Winter squash refers to a lot of different varieties but they all have a common thread. Winter squash is ready in the fall and will store easily so you can enjoy it during the winter.
When to plant winter squash: The many varieties of winter squash, including acorn squash, butternut squash, and spaghetti squash, take a long time but their growth is worth it. Winter squash needs to be planted in the spring but only when the soil and the air are warm enough. Then, they are ready for harvest in the fall, before the first frost. The hard peel on winter squash means they store well and for a long time, and thus can be eaten in the winter. Make sure you have plenty of space in your garden for the trailing vines, and that the soil is full of nutrients.
Planting Winter Squash in Different Climates
Winter squash may indeed be able to grow in a tropical climate as it will have plenty of moisture and warmth. Just make sure the soil can drain properly or else the roots can become soggy.
Winter squash need moist soil so a dry climate might not be the best for them.
The long, warm summers of a temperate climate are ideal for squash. You can start them a bit earlier in the spring as the last frost date is usually earlier in the year.
A continental climate is great for squash. Just be careful as the later growing date may interfere with the long growing season. If this is the case where you live, you may need to start your seeds indoors first.
A polar climate will not be warm enough for winter squash.
Choosing Winter Squash Seeds
Smaller in size than other options, acorn squash looks like large green acorns. This variety is great for roasting and is a perfect side dish.
A favorite among soup lovers, butternut squash is a versatile, delicious gourd. The squash is rounder at the bottom and tighter at the top, and can be roasted and then pureed for a comforting soup in the winter.
If you’re trying to be healthier, substituting spaghetti squash for noodles is an excellent decision. This squash is bright yellow and has an oval shape to it.
For the best results, slice the spaghetti squash lengthwise, roast it in the oven, and then take a fork and peel back the flesh. It will come out in noodle-like strands and can be enjoyed with your favorite sauce.
How to Plant Winter Squash Seeds
Winter squash can take between 75 and 100 days to fully grow. So, before you plant your seeds, you want to do a bit of research and planning.
First, check your seed packages to see just how long it takes to grow them. Different types of squash will have different lengths so you can’t just simply plant a bunch of varieties at the same time.
The next piece of planning revolves around your last frost date in the spring and your first frost date in the fall. You don’t want to put the seeds in the ground too early but you also don’t want extreme cold temperatures to wipe out your crops before your squash is ready.
Depending on where you live, this can result in either a very large growing period or a very tight one. But, even if your window of opportunity is limited, with careful planning, you can be successful.
All varieties of winter squash prefer full sunlight. They also like nice, hot temperatures, so don’t be worried about your climate in the summer.
Because there is a long growing season, ensure that the plants have full sun throughout the late spring, the whole summer, and the early fall.
Yes, winter squash seeds are pretty small but these plants need a lot of room. In addition to the large gourds, the plants also need room for their vines and leaves.
You don’t have to space the seeds out too much but you will need an area of your garden that can accommodate the trailing vines. Expect to devote at least 50 to 100 feet of your garden for your squash plants.
This area does not need to be fertile land as only the roots need to be in the soil. Instead, you can let your squash grow over pathways, down a hill, and even over forgotten areas of your backyard. Just make sure you don’t step on top of the vines as you move around.
Your winter squash will need really good soil to start with as they take a lot of nutrients out of the ground. Mix your garden soil with manure or compost in the spring to get it ready.
The soil should be moist but not soggy and be able to drain well.
The perfect time to actually plant your winter squash seeds is when the soil and the air are both above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if you can wait until they warm up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, this will be even better.
If you plant too early, your squash seeds may not grow properly. They do not like the cold at all.
If you’ve done your calculations and you are worried about having enough time for your winter squash, you can start the seeds indoors two weeks before the last frost date. Then, once the weather warms up you can transplant them outside.
Instead of sewing squash seeds in a line, you actually want to make soil hills. This will warm the soil up better, and give your squash a better starting point.
Make sure the hills are about 4 inches above the ground. Then, place three to four seeds into each hill, about 1 inch deep.
Each hill should be about 3 to 4 feet apart. Add a standard 10-10-10 fertilizer over the hill to give the soil even more nutrients.
Water well so that the seeds take root and the fertilizer goes deep into the soil.
How to Water Winter Squash
Your winter squash will prefer moist soil that drains well, so if you have very hot summers, you will need to water daily. However, it’s important to only water the root area of the squash plants.
When the vines and leaves of squash become wet, it can lead to disease. This includes powdery mildew and other forms of rot.
Try to water only the soil. Even though it takes a bit more time, it’s better to water by hose than to turn on a sprinkler.
How to Grow Winter Squash
After your winter squash emerges from the ground, which should take about one week, it’s time to mulch. Bulk mulch is essential when growing winter squash.
Bulk mulch will retain water, which will help keep the soil moist. It will also discourage weeds from growing, which will help you with maintenance.
Weeds may pop up through the mulch but be careful when removing them. Winter squash have shallow roots, so taking out weeds can disturb them.
Thin the plants
Not all squash seeds take hold, which is why you will want to plant extra. However, once your plants start growing, you want to make sure there is enough room for them.
Thin the plants to just two or three per hill. Make sure there are 18 to 14 inches of space between each plant.
You want to fertilize your winter squash at least twice during the growing season. The first time should be after the blooms appear and the second time is once the gourds start to grow.
To do so, you can side-dress your plants by adding compost or fertilizer around the plants. An alternative is to add a fertilizer powder and then give the area a good watering for penetration.
Even if you are excited to have multiple squashes grow on a vine, you might want to clip excess fruit. This will concentrate the energy into just one or two of the squash, which will result in larger fruit.
One obstacle many beginner gardeners are faced with is if they have healthy squash plants but no fruit grows. This is a result of poor pollination.
Squash plants have male and female flowers and pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, are essential in bringing the two together. Make sure you have lots of brightly-colored flowers around your garden to attract pollinators.
How long does winter squash take to grow?
The one really important thing to understand about winter squash is that they require a very long growing season. Depending on the variety, winter squash can take between 75 and 100 days to be ready.
Unlike summer squash, such as zucchini, winter squash has thicker skin and isn’t ready until the fall. They will keep throughout the winter and are great for adding important nutrients into your diet. Plus, they taste delicious!