How to grow butternut squash
Butternut squash is easy to grow and yields delicious, nutritious fruits. We show you how to grow it.
Butternut squash is one of the most popular squashes to grow. The bulbous, pear-shaped fruits are ready to harvest in autumn and have dense, sweet orange flesh and thin skin. This makes them easy to prepare and a great choice for roasting and using in soups and risottos. Butternut squash is a great vegetable for health reasons too, being low in carbohydrates and a good source of vitamins.
How to grow butternut squash
Sow butternut squash seed in 7cm pots of peat-free, multi-purpose compost from April. Transplant seedlings into larger pots when big enough to handle, and then plant outside into fertile soil when all risk of frost has passed, from late May. Protect young plants from slugs and snails. Water plants regularly and start feeding plants weekly when they begin to flower – butternut squashes are hungry plants. Remove any leaves covering the young squashes so they ripen more fully, and consider lifting the fruits off the ground onto bricks or straw, to ripen.
Sowing butternut squash seed
Butternut squash is easy to grow from seed. Start indoors in early April by sowing two seeds per pot. Thin to one seedling and harden off outdoors after the last frosts before planting out in late May into well prepared beds.
Butternut squash can also be sown outdoors directly into the soil where they are to grow in late May and early June. The soil should be well prepared, with plenty of well-rotted organic matter dug in.
Tending Butternut squash
Keep your butternut squash plants weed free and feed through the growing season as they are hungry plants. Pelleted chicken manure is a good choice or use a liquid fertiliser. Most butternut squash varieties will produce fruits around 15 weeks after sowing seeds.
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Harvesting Butternut squash
Butternut squash fruits will store longer if you leave them outdoors on the vine as long as possible. However, make sure they have all been harvested before the first frost.
Growing butternut squash: problem solving
Young plants will need protection from slugs, snails and aphids after planting out. Later in the season, butternut squash can succumb to powdery mildew and cucumber mosaic virus. Keep plants well-watered and look for varieties that have good disease resistance.
Preparation and uses
You can peel butternut squash or roast it with the skin on. See some butternut squash recipes, from our friends at Olive Magazine.
Storing Butternut squash
Butternut squash stores well after harvesting if kept in a cool dry place. Many varieties will keep for up to three months, so it’s a really useful winter vegetable.
Butternut squash varieties to try
- ‘Winter Hercules’ – the large fruits of average around 1.2kg, even on it is a relatively compact plant. It stores well and has earned a prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit.
- ‘Winter Hunter’ –a popular variety, bred for growing in the UK. The large fruits can grow up to 1kg and have earned this variety a prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit.
- ‘Waldo’ - this is a popular variety with good flavour, high yields and good resistance to powdery mildew.
‘Butterscotch’ –produces smaller, ‘mini’ squashes, weighing between 500g-1kg. These ripen early in the season and are sweetly flavoured due to a higher sugar content and will store for up to three months. It’s a relatively compact plant with a good resistance to powdery mildew.
- ‘Barbara’ - a green-striped butternut with rich orange flesh, maturing from August to October
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