2017 was that second time in the six years that we have lived in this house where I have picked that last of my winter squash in December. In this case, December 7, 2017. I always leave the last few winter squash for picking at the last possible moment to get as many full ripe fruits as possible. Fortunately, I was watching my iPhone and thought the night get colder than I would like and did not want to risk my squash to a frost any longer. So, I went out into the rain and harvested my last four golden butternut squashes from my vegetable garden. As you can see in the picture about where they are still wet from the rain. In all, it was 42 pounds of ripe butternut squash.
It was a good thing I did because it was snowing a couple hours later, not a common thing here in San Antonio, Texas.
I’m a little slow getting this post, but as it happens, I’m cooking one of them, smaller for seed, ten pounders today, which got me thinking about the December harvest.
A popular winter storage squash of
excellent quality. A prolific, easy to grow, delicious butternut with improved
fruit uniformity and increased yields. Interior is thick rich sweet
yellow-orange flesh with a nutty flavor. A 1970 All-America Selection
(AAS) seed-industry award winner. Grows well in the southern U.S.A.
Days To Maturity
8” to 12″ long and 3” to 5” inches in width
grow to 6 feet, producing 4-5 squash per plant.
Growing winter squash and pumpkins vertically can save garden space and help to fight pests. To grow squash vertically, here a few simple tips to follow:
Choosing the correct seed is the best place to begin. To grow squash Vertically choose squash that has a vining habit (sometimes called trailing) and produce small fruit; two pounds or less is recommended. Growing squash that can grow to a hundred pounds or more would be hard to accommodate when building the structure to be climbed and would break from the vines before mature.
Site and climbing structure should be properly prepared. The climbing structure should be strong enough to withstand strong winds and the weight of the squash as they reach maturity.
The soil needs to be well worked and mounded to allow soil based watering methods, such as trench or soaker hose and provides adequate drainage.
The grooming method needs to be adapted to encourage the growth of several small fruits. Many gardeners recommend removing fruit and leaving only one or two on each vine; thus, encouraging a few large fruits. When growing vertically we want to encourage the growth of numerous small fruit, which will be less likely to tear the vines down or fall off the vine.
As squash grow larger and providing additional support for the fruit may be desirable to prevent the fruit from tearing themselves from the vine before mature or falling to earth and breaking or being bruised.
With some early maturing varieties picking of fruit may be necessary as the fruit becomes fully mature to reduce weight in the vine and to encourage the vine to produce more fruit. Care should be taken to ensure the fruit is fully mature.
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.
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.
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.
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.