Squash Growing Guide

These frost-tender plants need warm weather, lots of sun, and plenty of room.


Squash come in two main types: summer squash and winter squash. While there's not much difference among the tastes and textures of summer squashes, winter squashes offer a wide array of flavors.

Summer squash (Cucurbita pepo) produces prolifically from early summer until the first frost. This group includes both green and yellow zucchini, most yellow crookneck and straightneck squash, and scallop (or pattypan) squash. Most summer squash are ready to pick 60 to 70 days after planting, but some reach harvestable size in 50 days. You can use them raw for salads and dips or cook them in a wide variety of ways, including squash "french fries" and such classics as zucchini bread.

Summer squash blossoms, picked just before they open, are delicious in soups and stews, or try them sautéed, stuffed, or dipped in batter and fried. (You'll want to use mostly male flowers for this purpose, though, and leave the female flowers to produce fruit.) Summer squash keep for only a week or so in the refrigerator, so you'll probably want to freeze most of the crop.

Winter squash (C. maxima, C. mixta, C. moschata, and C. pepo) is a broad category that includes butternut, acorn, delicious, hubbard, banana, buttercup (or turban), and spaghetti squash. Pumpkins are also in this group, but their flesh is often less sweet than other winter squash. Most winter squash take 75 to 120 days to mature.

Steam the young fruits, or harvest and bake the squash when they're fully mature. Dry and roast the seeds. Winter squash are even more nutritious than their summer kin, but the sprawling vines, which can grow 10 to 20 feet long, require more space. If you have only a small garden, try one of the bush or semibush cultivars.

Butternuts produce fruits up to 1 foot long with tan skins and orange flesh. Acorn squash have dark green to yellow fruits that are round and usually furrowed; they generally weigh 1 to 2 pounds. Acorns don't store as well as most winter squash, but they are very productive.

Delicious squash can take more than 100 days to mature, but the wait is worth it; the wide-spreading vines produce wonderfully sweet fruit. Hubbards are best for storing, but standard cultivars can weigh up to 30 pounds, which is a lot of squash to eat. Pink-skinned banana squash can grow up to 75 pounds. Buttercup, or turban, squash have a sumptuous taste that makes them a winter squash favorite.

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