilizer, giving them a much-needed nutrient boost.
Butternut squash rely on pollinators for their fruit to grow. Remember not to panic right away as there will be both male and female flowers.
Female flowers will have small bulbs on them that will turn into the squash once pollen from male flowers is transferred to them.
In order to encourage pollinators such as bees and other insects, provide a welcoming environment. This include planting other colorful flowers and even having a water source nearby.
If you are worried that nothing is happening, you can try to help nature along by using a cotton swab to manually transfer the pollen.
When it comes to pest maintenance, you should be aware of squash bugs. If you see any egg clusters, be sure to scrape them off leaves immediately.
For those that have a history of pests, you can always use row covers to prevent damage to your plants.
Another common disease is powdery mildew. This is when the leaves of butternut squash turn a white color. You can find varieties that are resistant to this fungus.
To prevent powdery mildew from spreading, make sure there is adequate air circulation around the plants. You can also spray a mix of 4 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. This will not harm the plant but will kill the fungus.
How long do butternut squash take to grow?
All in all, butternut squash take between 75 and 100 days to grow. This is quite the process and you will need to constantly monitor the plant as it grows.
If you plant your butternut squash in June, it will be ready in September. It is a lovely fall vegetable and provides a nice, hearty meal as the weather starts to turn cooler.
Once they are ready, make sure the squash are fully dry. Then, store in a cool, dry area. They will actually last most of winter in these conditions.
Butternut squash are large, colorful plants that provide a great source of nutrients. They take a bit of patience, as they need up to 100 days to grow, but if you can wait for them, they are worth it.