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

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.

Can All Pumpkins and Winter Squashes Be Eaten?

Stuffed Butternut Squash On Plate
Stuffed Butternut Squash On Plate

All pumpkins and squash commonly grown in the vegetable garden or purchased in the grocery store and/or your local farmers market may be eaten, but there is a big difference among varieties, which are typically group by their most common usage:

Ornamental — Ornamentals are pumpkins and winter squashes which American children and patient parents carve just before Halloween, are grown with color, structural strength, a flat bottom, and a sturdy stem as their main attributes. Though most commonly used as decorations in the home and yard many of these squash make good eating, especially the smaller varieties which are frequently stuffed and baked or bake, then used as eatable soup bowls.

Culinary — Culinary pumpkins and winter squashes have firmer flesh and a sweeter taste and thus are used for cooking, pies, pickles, preserves, and savory dishes. There are many varieties of culinary pumpkins, and some heirloom varieties are highly prized for their taste and texture.

Competition – These pumpkins and winter squashes are grown mostly for their size, which can be really quite large 300 to 1,500 pounds are not unusual. While these varieties are eatable, their flesh is generally not as desirable for cooking and they are most frequently used for in competitions or as yard decorations.

Pumpkin – New England Pie

ClassificationDays To MaturityFruit SizeWeightSkin ColorHabitNotes
Pumpkin80 – 100Average 8″ to 12″ around5-8#Bright orange skin andLarge vines up to 12′, which 2 or 3 fruit per plant.This New England pumpkin is dependable and easy to grow, Lightly ribbed (also known as Small Sugar). They are orange globes, slightly flattened at both ends and lightly ribbed. Flesh is thick, yellow-orange, fine-grained, stringless and sweet. Makes cute mini jack-o-lanterns for Halloween.
Seed DepthSeeds Per groupSeed SpacingSpace Between HillsDay To GerminationThin To (Plants Per hill)
1″8 -102″2-3′3-73-4
SpeciesGenusYear IntroducedHeirloomResistance
CucurbitaPepoPre-1860YesUnknown
UsageEdible – Good food qualities. Superb flavor is preferred by many chefs.
StorageFair keeper
Space SaverNo Suggestions