An Introduction to Growing & Harvesting Organic Squash

Information about squash varieties

Summer squash are grown very much like winter squash –  Though related to vining plants such as cucumbers and winter squash, most varieties of summer squash produce short vines or no vines at all. This can make them more appropriate for small gardens than are winter squash.

Winter squash are not particularly recommended for small gardens because of the plants’ size – winter squash varieties can send vines out that are 8 m (25 ft) long or longer – but if you have the space for them, the plants are not very difficult to grow. There are many varieties of winter squash that vary in size, flavor, texture, sweetness, productivity, and storage properties. Some can be stored from harvest until the following May, while others keep for no more than a month after harvest.

Best time to plant

You must wait until all danger of frost has passed if you're planting summer or winter squash. The seeds will not germinate in cold soil, and they cannot tolerate frost, so you must wait to plant them until frost is past and the soil has begun to warm up (late May or early June in the upper Midwest). You will want to have ready a good amount of organic fertilizer (60 ml or ¼ cup per plant).

Use of fertilizer increases yield of these plants, which need a lot of nutrients. Work the fertilizer into the soil right around where you are going to plant the seeds or transplants.

When to Harvest

While squash may appear to be ripe as early as August, they will store longer and taste better if you let them sit outside through at least one frost (one or more nights with temperatures below 0 C/32 F).

Do harvest the squash before you get a hard frost (a night with temperatures below -4 C/25 F). To harvest the squash, cut the stems with a knife or garden clippers about 5 cm (2 in) from the fruit.

Store the fruit in a warm, well-ventilated room to dry (or “cure”) for about a week, then store in a dry, cooler place (12 C/55 F). As noted above, some varieties store much better than others; pick up and check each of your stored squash regularly for soft rotting spots.


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