Pumpkin & Squash Varieties

Pumpkin & Squash Varieties

Read an introduction to pumpkin and squash varieties here.

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About Squash Varieties

Squash can be a very rewarding crop to grow on an allotment. The best part is that it is surprisingly delicious, and can be used as the main ingredient in soups, pies, and casseroles, contributing its soft and delicious flavour. Roast squash is my favourite way of eating it, an excellent alternative to potato chips.

There is a wide range of squash varieties to grow including summer squash, winter squash, and pumpkin. Shops often stock just one type, butternut squash, which is a winter variety. Growing your own squash provides the opportunity to try all the other types.

Summer Squash
Summer squash can be eaten young when the skin is soft, or left to mature like winter squash (to store). If eaten young, the skin is easy to peel and the seeds are small. Summer squash comes in a range of interesting shapes and colours. The plants generally form a bush shape, with the fruit setting once the large flowers have been pollinated. Summer squash is the best option where space is limited.

Winter Squash
Winter squash varieties are often much larger than summer squash types. Winter squash is harvested in late summer and early autumn and eaten throughout the winter. Squash keeps well, provided that five centimetres or two inches of stalk is kept on the fruit, and that the skin has had an opportunity to harden (and dry) in summer sunshine. The squash needs to be kept in a cool (not cold) and dry place. Winter squash is well suited to large gardens or an allotment, as the plants have a spreading habit capable of covering many square metres of space.

Perhaps the most famous squash of all, pumpkin is grown for carving at Halloween, and eating. For the competitive grower, there is also the opportunity to attempt to grow massive pumpkins, with pumpkin varieties specially bred for this purpose.

Squash are hungry plants that thrive on rich soil, ideally with plenty of well rotted manure or compost mixed into it. Regular watering will help to produce big and healthy fruit. I like to plant my squash through biodegradable weed fabric. This helps to preserve moisture in the soil, and keeps the fruit clean and unblemished as they ripen in the late summer sunshine.

Growing squash is generally problem free, provided that the plants do not experience cold weather or frost. Seed is usually sown in April and May indoors or undercover, before the young plants are transplants to their final growing position once all risk of frost has passed. The bigger the seedling when planting out the better, as young plants can sometimes be consumed by slugs and snails, whereas larger plants are more likely to be left alone. Sowing squash too late in the year risks the fruit not having enough time to mature before colder weather arrives in the autumn.