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Growing Winter Squash In
Large Or Small Gardens

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Buttercup Squash

Growing Winter Squash

Unlike summer squash, that is eaten in its immature stage, winter squash is left until it is fully matured and the skin has hardened into a tough rind before harvesting. When fully ripened and properly stored most varieties of winter squash will keep well and still be good to eat 4-6 months after harvesting.

Like potatoes and sweet corn growing winter squash is another of those vegetables that many gardeners avoid because it is a space hog. But while many varieties of winter squash are vine there are plenty of space saving semi vine and bush varieties on the market that do produce very well in the small garden.


Photo of picked mature brussel sprouts

Roll-over image to enlarge

Some varieties of winter squash have both vine and bush types. This butternut squash plant is a bush variety. Growing 6-8 foot (1.8 - 2.4 M) in diameter it is ideal for smaller gardens.

Photo of picked mature brussel sprouts

Roll-over image to enlarge

The fruit from this bush variety is much smaller, 8-10 inches (20-25 cm) long, than it full grown vine cousin but lacks nothing as far as flavor is concerned.

Photo of picked mature brussel sprouts

Roll-over image to enlarge

Vine types of winter squash require a lot more growing space than the bush varieties. Given half a chance they will take over the whole garden.

Photo of picked mature brussel sprouts

Roll-over image to enlarge

The fruit from vine types are usually much bigger. They will continue to grow and expand until killed by frost in the fall. Many gardeners start to prune the vines as it gets close to the end of the season. Leaving only the fruit that will mature before conditions become unfavorable.

Photo of picked mature brussel sprouts

Roll-over image to enlarge

Squash produce female and male flowers and rely on insects for pollination. This image is male flower and will not produce a fruit.

Photo of picked mature brussel sprouts

Roll-over image to enlarge

The female flower is where the fruit is formed. The swelling at the bottom of this female flower is the starting of a new buttercup squash fruit.




Quick Reference Guide


Veggie Garden Dairy
Vegetable Winter Squash
Also Known As
Botanical Family - Cucurbitaceae, Genus - Cucurbita, Species - C. maxima
Plant Type Warm season - annual - fruiting vegetable
Frost Tolerance Tender
Planting Position Grow in full sun - Requires at least 8-10 hours of direct sunlight daily.
Seed Viability 4 years
Germination 9-12 days at 60-90 F (16-32 C)
Growing Temp 70-95 F (21-35 C)
Seed to Transplant 3 - 4 weeks
Planting Method Direct sow or Seedling transplants
When to Plant Spring
Time to Plant Wait until at least 1-2 weeks after the last average 32 F (0 C) freeze in your area but not before soil temperature are consistently 60 F (16 C) or above.
Seed Sowing All seeds sown one inch (25mm) deep
Vine types-sow seeds 4-5 seeds per hill. 5-6 feet (150-180 cm) between hills. 10-12 feet (3-3 1/2 M) between rows.
Semi-vine types-sow seeds 4-5 seeds per hill. 3 feet (90 cm) between hills. 8 feet ( 2 1/2 M) between rows.
Bush types-sow seeds 1-2 seeds per foot (30 cm) of row. 4-5 feet (120-150 cm) between rows.
Plant Spacing Vine types - Transplant 4-5 plants per hill. Thin each hill to strongest 2-3 plants.
Semi-vine types - Transplant 4-5 plants per hill. Thin each hill to strongest 2-3 plants.
Bush types - Transplant 1plant per foot (30 cm). Thin to 1strongest plant every 3 feet (1 M) of row.
Soil Conditions Well drained - High organic matter - Medium fertility
Fertilizer Medium fertilizer needs, 3-4 quarts per 100 sq feet (3.3-4.4 liters per 9.3 square meters) preplanting of All-Purpose 5-5-5 Organic Fertilizer icon, same rate for each side dressing.
When to Fertilize 2 weeks before sowing or transplanting - when transplanting use liquid starter fertilizer - side-dress just as the vines start to run - finally as fruit begin to set.
Days to Harvest 80-140 days - depending on conditions and variety
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