It's Not Time for Winter… But It Is Time for Winter Squash

Posted: May 31, 2011

It has been a tough spring for gardeners, first with prolonged wet and cool weather, and more recently with heat spells. If the weather got you a little behind in planting this year, and if you have some extra space, consider growing a few winter squash varieties.

It’s not too late to get these planted, either direct seeded or by using transplants, so that you can enjoy these wonderful vegetables when fall rolls around.

Winter squash varieties have greatly increased in recent years. Gone are the days when gardeners were limited to a few cultivars of butternut and acorn squash. Now there is a wide selection of types, from butternuts, neck pumpkins, delicotta, buttercup, kabocha, spaghetti, and hubbards. My personal favorites are the buttercup and kabocha types, as these have dense, flavorful flesh and they can be stored all winter long without decaying. When selecting varieties, pay attention to if they are bush types, which are relatively compact, or vining types, which need more room to spread out.

Winter squash prefer soils with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8, and benefit from relatively high levels of organic matter.  Mulches work very well for winter squash, as mulch will conserve soil moisture, help control weeds, and provide a protective layer for the fruit as it grows and matures. Winter squash should be allowed to mature and develop hard rinds on the vine before harvesting. After harvesting, it is recommended to cure the rinds by holding the fruit at 80-85 degrees F and a relative humidity of around 80%. After about ten days, remove and store at 55 degrees and 55% relative humidity. Storage temperatures that are too high tend to dry out the flesh while temperatures too low can cause chilling injury.

For more information on growing vegetables, see the Penn State Vegetable Gardening Production Guide.

Contact Information

Lee Stivers
  • Extension Educator, Horticulture
Phone: 724-228-6881