Acorn Squash Growing Tips For Your Garden
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By: Jackie Rhoades
Acorn squash (Cucurbita pepo), so named for its shape, comes in a variety of colors and can be a welcome addition to any gardener’s table. Acorn squash belongs to a group of squashes commonly known as winter squash; not because of their growing season, but for their storage qualities. In the days before refrigeration, these thick skinned vegetables could be kept through the winter, unlike their thin skinned and vulnerable cousins, the summer squash. Keep reading to learn more about growing acorn squash.
Start Growing Acorn Squash
When learning about how to grow acorn squash, the first consideration should be space. Do you have enough to accommodate the acorn squash plant size — which is considerable? You’ll need about 50 square feet (4.5 sq. meters) per hill with two to three plants in each. That’s a lot of ground, but the good news is that one or two hills should provide plenty for the average family. If the square footage is still too much, acorn squash plant size can still be squeezed in with the use of sturdy A-frame trellises.
Once you have allotted space for growing, acorn squash is easy to cultivate. Mound your soil into hill to keep the plant’s ‘feet’ dry.
When growing acorn squash, plant five or six seeds per hill, but wait until the soil temperature rises to 60 F. (15 C.) and all danger of frost is past since the seeds need warmth to germinate and the plants are extremely frost tender. These vines prefer temperatures between 70 and 90 F. (20-32 C.). While the plants will continue to grow at higher temperatures, the flowers will drop, thus preventing fertilization.
The acorn squash plant size makes them heavy feeders. Make sure your soil is rich and you feed them regularly with a good all-purpose fertilizer. Add plenty of sun, a soil pH of 5.5-6.8, and 70-90 days before the first fall frost and you have all that’s needed for how to grow acorn squash.
How to Grow Acorn Squash
When all seeds have sprouted, allow only two or three of the strongest to grow in each hill. Keep the area weed-free with shallow cultivation so as not to damage the surface root system.
Keep an eye out for insects and disease while doing your regular chores of gardening. Acorn squash are susceptible to borers. Look for the tell tale “sawdust” and act quickly to destroy the worm. Striped cucumber beetles and squash beetles are the most common pests.
Harvest your acorn squash before the first hard frost. They’re ready when the skin is tough enough to resist being pierced by a fingernail. Cut the squash from the vine; don’t pull. Leave a 1-inch (2.5 cm.) piece of stem attached. Store them in a cool, dry place, laying them side by side rather than stacked.
Follow these acorn squash growing tips and come winter, when last summer’s garden is just a memory, you’ll still be enjoying the fresh fruits of your labor.
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Acorn squash is well worth investing in. This type of winter squash is not difficult to grow in most climates. It also keeps for long periods without spoiling after you pick it. For the best results, prepare the ideal environment for these vegetables.
Space: Most acorn squash varieties grow on a large plant, which continues to spread out throughout the growing season. Give the squash enough room to grow, which may be as much as 50 square feet per hill. Each hill can contain two or three plants. This number of plants produces a dozen or more squash throughout the growing season.
Soil: Planting the squash on a hill is ideal. If this is not an option, a mound of soil is the best route to take. Ensure the soil is rich in nutrients for a larger crop and larger sized squash. Good drainage is key to the success of these plants.
Seeds: You can start acorn squash from seeds in most United States climates right in the garden. You can also purchase starter plants from your greenhouse or garden shop. Do not plant until the threat of frost has past. If growing from seed, place four to five seeds per hill of about 50 square feet apart for other hills. Mound loose dirt into a hill shape and push seeds several inches deep.
Initial Care: Once you plant the seeds or plants, carefully monitor them throughout the growing season. Keep weeds at bay as weeds will strip important nutrients from the soil. Keep soil within the mound loose but be careful not to dig up any roots. Keep soil damp, but avoid overwatering. Good drainage keeps roots from sitting in soil that is too damp, which can lead to rotting.
Growing Season: Once the seeds sprout and the vines begin to emerge, little care is necessary for these plants to do well. However, be careful about using pest control on these plants. Bees are necessary to keep the flower blossoms pollinated. Once pollinated, the acorn squash begins to grow. Many insecticides kill bees, which will stop the plants from producing. If you need to use insecticides in your garden, apply away from the flowers. Apply only in the late part of the day, after the bees have visited the flowers.
Harvesting: Acorn squash can take up to 90 days to fully mature. Some varieties offer much shorter growth periods. You can harvest the squash at any time, though, once it turns a mostly solid green color and the rind is hard. If planting in May or early June, you should be able to harvest beginning in September through October. Be sure to harvest all squash prior to the first hard frost of the season. To harvest, simply use a sharp knife to cut the squash from the vine. Leave about two inches of stem on the squash.
Storing: Once harvested, keep the squash in a good, dry location. Maintain a temperature of 50 to 55 degrees F to store the squash for an extended amount of time.
Benefits of growing squash vertically
Vertical gardening certainly has its advantages, especially when you are dealing with smaller spaces.
Growing squashes vertically allows you to:
- Grow more squash in less space
- Keep the fruit off the ground, which in turn:
- allows more air-flow between the leaves
- decreases risk of disease, such as mildew, blight and bacterial wilt
- prevents them from being eaten by small animals
- Make harvesting easier
- Reap cleaner fruit with fewer blemishes and/or yellow spots from laying on the ground
- Beautify your landscape
If you are familiar with trellising grapes, then trellising squashes will come easily to you.
However, if this is your first garden trellis experiment, never fear, squashes are a non-pretentious and uncomplicated kind of crop to work with.
Plus you have the added benefit of seeing the growth week by week. It is a fantastic sight!
Growing winter squash requires some patience, but this orange and golden warm-season garden vegetable is well worth the wait—and most varieties have a long shelf life. From butternut squash to acorn squash, learn how to plant, grow, harvest, and cure winter squash in your home garden!
About Winter Squash
Because winter squash requires a long growing season (generally from 75 to 100 frost-free days), the seeds are generally planted by late May in northern locations to early July in extremely southern states. See your local frost dates and length of growing season.
Winter squash is harvested in autumn, just before or after their fruits reach full maturity. At this time, the skin is inedible. Squash have a relatively long shelf life (some varieties will keep through winter, hence the name “winter squash”). Varieties include acorn, butternut, Hubbard, pumpkin, and spaghetti.
Despite the great diversity of squash, most commonly grown cultivated varieties belong to one of three species:
- Cucurbita pepo
- C. moschata
- C. maxima
Over several generations, these plants have been cultivated to produce fruit in all kinds of shapes, colors, and flavors.
Squash is one of the three plants grown in the traditional Native American style called the Three Sisters, along with beans and corn. Squash served as a ground cover to prevent weeds from growing. Beans provided natural fertilizer for all three plants, and corn provided a support system for the beans. Learn more about the Three Sisters.
When to Plant Squash
- This tender warm-season crop is not sown in the ground until all danger of frost has passed and the air and soil are at least 60°F, preferably 70°F. Squash are very sensitive to the cold.
- If you have a short growing season, start seeds in peat pots 2 to 4 weeks before your last spring frost date. Squash seedlings do not always transplant well handle the roots gently.
Choosing and Selecting Planting Site
- Soil must be rich and fertile (see preparing soil below) but also drain well and not get too soggy.
- Pick a site with full sun and lots of space for sprawling vines. Most full-size winter squash varieties need 50 to 100 square feet to spread. Though squash takes up a lot of space, it’s a prolific producer so it only takes a few plants to feed a family and neighbors! Don’t overplant. If your garden space is limited, plant winter squash at the edge of the garden and direct vine growth across the lawn.
- You can also grow squash in big 5 to 10 gallon buckets. Or, if you’re even more strapped for space, miniature varieties also exist they can easily be grown up trellises.
Preparing Soil in Advance
- In advance of planting, prepare the soil with lots of organic matter. First, remove any rocks. Then, add in lots of aged manure and/or compost (about 50% native soil to organic matter) dug deep into the ground (the top 8 to 10 inches). Work it up in the autumn or several weeks before planting, but only when the soil is dry enough not to stick to garden tool. Let it settle for about two weeks before planting.
How to Plant Winter Squash
- If you plan to grow only a few plants, use 2 to 3 tablespoons of a balanced (10-10-10) fertilizer for each hill. Scatter the fertilizer evenly over a 2-foot by 2-foot area. Work it into the top 3 to 4 inches of soil. (Or, for a larger garden area, add 2 to 3 pounds of balanced fertilizer for each 100 square feet.)
- Sow seeds in level ground 1 inch deep with seeds 2 to 3 feet apart. Or, sow 3 to 4 seeds close together in small mounds (or hills the soil is warmer off the ground) in rows 3 to 6 feet apart.
- TIP : Consider planting a few squash seeds in midsummer to avoid problems from squash vine borers and other early-season pests and diseases.
- The seeds should germinate in about a week with the right soil temperature (70ºF / 21°C or more).
- If necessary, use row covers or framem protection in cold climates for the first few weeks of spring.
- When seedlings in rows are 2 to 3 inches tall, thin to one plant every 18 to 36 inches by snipping off unwanted plants without disturbing the roots of the remaining ones.
- When seedlings in hills 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
Video Demo: See How to Grow Winter Squash
How to Grow Winter Squash
General Care Tips
- Mulch to discourage weeds, retain moisture, and protect shallow roots.
- Use row covers to protect plants early in the season and to prevent insect problems. Remember to remove covers before flowering to allow pollination by insects.
- When weeding around squash plants, do not over-cultivate, or the squash’s shallow roots may be damaged.
- Squash vines are delicate. Take care not to damage the vines.
- Small winter squash varieties can be trained up a trellis. Larger varieties can be trained upward on a trellis, too—though it is a challenge to support the fruit. Netting or slings made of breathable fabric can help to support the heavy fruit.
- Pruning the vines will help with space, as well as allow the plant’s energy to be concentrated on the remaining vines and fruit.
- Water throughly, frequently, and consistently, with at least 1 inch per week. Water more if you see the leaves wilting. Sandy soils need to be watered more often than heavy clay soils.
- Water diligently when fruit form and throughout their growth period. Misshapen squash result from inadequate water or fertilization.
- When watering, try to keep leaves and fruit dry. Dampness will make root rot and other diseases more likely.
- Winter squash are heavy feeders. It helps to water regularly with aged manure/compost mixed into the water.
- When the first blooms appear, scratch about 2 tablespoons of all-purpose fertilizer around each hill. Or, if growing squash in rows, side-dress. This give plants a boost as they try to produce fruit or blooms. Do not let the fertilizer touch the plants. Water the plants after fertilizing.
- Once vegetables or flowers start growing and producing buds, you can scratch a small amount of all-purpose organic fertilizer into the soil around the base of the plant and water in, to
Flowering and Fruiting
- Poor polllination can result in squash flowers that do not bear fruit or that bear small fruit. Pollinator activity is reduced by any chemicals, poor weather at bloom time, and lack of habitat. To attract more bees, try placing a bee house in your garden or plant pollinator flowers nearby.
- If your first flowers aren’t forming fruits, that’s normal! Squash plants have separate male and female flowers. Males appear first on long thin stalks. Female flowers follow these have an immature fruit at the bottom. To fruit, pollen from male flowers must be transferred to the female flower by bees. Or, the gardener can help manually with a cotton swab or paint brush.
Squash bugs are generally considered the most difficult pest and need to be managed early. There are several organic approaches to control:
- Handpick and scrape off those egg clusters early and as best you can
- Spray neem on egg clusters and juvenile squash bugs
- Growing young plants under row covers
- Delay squash planting until early summer as the natural enemies of squash bugs become more numerous and active as summer progresses.
Other squash pests and diseases include:
How to Harvest Winter Squash
Winter squash and pumpkins are generally ready to be harvested in early- to mid-autumn, usually late September through October.
- Unlike summer squash, which is harvested when tender and a bit immature, harvest winter squash when it is fully mature. The vine leaves die back and turn brown, the stems dry out and get tough, and the rind is deep in color and hard. If you can pierce the skin with your fingernail, it is not mature.
- Harvest on a dry day after the vines have died back.
- Leave an inch or two of stem on winter squashes when harvesting them.
- Cut the squash off the vine carefully with a sharp knife or pruners do not tear, as you could break the fruit stem or the vines.
- Never carry the squash by their stem if the stem breaks off, this exposes the skin to infection.
Once you harvest, don’t forget to clean up the old squash vines to avoid disease! Add vines to the compost pile if you have one they’ll break down and you can work into the soil before the next planting season.
How to Cure Winter Squash
Winter squash must be “cured” before storage. This process helps to dry off excess moisture and to harden the skin, sealing out fungi and bacteria and allowing the squash to keep for longer.
If the weather is dry, just leave your squash on the vine and let them cure outside in the sunshine. If it’s wet or turning colder, bring the squash inside and put them somewhere warm and dry, such as a slatted greenhouse bench or a sunny window.
How to Store Winter Squash
Before storing winter squash, dip it into or wash with a low-concentratio bleach rinse (½ cup bleach to 5 cups water) to sanitize the skin and eliminate bacteria. Air-dry the fruit.
Store in a cool (40° to 50°F), dry, dark place with good circulation. Many varieties of squash will last most of the winter. Note: Acorn will not keep for more than a few weeks.
Occasionally rotate and look for signs of rot. Remove any squash that shows signs of decay.
Try to save some seeds if you grow heirloom varieties (not hybrids) to plant next year. Wash and dry the seeds. Store in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place.
- ‘Waltham Butternut’: A large, tan fruit this butternut squash is sweet and thin-skinned harvest when it’s on the smaller side flavor improves with storage
- ‘Honeybaby’ or ‘Honeynut’ butternut squash plants are compact and ideal for small spaces, raised beds, or containers. Expect about 8 small squash per plant. They’ll weigh a quarter to a half pound and perfect for steaming or baking.
- ‘Butterscotch’ butternut squash produces 1 to 2-pound fruits on short vines. The sweet flesh is rich and smooth. Each plant yields 3 to 4 fruits and the plant is resistant to powdery mildew.
- Blue Hubbard squash is an heirloom known for its huge size, blue-gray color, and very hard skin. The flesh inside is orange, flavorful and smooth. It is great for pies and soups and stores well. Give this variety plenty of room to grow.
- ‘Buttercup’: A round fruit with long vine, Buttercup has deep, bright orange flesh, a dark green inedible rind, and flat top. This heirloom has a sweet, nutty flavor.
- ‘Delicata’: This bush type squash almost looks like a summer squash. It’s very moist and even good raw. Delicata is also tolerant of powdery mildew
- ‘Tuffy’: An acorn type of squash, expect five or six fruit per plant. Acorn squash is bowl-shaped and has a nutty flavor and more fiborous texture than some squash.
- ‘Sugaretti’ spaghetti squash has eye-catching striped fruits. Each medium-sized squash grows up to 10 inches long and has a sweet nutty flavor. The plants are compact and are resistant to powdery mildew. Bake the squash and use the flesh as a pasta substitute.
- ‘Sunshine’: An award-winning kabocha squash with orange-red skin and bright orange flesh. The compact vine yields about 3 to 4-pound fruit that have a round, flattened shape. The flesh has a sweet nutty flavor and creamy texture. The fruits can be stored for months.
Image: Like most winter squash, the butternut squash is a vining plant that require support and space. Credit: By Ratda/Shutterstock.
Image: The usunual kaboucha squash space-saving 6 to 8 foot vines early maturity makes it adaptable to almost any growing location in North America. Credit: Johnny Seeds.
Growing Acorn Squash from Supermarket Squash?
Ask a Question Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.
Question: Growing Acorn Squash from Supermarket Squash?
I planted some seeds from an Acorn squash I bought at the supermarket a few months ago and now have quite a few about to ripen. The only thing is, they look nothing like an Acorn squash. They look more like a squash shaped watermelon no ridges or dark green with a tinge of orange in them at all.
Finally one was ready and I picked it and cooked it. Sure enough, it was an Acorn squash, bright yellow inside and very tasty. I can't imagine why they turned out like they did and don't look the same as the ones at the market.
Your "Acorn" Squash was probably pollinated by a busy little bee that had just "Visited" another "more tasty" member of the family. Were they planted near watermelons? Good luck.
Squash are notorious 'cross-pollinators'. If you plant saved seeds, you will very likely get something that is a cross breed.
OMG! I had no idea that if you plant seeds from one thing you could another thing entirely! From now on I'll buy the seeds I want from one of those seed magazines I get occasionally.
Thanks for the tip! Ya all can tell I'm a new gardener, huh? :-)
In What Conditions Does Acorn Squash Grow Best In?
So, where does acorn squash grows best, and what kind of conditions does it prefer? Learn all about their climatic preferences before you sow the seeds in your garden.
The vines grow best when the temperatures are between 70 to 90°F (about 21 to 32°C), and the plant is highly intolerant of frost. Wait until the danger of frost has passed, soil temperatures rise above 60°F (about 15°C), and then sow the seeds directly to the ground.
Remember that temperatures higher than those in the ideal range can cause the flowers to drop, preventing fruit production.
Gardeners like to sow the seeds directly in the ground two weeks after the last spring frost. In most regions, a second crop can be planted 12 weeks before the first fall frost. They’ll need a sunny spot to thrive, which receives 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight.
Since they’re heavy feeders, make sure the soil is rich in organic matter. Lightly till and amend the garden bed with compost to a depth of about 8 inches (about 20 cm). Let’s not forget the soil pH, which should be between 5.5 and 6.8. If given the right conditions to grow, you’ll be able to pick your fresh harvest in about 2.5 to 2.5 months.
How to Plant and Grow Acorn Squash
March 6, 2021 by Shiny Aura
Acorn squash is a variety of winter squash that generate dark green, small fruits which resembles to acorn. Basically acorn squash are eaten cooked even if it is slowly gaining popularity being a raw veggie. It is rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin C and manganese and potassium as well as fiber.
Growing Acorn Squash Start from the Seed
You can grow acorn squash indoors in a container or sow them into the backyard. However, a lot of cultivators decide to plant acorn squash inside and afterwards relocate it outside when there is no risk of frost.
When indoor planting, start the seeds about three to four weeks prior to have the last spring frost. That time the seedling will get extremely large for the usual small seed trays. For stress free transplanting, start in bigger pots approximately three inches across. Cultivate seeds approximately 1 inch under the wet soil.
Make sure to keep pots warm awaiting the seeds grow. You can plant three to five seeds in every pot, thin down to two or three strong seeds. Once you transfer afterwards, the plants could just keep together in every hill.
Transplanting the Plants
The seedling could be transferred about two weeks, make sure the risk of frost is passed. Soil must be humid. Growing Acorn Squash requires lots of spaces you need to plant it in a wide backyard. At least three feet in all directions around every hill of squash, still you can grow two to three plants for every hill as the vines will only intertwine, letting your squash to share the area.
Plant your squash upright on a fence or trellis to save space. However make sure to avoid planning the seeds in hills. Plant them in a row. Also ensure the fence or trellis is sturdy to accommodate the growing acorn squash, because they will get relatively heavy afterwards.
Growing Acorn Squash Guides
When you plants begin to develop, the broad leaves shades out lots of weeds that makes maintenance so easy. In this state, keep them patch well wedded as well as water once the soil begins to dry out. Keep your acorn squash safe as they start to grow.
You can put a can lid under each plant to secure from the moist soil underneath. Acorn squash on your fence will not needs this, but you will surely need to tie them for some support.
Growing Acorn Squash in a Containers
This plant work fine in a container but make sure the pots are huge enough. Plant every acorn squash in a container approximately five gallons large. Your best choice for container bin planting is to sow a bush like Table King. Still it may need some assistance, but the thick shape is compact than squash.
Acorn Squash Diseases
You need to keep your squash safe from leaf eating pests and insects like squash bug or cucumber beetle as they could cause considerable damage to your plants. These pests are big making them easy to see. Remove them by hand and spray your plants on a daily basis using natural insecticides.
However insects such as vine borers are sneaker. They eat the stalks of your plants at the soil. Watch for drooping leaves as this is a sign of borers attack. Pull up your plants right away, and trim open the stalks. Pull the dying plants right away to avoid invasion.
Harvest and Storing Acorn Squash
An acorn squash weigh one and three kilos and every vine will produce four to five acorn squash. Not like other types of squash, you shouldn’t pick acorn while they are young and small.
Also you should not harvest your acorn squash on and off in the season, but have a big bunch of acorn squash come mature all at once. This will store fine in your refrigerator for two to three weeks. All kinds of squash are suited to longer storing as of their thick covering.