Winter Squash

Growing Winter Squash

Winter squash don't mind warmth a bit -- and prefer a lot of fertilization.

These vine-growers need some space, but are worth the effort: They can be turned into delicious vegetable side dishes and used in a number of recipes.

Curious about growing winter squash? Tips on how to grow and harvest squash are below.

Winter squashes should be left on the vine until the skin cannot be dented.

Growing Winter Squash

Contrary to what its name suggests, winter squashes are warm-season crops and are very sensitive to cold and frost. Don't plant the seeds until the soil has warmed up in the spring, about two to three weeks after the average date of last frost. Direct-seeding is best.

If you're planting a variety that requires a longer growing season than your area has, use transplants from a reputable nursery or garden center, or grow your own transplants. Start four to five weeks before the outdoor planting date, and use individual plantable containers to lessen the risk of shock when the seedlings are transplanted.

Squashes like well-worked soil with good drainage. They're heavy feeders so the soil must be well-fertilized.

Two to three weeks after the average date of last frost, when the soil is warm, plant squash in inverted hills. Place the hills 3 to 4 feet apart, and plant four or five seeds in each hill. When the seedlings are about a week old, thin them to leave the two to three strongest plants. Keep the soil evenly moist; squashes need a lot of water in hot weather.

Harvesting Winter Squash

Leave winter squashes on the vine until the skin is so hard it cannot be dented with your thumbnail. Harvest before the first frost. Break or cut it off the vine.

Cure squashes in a dark, humid place for 10 days at 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit; then store them at 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit in a moderately dry, dark place for five to six months.

In the next section, you'll learn about the different types of winter squash.

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