plant quick find clear
Winter squash are a welcome addition to seasonal meals in late summer and early fall. Stuff them, roast them, bake them, or turn them into hearty soups and stews. And grow plenty because they store well for months at room temperature. Winter squash come in an amazing array of shapes and colors. Many are decorative enough to incorporate with gourds in your fall home decor.
Winter squash are closely related to summer squash and pumpkins. The main difference between them is how long you can store them. Winter squash hold up well thanks to their thick skins; summer squash are best eaten shortly after they’re harvested. Pumpkins are a type of winter squash.
Upload your photo here.
Growing Winter Squash
Plant winter squash in combination with a summer squash or two to extend your growing season well into the fall. Plan your plantings carefully because—unless you're growing compact, bush-type varieties—winter squash can take up a lot of space. In optimal growing conditions, some varieties can grow more than 10 feet wide. If you don't have horizontal space, grow your winter squash up a sturdy trellis or arbor. Some gardeners add visual interest in their vegetable garden by planting winter squash below sweet corn.
Because of their bristly leaves and stems, winter squash are deer-resistant. They can be useful for planting around the perimeter of the vegetable garden as one way to help deter four-legged critters.
Winter Squash Care
If you want good harvests, be sure to plant winter squash in a spot that sees full sun and has well-draining soil. If your ground has a high sand or clay content, prepare the ground by mixing in a 3-inch layer of compost.
Because they're heat-loving summer crops, winter squash seeds or transplants should be placed outdoors once soil temperatures stay around 60 degrees F or more. If you plant them too early, they'll sulk in cool weather. Gardeners in short-summer areas often start their squash seeds early indoors—three to four weeks before you'd normally plant them outdoors.
Most winter squash are vines that cover a fair amount of ground so space new plantings 3 to 6 feet apart. Protect winter squash from pests like squash vine borers by using floating row covers in spring until the plants grow too large for them.
Harvest winter squash when the skin turns the appropriate color for the variety and the rind feels hard when pressed with your thumbnail. Cut stems 2 inches above the fruit to remove them from the vine without bruising them. Place harvested fruits in a humid room at 80°F to 85°F for two weeks to cure. Store them in the dark at 50°F to 55°F for two to six months.