Growing and Saving the Seed Of Winter Squash
Squash is a beautiful and tremendously important crop. Many winter types will store in cool, dry conditions for up to 1 year when cured properly. The small, quick-growing forms that are eaten before the rinds and seeds begin to harden are called summer squash.
The word “squash” comes from the Massachuset word askutasquash, meaning “eaten raw or uncooked.” Although Native Americans may have eaten some forms of squash without cooking, today we like our winter squashes cooked. English colonists considered the winter squash a life-saver during their first few hard winters.
- Many culinary uses
- Plant in spring or early summer; harvest in fall before a hard frost.
- You can direct seed or start squash indoors; just be extra careful not to let plants become pot bound! All cucurbits will not tolerate outgrowing their pots; it will stunt their growth.
- Sow seeds or put out transplants about one to two weeks after the chance of frost has passed, as these plants absolutely cannot handle frost.
- Sow seeds ½ to 1 inch deep.
- Germination temperature is 70-95 F.
- Seeds germinate in 5-10 days.
- Squash plants like rich, well-drained soil and plenty of sun.
- If you do not have a lot of space in your garden, be sure to choose bush type squash varieties; otherwise you will have a trailing vine that may crowd other plants. There is a major bonus to growing vine types: The squash vine borer has a much more difficult time killing them than bush types.
- Sow seeds one foot apart in rows, and rows should be six to 10 feet apart if vining types are grown.
- When plants get to be about 6 inches tall, you can thin to two to three feet apart in the rows.
- It can be very tricky to weed around mature plants without disturbing the delicate vines, so weed often when plants are young. As they get older, their massive leaves will help reduce weeds.
- Winter squash are left on the vine to harden and have a long storage life. Harvest summer squash frequently.
- Squash beetles and vine borers are the primary pests. We take a multi-step approach to combating the issue. Aside from crop rotation, we delay planting until after the squash bug season has peaked in late June, and we spray with pyrethrum and neem oil.
- There are four different species of squash: Cucurbita maxima, C. pepo, C. moschata, and C. mixta. They will not cross pollinate with each other, so it is possible to grow one of each species for seed saving without worrying about cross pollination.
- If you are planning to grow several varieties of more than one species, you can bag the blossoms and hand pollinate to avoid crossing.
- Whether it is a summer or winter squash, you must let the fruit completely mature before extracting the seeds.
- You will want to cure the squash for at least two weeks as well.
- Scoop the seeds, place them in a bucket, and add just enough water to cover. Let sit at room temperature for two days before rinsing off the pulp.
- Lay seeds out to dry on newspaper or paper plates.
- Seeds will remain viable for up to four years.