How To Grow Butternut Squash
Growing butternut squash can be very rewarding. It has a lovely sweet nutty taste, is a very vigorous plant capable of producing many large fruit, and it stores very well over the winter months.
My favourite ways of eating butternut squash are to roast it in segments, baked as halves and stuffed, made into soups, or even mashed as an alternative to mashed potato. The seeds are edible and are delicious toasted in a dry frying pan. Butternut squash make a healthy meal as it contains vitamins C, A and E plus minerals magnesium and potassium.
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, where as winter squashes with their thick hard skin are much better equiped for winter storage.
How To Grow Butternut Squash - Introduction
Growing squash is relatively easy and there are many varieties to choose from, but butternut squash needs a little extra care at the beginning of the growing cycle. To grow butternut squash successfully you need to start early and protect the delicate heat loving plants from late spring cold and frosts, before transplanting to their final position where they can end up rampaging over your plot!
How To Grow Butternut Squash - Sowing
Late March or April is the time I start, sowing the seeds in grow pots and then covering with cellophane before placing on a sunny windowsill.
Butternut squash plants hate the cold, and I have learned from experience that moving them outside too early will kill them or significantly set back their growing cycle.
When the seedlings have grown two strong leaves I then wait for a period of warm spring weather and move them outside to my plastic growhouse to harden off a little before transplanting to the allotment. If you do not have a growhouse of cold frame my suggestion would be to sow your seed in late April.
How To Grow Butternut Squash - Transplanting
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.
Butternut squash will spread vigorously so they should be planted 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 its patch you will still be able to identify the plant's centre to water.
How To Grow Butternut Squash - Care
For big butternut squash water copiously and never allow the soil to dry out.
The picture above is a young butternut squash plant with the cloche removed and enjoying the early summer sunshine. You can see the rich compost underneath it's leaves, and the slightly concaved earth around the plant to help channel water to the roots during watering.
By mid summer you will hopefully have many baby butternut 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.
After harvesting, butternut 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.
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