A step by step guide to growing Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is a vegetable which grows well at the time of winter. The plantation of this variety of squash is mostly done at the time of spring season and is harvested at the time of autumn as soon as the hardening of its outer skin takes place. A winter squash type will be identified by its color which is deep orange and smooth and hard skin. Butternut squash which is scientifically called as Cucurbita moschata is used in seasonal dishes. This vegetable has a flavor which is nutty and light. The flesh of this vegetable is also soft. This is mostly used in bread and soups or even consumed whole as grilled and roasted treats. If you want to grow this large vining plant in a small place, there will be some difficulties, as butter squash is a vegetable which would prefer to sprawl over a large area in garden beds. This article explains you about how to grow butternut squash. Butternut squash is never consumed raw, but you can cook the flesh in different ways once you see the seeds being scooped out. Roasted or baked or cooked butternut squash is the most common thing people consume. Below are the growing stages of Butternut Squash.
Plantation of a Butternut Squash:
- Plantation of butternut squash has to be done when the soil is warm. The seeds of butternut squash will not undergo the process of germination in the soil which is cold, so it is essential that you are planting them once you are sure that the danger of the last frost has passed. In the climatic conditions which are warmer, that is in the middle of the spring and cooler climatic conditions, you might have to be patient until the end of the spring. If you are planting your butternut squash very early, it will not thrive.
- If you want to give your butternut squash a head start, you can consider starting the seeds in the indoor location up to 20 days prior to the last frost. The seeds have to be planted at a depth of 1 inch in seed starter mix in small containers. The seeds have to be kept warm and moist until the last frost is completed. After that, you can consider transplanting them to your garden or backyard.
- Select an area which is warm and sunny for the plantation of squash. Butternut squash is a vegetable which requires full sun and warm climatic conditions to survive. It will grow at its best when placed in a spot in your garden which receives maximum sun. Make sure that you are avoiding to plant it in the shade, as the squash will not get ripened completely without full sun.
- If required, the soil has to be enriched. Butternut squash requires the soil which is well-drained and rich in terms of organic material. If you find that the soil in which you are planting butternut squash is poor, consider tilling it to a depth several inches and mix in a lot of compost. Based on the number of squash plants you are planting, you may be required to prepare a large area which serves as the planting bed. Make sure that you are planning the allocation of at least a space of 3 square feet per squash plant.
- You can consider the plantation of seeds in small hills. Butternut squash will grow at its best when the plantation of it is done in the soil which has been hilled. Hills have to create at a height of 3 inches for each plant of butternut squash by leaving a space of a minimum 3 feet between the hills which are present in the same row and the rows have to be spaced at a distance of at least 6 feet from each other.
- A hole has to be dug at a depth of 1 inch at the top of each hill and then consider dropping in the butternut squash seeds. The seeds have to be covered with soil and the area has to be patted lightly using your hands.
- After the sprouting of seeds takes place, you will have to consider thinning them out so that only 2 to 3 sprouts remain per hill.
- If you are considering to transplant the butternut squash plants which you have started in the indoor locations, you can consider planting each one of it in its hill.
- You can grow butternut squash vines either along the ground or by making use of a trellis. If you are interested to train your butternut squash plants to grow in a vertical manner, consider placing a trellis or stake closer to each hill. When the sprouting of vines takes place, you will have to wrap them in a gentle manner around the base of the stake or trellis. In this way, they will start growing in an upward direction.
- The squash beds have to be mulched lightly. Some amount of pine straw or any other light mulch can be spread over the beds of butternut squash for the protection of the plants which are growing.
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Care and maintenance of Butternut Squash:
- The butternut squash plants have to be watered on a regular basis. The soil has to be kept moist all across the summer by making sure that you are watering the butternut squash for every few days. When you find that the soil is becoming a bit dry, you will have to provide your butternut squash beds with a thorough watering. The base of the plants has to be watered. Make sure that you are not making the leaves wet for the prevention of sunburn and powdery mildew.
- The first flowers of the produce which of the butternut squash plants are male and consuming them will not create any kind of effect on the plants’ health. If you wish, you can consider pinching off the yellow flowers and add them in stir-fries or salads. Else, they will fall off in a natural way after a week of flowering.
- The second bunch of flowers which are produced by the butternut squash is female and they will grow just above the squash fruits which are tiny. The female flowers have to be left on the vine.
- Make sure that you are keeping the pests away from your butternut squash plants. Butternut squash plants generally do not get attracted to pests until the growing season comes to an end, that is when the butternut squash plants have reached the end of their life cycle. If you find that there is a problem with pests in your locality, you will have to take preventive measures on the infestation.
- You will be able to protect the butternut squash plants which are young by considering to cover them by making use of a floating row cover. The cover has to be removed as soon as they start flowering to allow pollination to take place.
- Consider the plantation of a nasturtium flowers row adjacent to your squash. This will help in deterring the insect pests.
- If you find that the leaves of the butternut squash plants are occupied by cucumber beetles or squash bugs, you can pick them off by making use of your hands.
- Squash vine borers are a type of pests which start attacking the plants inside the trellis. Once squash vine borers attack your plants, you will not be able to do anything to save your plants from dying.
Harvesting Butternut Squash:
- You will have to be patient until the squash has been ripened completely. When you are able to press your fingernail into a butternut squash without disturbing its surface, this means that your butternut squash is ripe. It is essential to be patient until the surface of your butternut squash is hard, else, it will go bad rapidly.
- Make sure that you are harvesting butternut squash prior to the first frost which occurs in the season. If you wait for too long for harvesting the butternut squash, and they get exposed to a frost, they will undergo rotting more quickly than they actually would have if you considered to harvest them before the dropping of temperature took place. You can also consider planning to harvest them before the climatic conditions change.
- After that, consider cutting the butternut squash from the vines. Make use of a sharp knife for cutting them from the vines by leaving 3-4 inches of the stem intact. You can take them inside immediately and rinse them for the removal of dirt from their surfaces. There is no requirement to leave them in the outdoor locations for curing.
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Storing the Butternut Squash:
The butternut squash which has matured completely will be able to keep for several months in storage. You will have to consider storing your butternut squash in a place which is cool and dry so that you can enjoy it all across the winter.
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Growing Butternut Squash in Containers:
- Take a large box which is made of wood or plastic. This should have a depth of a minimum 20 inches and its width should be a minimum of 20 inches. You will have to make sure that you are drilling holes for drainage at the container’s bottom for the prevention of water from getting collected at the time of watering or rainfall.
- The container which you have selected for the plantation of butternut squash should be filled with a combination of ½ potting soil and ½ compost. In this way, you will be able to create an environment which is rich in terms of nutrients. The top quarter of the container has to be left clear so that there will be some space for the plant.
- For growing butternut squash vertically, the container has to be placed against a trellis, tomato cage or fence so that it will be able to receive sunlight for at least eight hours in a day. Moreover, if you place the container in that way, the butternut squash will grow in a vertical manner rather than coming out of the container.
- You can consider planting 3 to 5 seeds of butternut squash into the middle of the pot or container. Make sure that you are pushing these seeds to a depth of a half-inch or one inch into the soil.
- The seeds have to be watered lightly on every alternate day until the germination of seeds takes place. Make sure that you are trimming away the seedlings which are the weakest by leaving the two seedlings which are the strongest among all. After 15 days, assess the plants again and cut away the seedling which seems to be weak. Butternut squashes will need a space of 18 inches between the adult plants in a garden bed, so when you are growing in a container, you can only grow one plant in it.
- The soil in which you are growing butternut squash has to be treated with fertilizer which is water-soluble one time in a week to give supplemental nourishment to it. Watering has to be done in a thorough manner before you consider adding a fertilizer.
- The stem of the butternut squash has to be winded through the trellis or fence once it has grown sufficiently tall. The stem has to be tied in a loose manner to the structure you have chosen as support by making use of a cloth strip. As you can see the plant growing, continue encouraging the growth in the upward direction along with the support structure.
- Butternut squash can be harvested as soon as the rind gets hardened and the color turns to deep orange.
Facts about growing Butternut Squash:
- The seeds of the butternut squash will undergo the process of germination only if the soil is warm, so it is always best to consider planting across summer. The growing season of butternut squash is approximately three months for the fruit to reach the stage of maturity. Hence, if your growing season is somewhat short, you can consider starting the seeds in the indoor locations and transplant them to the outdoor locations once the climatic conditions warm up.
- If the climatic conditions are hot and dry, your butternut squash may require watering thoroughly two times a day. Touch the soil with your fingers and feel it so that you can decide how frequently you have to water the plant. Usually, if the soil starts to get dried out at a depth of 5 to 6 inches, your squash will require watering. Make sure that you are watering it in a frequent manner if you see that the leaves are drooping or wilting.
- The growing season of butternut squash starts when the danger of frost is passed and the soil has become warm with the temperature of 15°C to 18°C at a depth of 4 inches. The plants of butternut squash are very tender and there is a chance for the seedlings to get frozen even with the slightest frost and the seeds will undergo the process of germination only when there is warmth in the soil.
- In the localities where the climatic conditions are warm, butternut squash can be raised across winter so that it can be harvested at the time of spring. If you are growing butternut squash in an area which is relatively warm, you can consider planting it sooner and harvest the produce in the early stages of winter by the time it becomes full size with a perfect shape.
- Butternut squash which is mature will have hard skin. If you are able to pierce your fingernails into its skin, then it means that you will have to give some more time to them to get ripened. When they reach the stage of maturity, you can consider cutting them from the vine with about 2 inches of the stem which is present at the top and let them undergo curing process for about 10 days in an area which is warm.
- You can also consider growing Butternut squash in a greenhouse. To do this, you can start the seeds in small containers, Typically, about 3 to 4 inches with one seed in a pot. The seeds have to be placed around a depth of 1 inch and should be covered completely with the soil and has to be watered thoroughly.
- Make sure that you are not refrigerating the whole butternut squash. It would be able to keep for a month or more in a place which is cool and dry. The butternut squash which has been peeled has to be stored by covering it in a tight manner and refrigerate it for about 5 days.
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