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Winter Squash

Cucurbita spp.

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.

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Light:

Sun

Type:

Height:

1 to 3 feet

Width:

3-15 feet wide

Flower Color:

Foliage Color:

Seasonal Features:

Special Features:

Zones:

2, 10

Propagation

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.

Keep reading about winter squash.

Winter Squash Varieties

'Banana Pink Jumbo' squash

Banana Pink Jumbo bears cylindrical pinkish-orange fruits that weigh up to 50 pounds each. The yellow-orange flesh is sweet and dry. Plant 8 to 10 feet apart. 105 days to harvest.

'Blue Ballet' hubbard squash

Blue Ballet bears blue-green fruits with sweet orange flesh. Each weighs 4 to 6 pounds. Plant 8 to 10 feet apart. 110 days to harvest.

'Burgess Buttercup' winter squash

Burgess Buttercup has dark green blocky fruits with gray stripes and a gray button on the bottom. The deep orange flesh is nearly fiberless. Plant 8 to 10 feet apart. 100 days to harvest.

'Cornell's Bush Delicata' winter squash

Cornell's Bush Delicata offers oblong fruits that are ivory with dark green stripes. Each weighs 1 to 2 pounds. The plant has a semi-bush growth habit and is powdery-mildew resistant. Plant 36 inches apart. 80 days to harvest.

'Green Striped Cushaw' winter squash

Green Striped Cushaw offers bulb-shape fruits that grow 10 to 12 pounds and have fibrous yellow flesh. This heirloom variety is good for the Southeast. Plants are resistant to squash vine borer. Plant 8 to 10 feet apart. 95 days to harvest.

'Red Kuri' hubbard squash

Red Kuri produces scarlet-orange, teardrop-shape fruits that weigh 4 to 7 pounds each. The smooth red flesh is good for pies. Plant 36 inches apart. 92 days to harvest.

'Spaghetti' squash

Spaghetti squash flesh separates into spaghetti-like strings after baking. Use it as a pasta substitute. The 4-pound ivory-skinned fruits mature to yellow. Plant 6 to 8 feet apart. 90 to 100 days to harvest.

'Sweet Dumpling' winter squash

Sweet Dumpling bears teacup-shape fruits that are ivory with dark green stripes. The 4-inch-diameter fruits have sweet orange flesh and are good for stuffing. Plant 6 to 8 feet apart. 100 days to harvest.

'Table Queen' acorn squash

Table Queen is an heirloom acorn type squash with dark green ribbed fruits and golden flesh. Each fruit weighs 2 to 3 pounds. Plant 8 to 10 feet apart. 80 days to harvest.

'Turk's Turban' winter squash

Turk's Turban is a highly ornamental buttercup-type squash with orange, green, and ivory stripes. The turban-shape fruits weigh 3 to 5 pounds. Plant 6 feet apart. 80 days to harvest.

'Waltham' butternut squash

Waltham bears tan fruits that are cylindrical with a bulbous base. Fruits have a thin skin and meaty orange flesh. Plants are resistant to squash vine borer. Plant 2 to 6 feet apart. 82 days to harvest.

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