Climatic Considerations for Winter Squash and Pumpkins

Climatic Considerations for Winter Squash and Pumpkins, c. pepo, c. maxima, c. moschata, C. argyrosperma, C. mixta
Pumpkins Outdoors in Fall

Squash is a warm-season crop. It should not be planted until the danger of frost is past. In the list below, note the species from which each variety has been selected. Some do better in certain climates and have different growing season lengths.

  • C. argyrosperma and C. mixta grow best in hot arid climates like the Southwest United States
  • C. maxima grow best in cooler northern climates, especially along coastal areas of large lakes or oceans where the growing temperature may be more consistent
  • C. moschata are best grown in southern humid climates
  • C. pepo does best in areas in climates which provide even rainfalls and temperature ranges, such as, coastal regions and the midwestern United States.

Related References

Choosing the Best Squash and Pumpkins for Your Family

Choosing the Best Squash and Pumpkins for Your Family
Pumpkin being grown Vertically

When deciding what Squash and, or Pumpkins to grow in your family’s garden consider:

  • Growing types that your family eats regularly, there is no point in growing something that may go waste. Especially, when you consider the time, water, and garden space used to produce your squash and, or pumpkins.
  • How you use the squash if you want a few squashes and/or pumpkins to eat or to be used to as a decoration. Then, perhaps growing a variety that grows to a 1,000 pound might not be the best choice.
  • How you intend to grow your squash or pumpkins. If you have limited space you may want to consider bush types, which use less space, perhaps some of the smaller varieties that can be grown vertically on trellises or incorporated into the landscaping of your home.
  • Your garden site, for example, does it have deep soil or should consider raised beds.
  • The pests and diseases common to your area and buy resistant varieties, if available.
  • The length of your growing season. If you live in a short season area purchasing an early producing variety, may improve your success.

Related References

Strategies for Growing Winter Squash

Strategies for Growing Winter Squash, pumpkin, Growing for Fruit Volume or Fruit Size, Growing for Fruit Volume, Growing for Size
Meal Size Autumn Glow Butternut Squash

Growing for Fruit Volume or Fruit Size

There two basic approaches to growing winter Squash and pumpkins, growing for fruit volume or growing for fruit size.  Both approaches required good plant culture practice but use different strategies.

Growing for Fruit Volume

Growing for fruit volume is most frequently associated with growing for food and dry storage. While large fruit is not necessarily a bad thing,  growing a larger volume of small fruit has its advantages.  Among these advantages are:

  • Smaller fruit tends to be more one meal size and, therefore, means fewer leftovers to store or serve later from each fruit.
  • Fruit can be prepared or canned in small sets.
  • A smaller scale of lose when fruit goes bad during storage.

To grow for fruit volume, you need only to follow a few simple steps:

  • Choose a hardy vigorous squash know for volume fruit production.
  • Choose disease and pest resistant varieties.
  • Choose varieties with growth season requirements (e.g. 90 days, 100 days, 120 days) that are well within your growing season.
  • Use succession planting.  In areas with a long growing season, plant more than one crop of shorter seasoned fruit.  In some areas a summer and autumn crop is possible.  Especially, if the early crop is started indoors to get a jump on the season.  Additionally, planting crops in session rather than all at once for the small garden can provide an opportunity to withstand a partial crop loss from pests of disease.
  • Leave all fruit on the vine
  • Once the vine has set fruit to allow the vine to grow a foot or so past the fruit then cut off the endmost portion of the vine.  This pruning process should cause the vine to spread (vine) laterally from the original vine.  The lateral vines should set fruit as well.  This also has the added advantage of creating a more compact squash patch.

Growing for Size

Growing for size is most commonly associated with competition growing.  To achieve maximum size:

  • Chose a fruit with the genetic capacity to achieve the size desired, while good plant culture will add to fruit size, having the genetic ability to obtain larger sizes gives a significant head start.
  • Grow one fruit per vine.  Be sure to wait until you have confirmed that the fruit has been pollinated and has started to grow prior to removing other fruit.
  • Pay attention to fruit position on the vine.  As a general rule fruit will grow larger farther out on long vines, assuming that the vines have been permitted to root at leaf joints.

Related References

Cool Storage of Winter Squash and Pumpkins

Cool Storage of Winter Squash and Pumpkins
Winter Squash on a shelf

Cool Storage

Perhaps, the better and most cost-effective way to keep winter squash and pumpkins is cool storage.  For cool storage to be effective the fruit must be consistently stored above freezing and the germination temperature.  Please note, Not all squash store equally well.  With that said, I have stored some varieties a winter squash so long that we have had to eat them just to make room for the New Year’s harvest.

For best results:

  • cure in warm area squash or pumpkins for a week to 10 days,
  • clean off dirt with a damp soft cloth,
  • with a second clean soft cloth wash with 1 cup vinegar to one gallon of water, and allow the skin to dry completely before storage.
  • Store in a cool (40-550 F), dry place to prevent shrivel, lose weight, and to postpone spoilage as long as possible.
  • Position the fruit so that the fruit is not touching one another and so that air can flow freely around the fruit.
  • I recommend placing as many of the fruit where they can be easily seen, for easy inspection for signs for an impending loss. The sweetness and quality of squash or pumpkins often improve, if cured for 2 to 4 weeks, or more in storage.

Where to Store Squash and Pumpkins

where to store your squash is a little less important provided the required temperatures can be maintained. Some of the more common places are root cellars, pantries, basements. Just about any place with a cool constant temperature within the ranges required will do. However, it’s best if it’s a place that’s convenient and semi-protected. You don’t want your squash to be damaged by kids playing or by having to crawl over them to get to something important which might beast stored above are behind them. Perhaps, my favorite throughout the years has been the root cellar I grew up with them in Oregon and I’ve long appreciated their value for storing vegetables of all types including winter squash for long periods of time to do the harshest weather during winter. I have, in places like Virginia and Minnesota, used the basement of the home in which I lived. Pantries can be a little more problematic for a couple of reasons. First, having sufficient space to store all the pumpkins and squash growing volumes at my gardens produce. Second, my pantries are usually attached to the house and tend not to read to retain a constant cool temperature.

Is your storage location too warm?

The best way to tell if your storage location is too warm, other than a thermometer, is that when you break open the squash, if you see seeds that have sprouted, then your storage area is too warm the seeds are germinating.

How to Purchase Winter Squash and Pumpkins from Local Markets

Winter Squash In the Market
Winter Squash In the Market

Now, that I’m seeing fall selection winter squash and pumpkins available in the markets, I thought it might be a good time to provide some guidance on how to select the best of them for storage or dining. This time of year the varieties available balloons and is it an opportunity to try some varieties, which are not normally readily available.

Look For:

  • Full maturity, indicated by a hard, tough rind. Also, look for squash that is heavy for its size (meaning a thick wall and more edible flesh). Slight variations in skin color do not affect flavor.
  • That the stem is still attached to the fruit.

Avoid:

  • Fruit with cuts, punctures, and sunken spots and/or other damage.
  • Moldy spots on the rind and/or stem; this is an indication of decay.
  • Tender rind (outer shell), this indicates immaturity, which is a sign of poor eating quality in winter squash varieties.
  • Decorative varieties with poor quality flesh (e.g. Turk’s Turban) and/or completion varieties (usually, the very largest squash, but not always)

Winter Squash – Thelma Sanders Acorn

Thelma Sanders Acorn Squash
Thelma Sanders Acorn Squash

A productive and delicious heirloom acorn squash, which as, deeply ridged, cream-colored acorn squash.  This is also known as the Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato.

 

ClassificationDays To MaturityFruit SizeWeightSkin ColorHabit
Squash85-956 inches½ -1 poundLight beige to pale goldVining
Seed DepthSeeds Per groupSeed SpacingSpace Between HillsDay To GerminationThin To (Plants Per hill)
½ – 1”4 – 66”4 – 6’7 – 142
SpeciesGenusYear IntroducedHeirloom
CucurbitaPepo1988No
ResistanceUnknown
FamilyAcorn
UsageEdible
StorageGood for Short-term storage only.
Space SaverThis squash is an excellent climber and is recommended for growing vertically on a lattice or fence.

Where are Pumpkins Native to?

A collection of pumpkins
A collection of pumpkins

The common species of squashes and pumpkins used by gardeners are native to the Western Hemisphere and wild varieties can occasionally be found in their native environments.

  • C. maxima – Represented by the Hubbard, Delicious, Marblehead, Boston Marrow, and Turks Turban are varieties thought to have originated in northern Argentina, near the Andes, or in certain Andean valleys. Maxima varieties like cooler climates with regular rainfall.
  • C. moschata – Represented by such varieties as butternut, Winter Crookneck Squashes, and Japanese Pie and Large Cheese Pumpkins are native to Mexico and Central America. This species prefers and tolerates hot growing conditions and longer growing seasons of the southern regions.
  • C.  pepo – Apparently originated in the same general area of Mexico and Central America as C. Maxima and is represented by Golden Acorn, Jack-Be-Little, Connecticut Field, and Delicata. Pepo varieties like cooler climates with regular rainfall.
  • C. argyrosperma –Includes many of the traditional winter squashes known as Cushaws, which have been grown since early times from Guatemala to the southwestern U.S. Members of this species are drought-tolerant and their flesh is generally paler, stringier and less sweet than other types of squash.