Butternut Squash

Sow: April
Harvest: September onwards
Conditions: Rich soil. Sunny position.

Sow the seeds in a propogator and within 2 weeks, you should have seedlings. Transplant the seedlings to a pot and when the plants are a good size (at least 4 leaves) and look strong, plant them out with some compost or well-rotted manure. Make sure you harden them off for a week first, by putting the pots outside during the day and bringing them in at night. The plants have large leaves and have a tendency towards sprawling, so plant them at least one metre apart.

They’ll need a sunny position in the garden and butternut squash is a moist and juicy vegetable which means the plants need a lot of water. Like all cucurbits (courgette, cucumbers, etc) they will grow large, yellow male and female flowers, with the green fruits forming behind the female flowers.

When the squash have turned yellow and the rinds are hard, they are ready to harvest. Apparently, if you knock on the squash and they sound hollow, they’re ready. You can either leave the whole plant until the first frost kills off all the foliage or you can harvest them as and when they become ripe.

TIP: Harvest the squash with the stalk still attached. That will prevent any infection or rot getting into the squash itself.

Containers:

You can grow squash in containers but you need something large, like a half-barrel or old tin bath, to allow room for the plant to sprawl without breaking the stems. Watering is always important with containers and particularly so with thirsty plants like cucumber and squash.

Storage:

Stored correctly, butternut squash can easily last from your harvest in October to the end of December, and possibly even longer. To ensure the squash keep for a decent length of time, store them somewhere cool and dark and make sure they don’t touch. Wrap them in paper and put them in a cupboard, or hang them up in string bags in the larder or under-stairs cupboard or even, as this allotment-holder has, put them up in the attic on the loft insulation.

Companion Planting:

GOOD: Beans, Corn, Radish

BAD: Potato

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