Winter squash are grown much like summer squash. The difference is in the harvest. Summer squash is picked while it is immature and the rind is soft. Winter squash is picked when mature and the rind hard. Winter squash stores well, while summer squash does not.
Winter squash is a warm weather plant, sowed from seeds after all danger of frost is past. In North Central Texas, we plant it around April 15. You can plant the seeds in rows, but most people use hills. These are short mounds of dirt in the row. Three or four seeds are planted one inch deep in the hills. When the plants come up, watch a few days and determine which two plants are the strongest. Pinch the stems off of the other two plants. Do not pull them up as that will disturb the roots of the ones you want to keep.
If the squash is a bush type, leave 40 inches between rows and about 12 inches between mounds. If the squash is a vining type, leave four to six feet between mounds. You can save space by putting a trellis by the mound and training the plant to grow up it. Some heavier squash may have a problem supporting the actual squash, but it works very well for medium and small squash.
Squash will cross pollinate, so separate it from other squash, cucumbers, and melons. In fact, squash have both male and female flowers. Only the female becomes a squash. The male flower drops off after spreading its’ pollen. Sometimes, bees or other creatures do not pollinate the flowers and you have problems with squash rot. You can hand pollinate your squash to fix this.
Squash need water and nitrogen to grow well. If you put too much nitrogen, the plant will grow great foliage but have no fruit. A soil test will help you determine exactly what nutrients your plant needs, and in what amounts.
Squash are ripe when their vines are hard and their seeds fully formed. Usually, the stem starts to turn brown and the squash comes off the vine easily. Squash should be stored in a cool, dark place until eaten.
For more help gardening, buy my book, “Preparing a Vegetable Garden From the Ground Up.” Available in print or eBook, this book walks you from choosing the site of your garden all the way through what to do after the harvest. Buy a copy for yourself or a friend today!