The Vegetable Garden

    Squash, Winter

      Winter squash is a warm-season vegetable that can be grown in most of the country. It differs from summer squash in that it is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage, when the seeds within have matured fully and the skin has hardened into a tough rind. When ripened to this stage, fruits of most varieties can be stored for use throughout the winter.


      The following varieties of squash are adapted to a wide variety of conditions. They are vining types unless otherwise indicated. Vining squash plants require considerable growing space and are best suited for large gardens. The

      bush and semi-vining types can be grown in smaller gardens. Occasionally, some of these varieties may be listed as pumpkins by certain seed companies. The distinction between squash and pumpkins is mainly in what you choose to call them. Here, open-pollinated varieties are identified as OP.

      Acorn (C. Pepo)—80 to 100 days to harvest.

      • Cream of the Crop (hybrid - All America Selection winner; uniform white acorn type; creamy smooth, tasty flesh)
      • Ebony (early; glossy dark green; flaky flesh texture)
      • Swan White (OP-creamy white skin; pale yellow flesh; smooth, delicate, sweet flesh)
      • Table Ace (hybrid-semi-bush; uniform, near black fruit; excellent, low-fiber flesh)
      • Table Gold (OP-compact bush habit, attractive bright golden yellow, may also be harvested as summer squash when light yellow)
      • Table King (OP-compact bush; dark green, color holds well)
      • Table Queen (OP-standard dark green acorn type)
      • Tay-Belle (OP-semi-bush, dark green)

      Delicata (C. Pepo)

      • Delicata (also known as sweet potato squash; long cylindrical shape; cream color with dark green stripes)
      • Honey Boat (shaped like Delicata, tan background with dark green stripes, very sweet flesh)
      • Sugar Loaf (tan background, dark green stripes, elongated oval, very sweet)
      • Sweet Dumpling (flattened round, fluted; light cream to white background, with dark green stripes)


      Spaghetti (C. Pepo)

      • Orangetti (hybrid-semi-bush plant, orange version of spaghetti, high in carotene)
      • Pasta (yellowish cream fruit, improved flavor)
      • Stripetti (hybrid of Spaghetti and Delicata, great taste, stores better)
      • Tivoli (hybrid-bush habit; All America Selection winner; light yellow, uniform fruit, 3 to 4 pounds)
      • Vegetable Spaghetti (OP-good keeper; light yellow, oblong fruit)

      Butternut (C. Mopschata)

      • Butterbush (bush habit; early, 1 to 2 pound fruit)
      • Early Butternut (hybrid-All America Selection winner, early, medium size, high yield)
      • Ponca (extra early, small seed cavity, stores well)
      • Puritan (OP-uniform, blocky, smooth, slightly smaller than Waltham)
      • Supreme (hybrid-thick neck; early, uniform, sweet)
      • Ultra (largest fruit 6 to 10 pounds; good leaf canopy)
      • Waltham (OP-uniform, thick-necked, 10 to 12 inch fruits)
      • Zenith (hybrid; smooth, attractive fruit; high yield)

      True Winter Squash (C. Maxima)

      • All Season (bush; orange skin, flesh; 8 or more small fruit per plant)
      • Banana (pink, blue or gray; long, slim, pointed at the ends; 10 to 30 pounds)
      • Buttercup (dark green fruit with distinct gray cap at blossom end; the standard for fine-grained, sweet flesh; 3 to 4 pounds)
      • Delicious (5 to 12 pounds; large, top-shaped, green or gold fruit, smoother than Hubbard)
      • Emerald Bush Buttercup (bush habit)
      • Honey Delight (hybrid 3 to 4 pounds; buttonless buttercup type; excellent flesh quality)
      • Gold Nuggett (5 inch, flattened round; 1 to 2 pounds; orange skin, flesh; bush habit)
      • Baby, Blue, Chicago, Golden, Green and Warted Hubbard (large teardrop shape, pointed at ends; warted skin; 8 to 25 pounds)
      • Mooregold (bright orange skin, flesh; excellent keeper with tough rind; buttercup type; 2 to 3 pounds)
      • Sweet Mama (hybrid-All America Selection winner; semi-vining, buttercup type; uniform; tasty; 2 to 3 pounds)
      • Sweet Meat (OP-old time favorite; flattened; slate gray skin; 10 to 15 pounds)
      • Red Kuri (OP-bright red- orange; teardrop-shaped; smooth-textured flesh; 3 to 5 pounds)


      When To Plant

      Squash is a tender vegetable. The seeds do not germinate in cold soil, and the seedlings are injured by frost. Do not plant until all danger of frost is past and soil is thoroughly warmed.

      Spacing & Depth

      The vining types of squash require at least 50 to 100 square feet per hill. Plant seeds one inch deep (four or five seeds per hill). Allow 5 to 6 feet between hills. When the young plants are well-established, thin each hill to the best two or three plants. Allow 7 to 12 feet between rows.

      Plant semi-vining varieties one inch deep (four or five seeds per hill) and thin to the best two plants per hill. Allow 8 feet between rows.

      Plant bush varieties one inch deep (1 or 2 seeds per foot of row) and thin to a single plant every three feet. Allow five feet between rows.


      Squash plants should be kept free from weeds by hoeing and shallow cultivation. Irrigate if an extended dry period occurs in early summer. Squash requires minimal care after the vines cover the ground.

      Bees are necessary for pollinating squash and pumpkins and are killed by insecticides. If insecticides are used, they should be applied in late afternoon or early evening after the bees stop visiting blossoms for the day.


      Winter squash can be harvested whenever the fruits have turned a deep, solid color and the rind is hard. Harvest the main part of the crop in September or October, before heavy frosts hit your area. Cut squash from the vines carefully, leaving two inches of stem attached if possible. Avoid cuts and bruises when handling. Fruits that are not fully mature, have been injured, have had their stems knocked off, or have been subjected to heavy frost do not keep and should be used as soon as possible or be composted (watch for seedlings in the compost).

      Store in a dry building where the temperature is between 50 and 55°F. For prolonged storage, do not pile squash more than two fruits deep. It is preferable, where space allows, to place the fruits in a single layer so that they do not touch each other. This arrangement minimizes the potential spread of rots.

      Common Problems

      Cucumber beetles attack seedlings, vines and both immature and mature fruits. They can be controlled with a suggested insecticide applied weekly either as a spray or dust. Be alert for an infestation of cucumber beetles in early September because these beetles can damage the mature fruits.