Growing squash, like butternut squash, can be very rewarding and is one of my favourite plants to grow. Squash have a lovely sweet nutty taste and are very vigorous plants capable of producing many large fruit. Squash stores well over the winter months.
My favourite ways of eating squash, including butternut squash, is to roast it in segments, as an ingredient in soups, or mashed as an alternative to mashed potato. Cutting squash into cubes, tossed in olive oil and salt, and roasting for 30 minutes is also delicious!
The seeds are edible and are yummy toasted in a dry frying pan. Squash make a healthy meal as it contains vitamins C, A, and E, plus minerals magnesium and potassium.
- April to June
- Planting depth: 2.5 cm
- Planting spacing: 90cm between plants, 90 cm between rows (minimum distances)
- From July to October
- Eat summer squash fresh, store winter squash in a cool dry environment
Growing squash is relatively easy and there are many varieties to choose from, but squash does need a little extra care at the beginning of the growing cycle. Young squash plants are particularly sensitive to frost, and slugs can be a problem too.
I usually sow squash into pots in late March or April, covering the pots with plastic food wrap to help germination (with air gaps cut in), before placing on a sunny windowsill.
After germination, protect the delicate heat loving plants from late spring cold and frosts by growing on in a plastic greenhouse or polytunnel, before transplanting to their final position after the last frosts. If you do not have a growhouse of cold frame my suggestion would be to sow your seed in late April.
With butternut squash I like to be extra safe and use cloches to cover the freshly planted seedlings when I transplant them to their final growing position at the allotment. It is not unknown for an unexpected frost to strike in late April or May.
Watch out! Squash grows big and can end up rampaging over your plot! Squash will spread vigorously so I like to plant them about 1.5 metres apart.
They are very hungry plants. I prepare their position by digging a hole and filling with well rotted manure mixed with rich compost. It’s also helpful to mark the position of the plant with a small stick. That way, in mid summer when the plant has spread all over your plot, you will still be able to identify the plant’s centre for watering.
For big squash water copiously and never allow the soil to dry out.
By mid summer you will hopefully have many baby squashes forming from behind the flowers. With plenty of water and sunshine these will rapidly grow large and ripen to their light golden or burnt orange colour. If your soil is quite heavy or damp it may be worth placing straw or board underneath the squashes to keep them clean.
I have found growing squash over weed control fabric particularly effective. The fabric helps to stop the soil drying out, whilst keeping the fruits clean.
After harvesting, squash should be left for a day or two in the sun to dry out their skin. Afterwards they are best placed in a cool and dry environment where, with luck, they will stay good for many months.
There are many varieties of squash of all shapes, sizes, and colours:
- Butternut squash is a type of winter squash that is a member of the gourd family of plants.
- Summer squashes are so named as they are grown to be harvested and eaten straight away
- Large winter squashes, with their thick hard skin, are much better equiped for winter storage.