Organic Butternut Squash
Butternut Squash: Cucurbita moschata
- Popular winter squash perfect for winter cuisine.
- Easy to grow, can be grown vertically in small spaces.
- Sow: Apr-Jun
- Harvest: Sep-Nov
Butternut Squash is part of the pumpkin family which takes its name from from the Greek for “large melon”. Native to North America, colonists coined the term we use today, “pumpkin”. Indeed the Waltham Butternut squash was bred in the 1960’s by the Massachusetts Ag. Extension Service by crossing 'New Hampshire Butternut' with a wild African squash to combat disease and improve the flavour.
Butternut squash is a winter squash with a harder skin and more intense flavour than its summer relatives. Due to its harder skin it can be stored for up to 3 months after harvesting in the Autumn making great winter soups, stews and curries.
Sow: April to June
Sow under cover from April to June and outside after the last frost. 18-21ºC is needed for germination which can be achieved in a greenhouse, window sill or cold frame. Indoors sow seeds 13mm deep in 8cm pots of compost, young plants grow quickly, pot on when roots begin to show through the pot bottom. Young plants may need to be potted on several times as they are fast growing, before hardening off and transplanting outside after the last frost.
When sowing directly outdoors cover with cloches, jars or plastic for two weeks until after germination.
Squashes are hungry vegetables and thrive in sunny, sheltered spot with moisture retentive, humus rich soil. Ideally plant squashes on a pre-prepared mounds of a mixture of compost or well-rotted manure and soil.
Plant with at least 120cm between plants for good air circulation to avoid mildew and protect young seedlings from slugs.
Squashes require a lot of space but can be easily grown vertically in small spaces up trellis or on bamboo frame.
Feed every 10-14 days with a high potash liquid fertiliser once the first fruits start to swell and then support any fruit off the soil with a piece of tile or glass.
Harvest: September to November
Unlike summer squashes such as courgettes, winter squashes should be left to fully mature thoroughly through the 80-95 days it takes from sowing the seeds. It will lose its sweet flavour if picked too early.
Butternut squashes are ready when the rind of the vegetable has hardened and the stem is two inches long. Do not pull the fruit from the plant but use a sharp knife or secateurs to sever the fruit leaving a short stem on the fruit. Harvest all fruits before any heavy frosts, and they will store for up to 3 months indoors at 10°C.