Butternut Squash (Cucurbita moschata)
A vegetable I grew in my garden last year that I found easy to grow and easy to store was Butternut Squash. This is a winter squash and is a close relative to the pumpkin. I planted the 'Waltham' variety. This squash grows on a sprawling vine and should NOT be harvested until the skin is thick. After that it can be stored in a dry, cool location and it keeps well for months. Planting can be delayed until June since these squash are to be harvested near the end of growing season. Butternut squash is excellent for soup, for baking as a side dish, or used in a vegetable salad, etc. It has a wonderful flavor!
Waltham Butternut Squash
Squash like warm soil and are very sensitive to frost. So don’t be in a rush to plant early in spring, remember our average last frost date is April 16th and this year it could be later. Wait until the danger of frost has passed and soil has warmed to about 70 F, or about 2 weeks after the last frost date.
Mound up the soil to make a hill, the soil will warm quicker, you may also put black plastic over it to raise the soil temperature. Plant the seeds ½ to 1 inch deep in the mounded soil. Sow 4 to 5 seeds per hill and each hill about 4 to 8 feet apart. When the plants are 2 to 3 inches tall, thin to 2 to 3 plants per hill by snipping off unwanted plants without disturbing the roots of the remaining ones. These do take up space in the garden, but the vines can be trained vertically to reduce space. You may have to support the growing squash with slings, made from cloth or panty hose, as they grow vertically on the support.
Mulching plants helps retain moisture and suppress weeds. Mounding soil around the base of the plants can discourage squash borers from laying eggs. I have also found aluminum foil laid around the base and under the leaves confuses the squash bugs when they are in the moth stage. Keep your eyes out for the orange eggs on the underside of the leaves, if spotted remove them.
When the stems turn a light green yellow color, the squash should be fully ripe.The fruit is very uniform and will grow up to 8-10" long. The rind will be thick and tough. Cut, do not pull, the ripe fruit from the plant. Two to three inches of stem must remain for proper storing. This may increase the sugar content. The 'Waltham' variety has great storage characteristics and excellent taste!
Check out the Recipes on the blog
Baked Barley Risotto with Butternut Squash
Curried Butternut Soup
Baxter County Master Gardener Program • University of Arkansas System • Division of Agriculture • © 2013 BCMG