Before you can cure, you will need to know when your Pumpkins and Winter Squash are ready to be cured. Besides from their ripe mature color, the fruit has other clues that will let you know that the time to remove them from the dying plant is now. The most obvious cue is to look at the stem; if it has died off and turned hard you know that the fruits are ready. Cut your home-grown beauties free complete with 4 inches of the stem to ensure that a fail-safe seal at the top of the fruit. If heavy frosts threaten (a light frost won’t damage fruits) you will need to bring in all of your fruits, even if they are not quite ready. If you find yourself in this predicament don’t worry – just leave a bit more stem, including the 4 inch section of main stem that will leave a T-shaped handle. The additional stem will allow the fruit to form a proper seal between the stalk and the top of the fruit all in good time. Mostly handle the fruit carefully, especially do not handle by the delicate stem but handle the fruit by cupping it by placing in the palms of your hand or hands. By damaging the stem (holding the plant by it) you could have real trouble later by allowing outside molds and fungal spores to invade. By Storing squash, this simple process will save you money by serving up garden-fresh flavors in the heart of the winter months. Savory soups, sweet desserts, and steamy side dishes are some of the tastiest uses for winter squash, Just think that at Thanksgiving you can serve many dishes from your harvest.. Curing is the secret to successful long-term storage, and it’s almost as easy as harvesting. Curing is simple- just store your winter squash at a warm temperature with good air circulation for a period of time, usually 10 to 14 days. When you harvest winter squash, the mature fruits contain excess water. The process of curing squash allows some of that water to exit the fruit. A harvested winter squash continues to breathe or respire. During the curing process, the skin becomes harder, forming a protective layer over flesh. That harder skin slows respiration, which ultimately improves fruit keeping quality. Harder skin also resists rot better, another secret for problem-free long-term storage. Winter squash that requires curing includes Blue Hubbard, Buttercup, Butternut, and Spaghetti. Curing actually reduces storage life and quality of Acorn squash—no need to devote time or space to curing these. Getting rid of excess water does several things. Curing will take more than just a few days, space and lay down all of your winter fruits, put into a greenhouse or as sunny a location that you have after you have brushed off all the dirt, and let them sunbathe , after about 2 weeks flip them over and allow the bottoms to get a suntan as well. As the skins harden up further by the sun, they are creating a longer lasting seal. Their color will enrich as they become sweeter and have a more intense flavor. One final treatment before they are put into storage is a polish of olive oil that is applied with a cloth that will create a moisture tight finish. As other fruits and root vegetables that are being stored for the colder months, pumpkins and winter squash prefer a well ventilated dry place, however this is where the similarity ends, these thick skinned fruits are most happy kept at a room temperature of 68°F. So it can be either in a frost free out of the way out building or in some room in your home. Keep the fruits up and off of any hard surface. Like put them on a raised surface or a wire mesh that is on a thick layer of newspaper or straw. You need to have air circulating ALL around the fruit and than means the the resting area as well. And do not stack any of these fruits as this will reduce the airflow that will generate pressure points that will make them vulnerable to infection. Store them in a single layer and keep them well clear of other stored tree fruits, which can emit ethylene gas and speed the aging process If your crops are out in a garage or shed, check on them regularly. Look out for signs of mice, moles, squirrel etc, and treat then treat accordingly. Any fruits that look like they are turning should be used immediately.
It concentrates the natural sugars, which makes the squash taste sweeter.
It slows the fruit’s respiration rate, which enhances long-term storage.
It helps reduce chances of rot.
- How you pick and handle winter squash directly affects how well they store. Follow these simple tips to ensure your squash cures and lasts well.
Cure blemish-free fruit. If skin is broken or bruised, fruit won’t store well.
Use scissors or pruners to cut squash from vines. Pulling can easily dislodge or break the stem, which creates a large wound on fruit that’s likely to rot.
Maintain 2- to 3-inch-long stems on squash. If stems break off or loosen, fruit won’t store well. Use fruit with broken stems first and store others.
Frost shortens storage life. A light frost can help sweeten some winter squash, but it drastically reduces storage life. Harvest all squash before night temperatures dip into the 40s.
Keep squash dry. Don’t handle or harvest wet fruit.
Gently remove any bits of blossom clinging to the bottom of squash
Vegetable Garden - Tips on Growing Winter Squash From Seed
Many Garden Plants do not last long after they leave the garden, and why should they? We do not just grow vegetables for their looks, but because they provide nutritious and healthy food. We grow, we harvest and we eat. However Birdhouse Gourds just do not fit this formula. We grow them, we harvest them and then we cure them, carve them and hang them in a tree in hopes that a pair of birds will find the gourds and move into their new home. And when they do, we all take turns until the baby birds fly away. So we do not eat the birdhouse gourds, but they do provide food for the soul.
In late Spring, after any danger of frost. Soil temperature should be at 70º F. Cooler temperatures can cause the seeds to rot. Sow 2-3 seeds every 18",in a row, cover ½" to 1" deep. Plant in hills that are spaced 4 ' apart with 4-5 seeds planted 1" deep.
Plant in rich well composted soil. Apply mulch to control the weeds before the vines begin to spread..
Winter Squash will grow best in warm soil.
TO SOW INDOORS
- 3 weeks before last frost
To Direct Sow:
- Sow 2 weeks after the last expected spring frost, or when soil temperatures reach 70-90° F , however Winter Squash prefers closer to 90ºF.
- In short-season climates, start seeds indoors in individual containers 2 to 3 weeks before planting. Then plant the little garden seed in soil that has been pre-warmed with black plastic for a week or two. When the soil is warm enough, remove the black plastic and plant seedlings. Test the temperature!
- Plant seeds 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) deep, in pre dampened hills, for bushy cultivars: plant 3 to 4 plants per hill, in hills 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 cm) apart. For vining types: plant 3 to 4 plants per hill, in hills up to 5 feet (1.5 m) apart. You can use the same spacing when planting out seedlings or transplants.
- A good trick when planting seedlings is to mound a hill of soil up and around the stem if it is more than 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the soil line to the first set of leaves. This will the one time that it is okay to mound soil up around a plant's stem, it will not rot, from the soil, it will however if the soil is too cool thus giving a stronger healthier root system to develop. If you have had problems in the past, cover the seedlings with row covers to protect them from insects like quash bugs and cucumber beetles.
- Winter Squash need regular water to keep the fruit producing, and can be grown without mulch, except in very dry climates, since the leaves are large enough to shade the soil on their own.
- Keep in mind however, because winter squash do take longer to mature, when the fruit is in contact with moist soil for long periods of time, rot can happen on the underside of the squash. Soft sunken spots form where the fruit touches the soil, and if the conditions are right, can cause complete collapse of the fruit. To minimize the problem, prop the squash up off the ground with up-side flower pots, bricks, or tile, so they are not in contact with moist soil. Use care when doing this and do not break the vines or crack the stems. If that happens, you will lose the fruit.
You can feed the plants about every three weeks with a good balanced water soluble fertilizer like a 5-5-5 or a 10-10-10.
Hand pollinate if bees are not active in your area to ensure fruit set.
Start with assorted varieties and you can fearlessly grow so many squash in a surprisingly small space as they have a reputation for providing gardeners and everyone they know with their prolific output.
Squash need plenty of quality sun and good drainage, and they love wrapping their roots around bits of decomposing leaves or other compost. Prepare the ground for squash by mixing in a 3-inch layer of compost along with a timed-release or organic fertilizer at the rate recommended on the label.
Squash plants bears both male and female flowers. The female flowers are easy to identify by looking for a tiny squash below the blossoms. Male flowers are borne atop a bare stem. To help female flowers develop into squash, bees and other small insects must pay numerous visits, leaving behind trails of pollen brought from male blossoms. Male flowers often drop to the ground at the end of their life; do not be alarmed, as this is normal.
Squash bugs, squash vine borers, and cucumber beetles often will injure the squash plant, with damage most severe later in the season, when the plants are failing anyway.
In areas where the pest pressure starts early in the season, grow plants beneath floating row covers, or use covers made of wedding net placed over hoops. Remove the covers to admit pollinating insects when the plants start to bloom.
When the rinds of winter squash are tough enough to resist being punctured with a fingernail, cut them with a short stub of vine attached. Be patient, because only fully ripened squash will keep for months in storage. Wipe fruits clean with a damp cloth, and store them in a basement or other cool place.
USDA Hardiness Zone -First Frost Date- Last Frost Date
- Zone 1 -July 15th -June 15th
- Zone 2 -August 15th- May 15th
- Zone 3 -September 15th May 15th
- Zone 4 -September 15th May 15th
- Zone 5 -October 15th April 15th
- Zone 6 -October 15th April 15th
- Zone 7 -October 15th April 15th
- Zone 8 -November 15th March 15th
- Zone 9 -December 15th February 15th
- Zone 10 -December 15th January 31st (sometimes earlier)
- Zone 11 -No frost. No frost.
- pH should be 6.5-7.5
- Growing soil temperature:70-80ºF (21-27º)C.
- Watering should be moderate in the early stages and moderate to heavy after fruits form.
- Good Companions: Celery, corn, melon, onion and radish.
- Bad Companions: Potato
Gourds will grow in soils less fertile than squash or melons. In deep bottom-land soils, light applications of compost and minerals are acceptable. In marginal soils of sandy texture, slightly heavier feeding is needed.
In northern climates, start seeds in greenhouse 6-10 weeks before transplant time. Start 3 seeds in 6" pots, transplanting outside when weather is warm and plants are sizable. Most larger kinds need 120-180 days to mature in the north. In warmer climates, sow seed directly. Gourds are drought tolerant and need less water than melons, especially in the latter part of the growth cycle.