Despite it's cold weather name, winter squash
is a warm-season vegetable that can grow in most areas of the country. These are the squashes we usually look forward to with a Thanksgiving feast. Here's how to grow them in your home garden.
Winter squashes include butternut, acorn
, spaghetti, hubbard and Turk's turban, among others. The main difference between summer squashes, like zucchini, and winter squashes is that winter squash are allowed to fully mature before harvesting, resulting in a hard exterior rind.
Winter squash is easy to grow, but you will need time and space. Most varieties take about 100 days to fully mature, and as they grow the vines can take up several square feet of garden space.
Since you can plan on waiting several months from planting to harvest, plant winter squash in the summer for a mid-fall harvest. Be sure that the soil is warm when you plant or the seeds will not germinate. Winter squash is also frost-tender, so don't plant too late in the summer or you won't be able to enjoy a harvest before cool weather arrives.
Squash grows best will the hill planting method. In rich, well-drained soil, plant 5 or so seeds per hill. Thin to the strongest three plants once seedlings are a couple inches tall. Water regularly and fertilize every two weeks. Harvest winter squash when the fruits are an acceptable size with a hard outer rind. If you thump them, they will sound hollow inside. Winter squash
can be stored in a cool, dry location for months.