Problems with squash plants


Squash Fruit Falling Off The Plant

Occasionally a plant in the squash family, which includes both summer squash (like yellow squash and zucchini) and winter squash (like butternut and acorn) will “abort” their fruit. Aborting of fruit is identified by the fruit withering or rotting at the end of the fruit. It can be very frustrating for a gardener when this happens.

There are two reasons that squash plants abort their fruit. These reasons are either poor growing conditions or poor pollination.

Squash Falling Off Due to Poor Growing Conditions

In the case of poor growing conditions, this is normally too much heat or not enough water or even a combination of both. Examine the ground around your squash plant. Does the ground appear to be overly dry, even cracked? Dig down a few inches. The ground a few inches down should be damp, even if the top of the ground appears dry. If you find that the soil a few inches down is dry as well, then your plants are most likely suffering from too little water. If this is the case, water your plants deeply — this means for at

least 15-20 minutes, to replenish the soil’s water supply.

Also, make note of the temperature over the time that your squash was aborting its fruit. Was it unusually warm for that time of year? A row cover or shading of some kind over your squash plants can help to combat problems of high temperatures.

Squash Falling Off Due to Poor Pollination

The other reason a squash plant might abort its fruit is poor pollination. Poor pollination can happen for a few reasons.

The first is that there is a lack of pollinating insects in your garden. This is an issue that is affecting more and more gardeners as the honeybee population in the United States is becoming scarce. The once common honeybee isn’t as prevalent as it once was. To see if this is the issue, check your squash plants in the morning to see if any pollinating insects are around your squash. If not, you may want to take steps to attract more of these kinds of beneficial insects to your garden. While honeybees were once the most common pollinator, they is not the only ones. Some alternative pollinators include mason bees, wasps and bumble bees. Setting up hospitable habitats for alternative pollinators will help attract them to your yard.

Another reason for poor pollination is a lack of male flowers. Squash plants have both male and female flowers and need both growing at the same time in order to produce healthy fruit. Occasionally, a squash plant may produce an abundance of male flowers early on, which then fall off. Then, the plant may produce many female flowers, which then have none or very few male flowers to pollinate them.

If this is the case, you may need to hand pollinate your squash flowers. If you can locate one male flower on any of the vines, you can use a paintbrush to transfer some of the pollen from that single flower into all of your female flowers.

While squash plants aborting their fruit is frustrating; fortunately, it is something that can be fixed with just a little bit of effort.

Why Squash Dies On The Vine

Last Updated: May 12, 2015 | by Mike McGroarty

It happens all too often. You’ll see big golden blossoms on your summer squash plants and tiny little squashes forming behind the blossoms. But after a few days the blossom dries up and the tiny squash shrivels, turns brown and falls from the plant. Your attempt at growing squash seems like a failure. Why does this happen?

There are a number of reasons why this may be occurring when growing squash. The first thing to consider is the weather. Extreme temperatures of below 55 degrees or above 85 degrees while the plant is flowering can affect the plant’s ability to set fruit. Squash enjoy warm weather, but not too warm!

Wanted! People who would like to work at home
making and selling rooted cuttings.

Squash plants prefer to grow in full sunlight. If they’re not getting enough sun, the growing squash plants protest by not setting fruit. Squash plants should be grown where they will receive no less than six hours of full sunlight daily.

Squash plants are also fair weather friends. If the plants are blossoming and a heavy rain occurs, the rain can wash the pollen from the male flowers, preventing the female flowers from being pollinated.

Likewise, never water your squash plants with an overhead sprinkler early in the morning. Each male flower opens for only a few hours in the morning. It’s in the morning hours that pollination is most likely to take place, and a sprinkler can wash away the pollen.

Get my FREE Ebook, “The Gardener’s Secret Handbook”, along with a bunch of other really cool stuff just for signing up for my Free Gardening Newsletter!
Plus, I promise to send you gardening tips you won’t find anywhere else!

You can help pollinate your summer squash but first you need to know how to tell a female squash blossom from a male squash blossom. It’s easy once you know the difference.

The female blossoms will have a tiny squash forming directly behind the blossom, while the male blossoms have just a stalk behind the blossom. That little squash behind the female blossom is the ovary, and if it isn’t pollinated it will wither and fall off.

To pollinate your squash blossoms, go out to the garden in the morning, before 10 a.m., armed with a cotton swab or small paintbrush. Now locate a male flower and gather some pollen by rubbing your swab or brush on the stamen in the center of the flower.

You’ll see the yellow pollen on your swab or brush. Then move on to a female flower and rub the pollen onto the pistil in the center of the female blossom. Voila! You have pollinated your squash and can consider yourself a success at growing squash. You will be duly rewarded with fresh tasty vegetables for your dinner table.

Questions? I do my best to answer all questions on my blog…

Top 15 Simple Natural Abortion Methods for Early Pregnancy

‘Pregnancy’- a word that automatically fills one’s heart with love, joy and all the warm emotions, irrespective of gender. Yet, there are times when the same word can come with almost disastrous connotations. There are times when you do not want to get pregnant, due to monetary, personal, professional or whatsoever reasons, and yet, the baby bump strikes you unexpectedly. In such a scenario, one has to face the highly taboo word “abortion”. It is seen as almost inhuman by many people across borders. However, one needs to know that a woman knows the best for her body and she should be the whole and sole owner of her body. On that note, we would like to familiarise you with some simple and natural abortion methods that you can carry out very well within your homes to terminate pregnancy. However, a word of caution as these methods might not be cent percent true and if carried out in later stages of pregnancy, might harm the tissues of the body and lead to some serious adverse effects. So, it is always better to consult a doctor for a fool proof abortion method. But nonetheless, these are some methods that you can try at home with ease and utmost comfort.

You can also check out: Foods that help you Abort Pregnancy here.

15. Papaya

Papaya is a highly common fruit which is said to be aiding abortion methods naturally. Unlike many other methods, eating papaya does not necessarily have side effects pertaining to health. They come with a good taste and have abortion inducing factors, which make it quite an easy option for aborting unwanted pregnancy.

14. Pineapple

Another fruit that can come to your rescue in natural abortion is pineapple. It is highly rich in Vitamin C and its other constituents when reacted with Vitamin C lead to abortion of the foetus quite efficiently and easily. You may rely on eating chunks of pineapple or opt for glasses of pineapple juice every morning. The refreshing fruit can indeed bring a refreshing touch to your hitherto chaotic life.

13. Cinnamon

Many surveys have suggested that the good old cinnamon has properties which can aid abortion quickly. It is warm in nature and can help one in doing away with certain mistakes of life, without causing much harm to the overall body. However, one must remember that too much cinnamon can actually lead to inflammation of facial skin and you might have to face some nasty pimples. In addition to that, it must be kept in mind that cinnamon should not be cooked and consumed in its raw form.

12. Parsley

Parsley leaves are a highly healthy option to induce abortion. They have emmenagogue, a substance which aids in triggering the menstruation cycle. Moreover, it softens the cervix wall which makes the process of abortion easier and pain free.

11. Sesame Seeds with Honey and Water

Sesame seeds can be consumed with honey and water in two major ways. You may soak the sesame seeds overnight with honey and water and consume the strained water the next morning. Else, you may fry the sesame seeds and ad honey to them and munch on them quite regularly.

10. Black Cohosh

Black or blue cohosh can lead to uterus contractions immediately. They are highly effective if you want instant effects. However, these herbs can lead to severe cramps and thereby, it is advised that you take a painkiller prior to consuming cohosh, in order to avoid being trampled by the cramps.

9. Angelica

Herbs, if taken wisely, can always have the desired results. In case of an unwanted pregnancy, you may consume angelica, a product that will help in inducing menstruation and also in activating the contractions. This product needs to be consumed a minimum of 4 times a day, soaked in water. It rarely has any adverse effects.

8. Chamomile Tea

A drink that all the doctors and dietitians recommend during pregnancy might seem like an odd option in list of simple natural products for abortion. The key here is to stick to the old adage of excess of anything is bad. You might want to intake dried chamomile with boiling water to achieve desired results.

7. Banana Shoots and Acacia Pods

Two of the most unlikely products can come together to help you in abortion naturally. You need to take some acacia pods and mix the well with banana shoots, without adding any extra water. Let them dry in natural sunlight and add sugar when they have been dried well. Make a powder of these ingredients and consume spoonfuls with water several times daily until you start bleeding.

6. Pennyroyal

Another herb on the list, pennyroyal drops are quite mellow in nature and do no cause harm to your body. The herb is used heavily in the manufacturing of contraceptive pills worldwide, which says a lot about its medicinal properties. However, the problem of availability of pennyroyal drops is something that one has to tackle well. For this, one may intake pennyroyal oil which causes contractions and eventually, natural abortion.

5. Laxatives

It is quite commonly known that having an upset stomach can often lead to termination of pregnancy in the early stages. An upset stomach fails to provide favourable conditions for the foetus to grow inside the womb. Thereby, the consumption of laxatives would certainly aid the process of natural abortion if consumed in decent amounts.

4. Rigorous Exercise

Though all the doctors strongly recommend some sort of light exercise regime to pregnant women, they also warn against the ill-effects that can surface in case one indulges in extreme exercises. You might want to lift weights and climb the stairs as much as possible to naturally abort the foetus. This is a painful method and one should opt for this only in desperate times.

3. Sexual Intimacy

One of the most common ways in which one can terminate early pregnancy is through sexual intimacy. Having sexual intercourse in the initial days of pregnancy can lead to abortion. As they say iron cuts iron, same goes for abortion. Engage in sexual intercourse to cut on the unwanted consequences of sexual intercourse itself.

2. Hot Water Bath

Something as simple and soothing as a hot water bath can help in getting rid of the unwanted pregnancy. It might seem quite absurd at first as to how can it aid in something like abortion, but it has certain yet slow effect. The consumption of herbs along with a hot water bath is sure to produce desirable results.

  1. Orange

One can establish by now that the consumption of Vitamin C rich fruits aids the process of abortion quickly and easily. Orange is one fruit that is highly rich in Vitamin C content and the most easily available one. You may go for a glass of orange juice daily several times or opt for the fruit itself.

Disclaimer: All the above remedies are NOT alternatives to medical treatment. The above remedies do not guarantee results. They are for informational purpose only. Please consult a medical professional for best advice.

Risks and causes beyond your control

There are some things that increase your risk of miscarriage that are beyond your control. This includes one-off genetic abnormalities, placental problems or problems with the baby, such as spina bifida or heart defects. The risk of miscarriage also increases as both you and the father get older.

Find out more about the causes of miscarriage.

Lifestyle choices that do affect your risk of miscarriage

There is clear evidence that your lifestyle can affect your chance of having a baby, so there are things you can do to try to limit the risk of miscarriage.


Smoking increases the risk of miscarriage, as well as premature birth, low birth weight and stillbirth.

There is some evidence that suggests that men can also increase their partner’s risk of miscarriage by smoking during their partner’s pregnancy or even during the time leading up the pregnancy.

Quitting smoking can be challenging, but there is support available.

Drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs

Using illegal drugs or drinking heavily during pregnancy increases your risk of miscarriage.

There is no amount of alcohol that is considered ‘safe’ to drink during pregnancy, so the Chief Medical Officers for the UK recommend that pregnant women don’t drink any alcohol at all. It can be difficult for some women to avoid alcohol – you might find our tips for an alcohol-free pregnancy helpful.

If you do decide to drink alcohol in pregnancy, try to avoid alcohol completely in the first 3 months. This is when the baby’s brain is developing.

Not managing health conditions properly

Many women with long-term health conditions have healthy pregnancies and babies, but there can be some risks. For example, most women with diabetes have a healthy baby, but if you don’t take care of yourself and your symptoms are not managed properly the risk of miscarriage increases.

The best thing you can do to make sure you and your baby stay well is to talk to your healthcare professional before you start trying for a baby, or as soon as possible if you’re pregnant now.

Not being a healthy weight

Your BMI (body mass index) is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is in a healthy range. Having an overweight or underweight BMI before pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage.

Find out more about managing your weight during pregnancy.

Not eating well

You can eat most things during pregnancy, but there are some things that you are advised to avoid because there is a small risk that you may get an infection that could increase your risk of miscarriage.

Read more about what foods to avoid in pregnancy.

Consuming too much caffeine

Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, some soft drinks and energy drinks.

High levels of caffeine during pregnancy has been linked to miscarriage and low birth weight. There is also some medical evidence that consuming too much caffeine while you are trying to conceive can also increase the risk of miscarriage. The evidence suggests that this applies to both women and men.

If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you and your partner may find it helpful to get into the habit of limiting your caffeine intake to 200mg a day. This is the same as two mugs of instant coffee a day or one mug of filter coffee.

Use our caffeine calculator to check your daily caffeine intake.

Myths about the causes of miscarriage

The following things are not linked to an increased risk of miscarriage:

  • stress
  • having sex (unless your doctor has advised you not to)
  • working
  • flying
  • eating spicy food
  • lifting or straining
  • exercising
  • your emotional state, such as being stressed or depressed
  • having a shock or a fright.

What can I do to live a healthier lifestyle in pregnancy?

It’s important to remember that there is nothing you can do that will guarantee that you won’t have a miscarriage. However, we have lots of information about what you can do to reduce the risk and stay as healthy as possible before you try for a baby and during pregnancy.

Finding out the reasons for miscarriage

Our National Centre for Miscarriage Research is dedicated to finding the reasons for miscarriages that are not caused by lifestyle, or chromosomal abnormalities. This animation describes how we are doing it.

A favourite low-cal pasta replacement loaded with vitamin C and fibre, spaghetti squash has reached a new level of popularity in a carb-conscious world. The protein-rich seeds can be seasoned and roasted for a healthy snack, and the spaghetti-like strands suit many different flavours, from savoury to sweet. If you’ve ever grown a pumpkin, growing spaghetti squash will be no problem whatsoever.

Alexas_Fotos /

These vegetables are quite hardy and user-friendly, and take only about 90 days to mature. This makes them perfect for the somewhat impatient gardener.


Kinseykick /

Spaghetti squash grow to 8-9 inches long and 4-5 inches around. As such, plant your seedlings and seeds about 4 feet apart, and 8 feet from the next row. These plants prefer warm soil with good drainage. They also require plenty of space to stretch out, since they have a vining habit.

Train them to grow up a trellis or fence if you need to save space. Otherwise, let them sprawl over a patch of lawn that you can spare temporarily. Just keep in mind that they’re heavy fruits, so it can be a bit of a challenge keeping them supported on the vine!

Though it’s classed as a winter squash, the name is a misnomer as these squash will not grow in the
winter. You’ll need to start your seeds indoors or in a greenhouse, and transplant them into the garden after all
danger of frost has passed.

All your efforts will be rewarded after about two weeks, when those seeds start to germinate. Like other squash varieties, spaghetti squash likes to live on “hills”. Quite simply, these are mounds formed of soil and well-mixed compost.

Transplant seedlings in groups of three to these hills two weeks after the last frost.
Ensure that the soil is properly warmed before planting seeds directly in your garden. Place a sheet of black plastic over the soil, then plant three seeds per hill. Spaghetti squash love sunlight, so make sure your garden has plenty of it to help these giants grow.

Caring for Spaghetti Squash

makamuki0 /

Spaghetti squash produce male and female flowers. Therefore, you’ll need a minimum of four strong plants to make sure you get your fruit at the end of the growing season. Each plant should produce four or five squash, so if you don’t want quite that many of one variety, you can always plant another type of squash nearby to help with cross-pollination.

At the beginning, it’s important to keep the squash bed weeded. In addition, during the hot summer days, water your plants regularly to keep the soil moist. As the leaves grow, the shade created by the plants will stave off the
weeds by themselves, so you won’t need to keep weeding all the time. Pinch off the flowers to help direct the plants’ energy towards growing fruits.

Diseases and Pest Problems

jcesar2015 /

Growing spaghetti squash is quite simple, but these plants are prone to a few issues. We’ll touch upon certain fungi and blights that trouble them, as well as pests to be aware of.


Squash are at risk of rotting if they sit in one place for too long. You can prevent this by laying the fruits on top of a board as they develop. This will keeping them off the moist soil, allowing air to circulate properly.

Powdery and Downy Mildew

These fungi likely won’t kill your plant, but it will do some damage to the leaves. This mildew takes the form of white, powdery spots and residue that cause foliage to wilt. Our article on caring for tomato plants has tips on how to eliminate powdery mildew, so be sure to read it!


This fungus, which causes the plant to die back, is mostly found in Eastern North America. Generally, it’s caused by excessively wet and rainy conditions. Fight this off by spraying weekly with a sulfur-based fungicide. Remove and burn any affected plants to prevent the disease from spreading.

Insects and pests

Below are some of the worst offenders for spaghetti squash, and remedies for getting rid of them. If they’re really giving you trouble, consider staking up the vines to keep the plants off the ground and away from trouble.


skeeze /

These gray-brown grubs range from 1/2 an inch to 1/4-inch long, and can be found in the soil and picked out. To keep them from munching on leaves, roots, and stems, put a paper collar around the plants’ bases and sprinkle the soil with wood ash.


Aphids are tiny, oval-shaped, yellow-green insects that like to hide out underneath leaves. You’ll know you have these on your plants if your squash leaves start to curl under. Treat the leaves with insecticidal soap.

Spider mites

These mites feed on plant juices, causing the leaves and vines to become stippled in colour. The stripes can range from pale green to brown, with silvery spider web patterns. Spraying with water or insecticidal soap helps, and introducing ladybugs and lacewings—both fond of spider mites—will help eliminate the problem.


631372 /

You’ll know you have caterpillars when you see telltale chew holes in leaves and vines. The best thing to do is just hand-pick the caterpillars off the plant.

Spotted or Striped Cucumber Beetle

If the leaves have been skeletonized and have holes, you’ve got cucumber beetles. They cause a variety of diseases, including Fusarium Wilt, and Bacterial Wilt. The spotted variety is green and yellow, about 1/4 “ long with black spots and a black head. The striped variety is the same colour with wide black stripes on the wing covers.
To get rid of these, hand-pick them off, then mulch and sprinkle wood ash around the plants.

Squash Bug

Aptly named, the squash bug sucks juices from plants and prefers squash. It’s a black/brownish bug with a shield-shaped shell, and can be trapped underneath boards, hand-picked, and destroyed.


Pexels /

If you’re putting effort into growing spaghetti squash, try tucking them in amongst corn, squash, cucumbers, and beans/peas. The traditional “three sisters” guild plants work very well planted in the same garden neighbourhood.

This type of companion planting can help produce a successful crop, since each plant benefits from the other and creates a nice rich soil. Also, squash vines help to make it hard for insects to reach the other vegetables. Your squashes will benefit from the shade created by the corn. In turn, they’ll create shade and mulch to ward off weeds and keep moisture in the soil.

Marigolds and Nasturtiums

angelstar /

Besides adding nice colour to the garden and acting as attractants for bees, these help to repel insects like aphids, and nematodes. Nasturtiums are particularly good at repelling cucumber beetles and squash bugs, as well as enhancing the crop’s flavor.

Bad company for squash

Anything that needs sunlight won’t do very well with squash, since the large leaves and vines dominate the landscape and quickly choke out smaller plants. Also, never plant tomatoes near any kind of squash, since they’re quite sensitive to growing conditions.

Brassicas like broccoli and cauliflower also don’t do well when planted near squash, as they need a more neutral soil. Check out our comprehensive guide to companion planting here.

Harvesting and Storing

Get excited! About 50 days after the first blossom appears, the squash will reach its full size with a hard and dull-colored rind. At this point, the rind won’t be easily scratched with a fingernail. It should be quite long and large—about 8-9 inches long—and as unwieldy as a watermelon.

Cut the stem from the vine with a good pair of pruning shears. Then wipe the rind off with a solution of bleach and water (10-90 ratio) to kill any mildew that may be clinging to it. Store in a cool, dark, dry room in a single layer, so none of them are touching. These squash will keep for several weeks, or even longer.

Saving Seeds

Free-Photos /

If you grew your squash from heirloom seeds, you can save those seeds for next year’s harvest. To do this, scoop them out of the fruit you’re preparing and into a bucket of water. This will help to separate the seeds from the fruit. Spread the seeds out in a single layer on a paper towel so they can dry.

Make sure they’re completely dry, (this takes 3-7 days) otherwise they’ll go mouldy and be wasted. Store them carefully in an envelope or a glass container labelled with the variety and the date.

It’s so nice to be able to grab a spaghetti squash or two from the pantry and roast them on a cold winter
day. After roasting, you can combine the noodle-like flesh with your favourite sauce, add it to soup, or use it a breakfast bake with eggs and spinach. You can even try it in a low-carb gratin!

This versatile squash is a gift that keeps on giving long after harvest, and the mild flavour lends itself to a variety of different dishes. Enjoy!

How to Grow Spaghetti Squash

Days to germination: 10 to 14 days
Days to harvest: 90 to 100 days
Light requirements: Full sun
Water requirements: Regular watering
Soil: Loose, fertile and well-draining soil
Container: Possible but not ideal


The name of the spaghetti squash comes from its unique flesh. When cooked, the fibers give the squash a very distinctive strands that look a lot like orange spaghetti. The added texture makes spaghetti squash a favorite with children who turn their noses up at the softness of other types of squash.

Squashes of all kinds are very healthy, and often eaten more as a starch than a vegetable in a meal. You can’t eat spaghetti squash raw, and its best baked. The inside flesh is scraped out with a fork, to help bring out the “spaghetti” nature of the squash.

They are extremely high in vitamin A, and also good sources of potassium, fiber and vitamin C.

Starting from Seed

Spaghetti squash need a long growing season and warm temperatures, and that includes warmth at planting time. So any seeds would have to go out after your frost date as passed. But starting your seedlings indoors is a common way for gardeners to start their squash plants.

Plant your seeds inside about a month before your local last frost date. Squash seedlings will grow fairly large in a month, so small 6-pack style seed trays won’t likely suffice. If you start them that way, you’ll have to replant them in larger containers before your outside plant date. Three or four seeds can go in each 3″ pot, about 1″ deep under the soil.

They’ll need to be kept somewhere warm as well as sunny in order to properly germinate and sprout.


Plan to put your seedlings into the garden about 2 weeks after the date of your last spring frost. Your soil should be dug up thoroughly to get it loose for the big seedlings, and mix in some aged manure or compost while you are at it. Squash likes nutrients in its soil. Your squash spot needs full sun, and you should allow for 3 feet between each hill (you will just be planting one pot in each location, with 3 or four seedlings in it).

If you are not starting with indoor-grown seedlings, you will still have to wait for 2 weeks past the frost date. If you’ve had cool weather, you can lay black plastic down over the garden before planting to help warm up the soil. The seeds won’t sprout in the cold. Plant them in hills, just like you did with the transplants, about 3 per hill.

Many squashes can be grown vertically to save space, but this isn’t the best idea with a spaghetti squash. The fruits are just too big and it is awkward to try and support them on the vine when hanging in mid-air. It can be done, as long as you are willing to put in a bit of extra effort with your trellis and support structures.

Growing Instructions

Keep your plants watered, and weed-free while the leaves are developing. Once the wide leaves are fully grown, they will start to shade their surrounding soil and will keep the weeds out without your help.

After the peak of the summer has passed, you should remove any new blossoms that your squash vines produce. There won’t be enough time left for them to mature and the plant’s resources would be better used growing the already-developing squash on the vine.

Because the squash will be growing for the full length of the season, they can be prone to getting rot underneath where they lay on the soil. You can help protect your squash with tiles or coffee can lids under each fruit.


You can grow spaghetti squash in a large container, at least 5 gallons for each plant. Give them a light feeding part of the way through the growing season to make up for the lack of soil nutrients in the pot.

Try to plant a variety that grows as a bush to help save on space, such as Orangetti or Tivoli. If you do grow a vining squash, be prepared to have the vines spill out of the container for several feet.

Pests and Diseases

Once established and growing well, a squash vine is quite large and can withstand a fair bit of insect damage without ill effects.

The most common insect attacker will be squash bugs, followed closely by the popular cucumber beetle. They are both big enough to be picked off by hand as soon as you see one, but make sure to check inside the blossoms as well as under the large leaves.

And those large leaves may be a benefit when it comes to weed control, but they are susceptible to getting mildew if weather is damp. It looks like a dusting of white powder on the leaves and it can effect your plant’s development and growth if it gets too heavy. Standard fungicide sprays can help to clear it up, and you can keep it from starting by watering your plants right at the soil instead of pouring water over all the leaves.

Harvest and Storage

As mentioned, spaghetti squash are very large, with each individual squash growing to be around 4 pounds in size. Each plant will produce between 4 to 6 of them. They can’t be harvested like zucchini or summer squash, you can’t pick them when they are small. They don’t develop that way. Spaghetti squash (all winter squash actually) need to fully mature before harvesting.

A tried and true method to tell if your squash is ready is to push your fingernail into the outside skin. The skin should be tough enough to withstand your nail. If it punctures, your squash need more time. Depending on your climate, another sign is that you should harvest your squash when the vines start to wither.

A whole squash can be stored in the fridge for about 2 weeks before it starts to lose its texture. You can store your squash at room temperature, as long as you have somewhere very dry. Moisture will quickly ruin a spaghetti squash, but barring dampness, it should keep for a few months.

  1. Sandie Says:
    May 4th, 2016 at 7:46 am

    Hi… I live in East Tennessee and for the first time planted spaghetti squash, as a matter of fact it is the first time I have planted anything. The ground here is like red clay so I didn’t think they would grow but I love it so much that I thought I would give it a try….. I planted them in mid April after the frost and low and behold I have plants everywhere. I think that I planted somewhere around 20 seeds…. I live in the mountains where I have ample space for the squash so decided to plant them on my mountain side where it’s cleared… Well, I have to say they are growing and growing fast, I love it! I will keep my eye on them to watch for flowers, I have plenty of bees and butterflies so I don’t think I will have to help pollinate them but we shall see…. Any advice anyone can give me would be great, for I have no experience at all in growing anything.. 🙂
    Happy in Tennessee…….

  2. Christa J Says:
    May 29th, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Last year we had a gazillion inches of rain in TX. My “compost pile” grew potatoes, pumpkins, onions and tomatoes. This year it looks like I am going to have spaghetti squash. The seeds probably germinated in early April; hard to tell. Thanks for the tips on knowing when the squash are ripe!

  3. claudia kirkpatrick Says:
    August 13th, 2016 at 10:30 am

    I have the same variety of squash from last years plants. Dark green, same shape but getting darker. Is it a mutation? I cannot identify it from any of the winter squash photos..

  4. Joseph Russell Says:
    August 28th, 2016 at 11:36 am

    My squash is doing well,but some turned green.Is this a cross pollination or over ripe?

  5. Leila Julien Says:
    January 17th, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    Can you dry seeds from the spegetthi squash fresh and how long will it take to be ready to plant

  6. Administrator Says:
    January 19th, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    As soon as their dry, not long at all.

  7. Beverly Shepherd Says:
    February 15th, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    My spaghetti squash plant seemed to be developing quite nicely, and put out a squash gourd pretty quickly, which was getting bigger until about a week or 2 ago. Everything seems to be at a standstill. I did notice the dusty white mildew, and sprayed it. This seems to have been effective, but nothing is getting bigger. Any ideas?

  8. Ann B Says:
    April 26th, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Threw seeds outside in a four foot wooden container. They’re growing. I have big leaves and yellow blooms right now. What happens now? I live in Poplarville Mississippi

  9. Cathy Says:
    July 4th, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    This is my first time growing spaghetti squash and it’s doing well–too well as it’s taking over the entire garden. Any tips on stopping it from spreading everywhere?

  10. Robert Flowers Says:
    July 22nd, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    We need help to identify a mysterious plant growing in our church garden. It looked like a melon at first than we cut it open and it looked like and tasted like a zucchini only sweeter. Do you have an e-mail address where we can send pictures.

    Looking forward to hearing from you

    Robert W. Flowers

  11. robin kopack Says:
    August 18th, 2017 at 9:39 am

    I planted my seeds from spagetti squash and they
    bloomed big leaves and looks like all flowers are male no fruit is noted and its the end of august!
    do you think i will get any squash or too late i am bummed but will try next year if i dont get any. not sure what to pollunate all flowers look male????

  12. Raney Brown Says:
    October 27th, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    I’m in Italy trying to grow spaghetti squash on my balcony, with trellises or without. This year I must have started the seeds too late. My question is: I have a southern exposure balcony with temps. around 40 C. from April through September, so I tried to keep my balcony somewhat covered but I had no squash till I removed the canopy. I have one now and it is teeny tiny and will not grow before the plant dies! Can spaghetti squash really withstand the full sun on my balcony?? I am determined to try again next year, probably starting in February.

  13. Administrator Says:
    December 13th, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    IT likely isn’t the balcony it is likely the fact that it is in a pot. Squash are large aggressive plants, each plant needs a cubic yard of soil. It won’t get big as it needs to in a container.

  14. jenny ockerman galle Says:
    January 30th, 2018 at 6:19 am

    I started my seeds inside … they seem to be getting tall with no sign of additional leaves ? do they fall over and start new leaves .. 6 or 7 inches tall already day 7 in my window

  15. jenny ockerman galle Says:
    January 30th, 2018 at 6:28 am

    I can send photo .. not sure how

Leave a Response

Top of page…

One of my favorite garden gifts to eat during the cold season is winter squash.

Easily stored in a root cellar or colder room of the home, it can sustain a family with a variety of vitamins and minerals, via its tasty and versatile flesh.

Growing squash is an involved process, but it’s not difficult.

Grocery stores tend to offer many types for up to about three dollars a pound as fresh produce. This means just one or two well-tended plants can produce significant savings to the family food budget.

Here’s what’s ahead in this growing guide:

So, which plants are the most valuable additions to your garden? Let’s find out!

The Best Cultivars to Grow

With so many tempting species and cultivars available, choosing the best seeds for your garden plots may seem impossible. I have found that growing one or two of each of the following provides our meals with a broad range of flavors, textures, and colors:


This large peanut-shaped squash can grow rather large, to a foot or more at peak size.

It has tan skin that’s thinner than other varieties, sometimes with lighter stripes going lengthwise down the fruit. Inside, a strikingly bright orange fruit provides a sweet and nutty flavor.

Many recipes that call for sweet potatoes can be interchangeable with this cultivar. I adore it steamed with a little butter, brown sugar, salt, and pepper.


This is a smaller squash with a mild, sweet flavor.

Due to the odd folds in the exterior, it can be difficult to get the edible portion out of the peel without wasting any – something important to keep in mind that may influence the way you prepare and serve it.

A three-pound acorn can feed one or two people. Baked in the oven, it’s often served in horizontal slices cut straight across the fruit to show off the pretty scalloped design, or halved and stuffed.


Last year was my first time growing this somewhat ugly breed, also known as a Japanese pumpkin.

With a thicker skin that resembles a rind, it also has quite a few seeds inside. With less edible flesh to work with, you’ll want to set aside some extra space in the garden to grow more of this special squash.


Perhaps the least “wintery” of the category, the spaghetti squash has gained an insane following since the introduction of the Paleo and Whole30 diet crazes.

While the long, pale or sometimes more vibrant yellow fruit is a suitable substitute for pasta (and can take the copious amounts of red sauce people like to dump on it!), purists treat it like any other squash.

A little butter, salt, and pepper allow the flavors of this stringy treasure to really shine through.

There are many other winter squashes worth mentioning. These include:

  • Buttercup
  • Calabaza
  • Delicata
  • Hubbard
  • Honey nut
  • Pumpkin

While each has its own unique flavor profile, most are interchangeable in your favorite winter squash recipes. Stay tuned with our guide to where to find seeds to plant many of these popular varieties.

Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, available on Amazon

According to Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, squash seed is viable for four years, as long as it’s stored properly in a cool and dry place. Here’s my recommendation: buy a packet of each, and try a few each time planting season rolls around!

How Many Is Enough?

Knowing the right number of seeds to sow for any plant variety can be difficult.

Regardless of the species, they all spread out to take as much space as they can get. For this reason, it’s very impractical to expect many plants to thrive in a small space.

While almost all squash vines can stretch to cover many square feet, they vary in the number of fruits they can put on. Acorn squash, for example, can produce up to 24 pounds of fruit per vine, while butternut only delivers around six.

If space is limited, it makes sense to choose the most productive plants, and nurture them as well as you can.

The Perfect Plot

Squashes are traditionally grown in hills, or in the last row of the garden, where they can sprawl away from the more well-behaved vegetables.

In my own garden, I also like to locate them near some sort of sturdy structure, such as a livestock paneling fence or other heavy wiring. They will be more likely to latch on to this structure and put the weight of the plant and fruit upon it – instead of crushing your other plants.

You can also choose to locate your hills away from everything else. A lone plant can do very well in a corner of a yard or along the back area of a homestead.

We have actually dedicated a good half-acre to growing nothing but vining plants, including squash, pumpkins, and watermelons!

Wherever you decide to grow yours, just be certain that your plot is within reach of watering, and has access to full sun.

Hills can be created using a hoe or small spade. Create the mound of dirt to be at least 24 inches in diameter, spaced 4-6 feet apart for your bush-type plants. Increase the distance to 8-10 feet for the more traditional vining variety.

For gardeners who pay close attention to the pH of their soil, you can’t go wrong with a range of 5.8-7.0 pH. Squash are hardier than some plants, and if the soil is rich in humus and has good drainage, they should thrive.

One other way to ensure a fruitful fall harvest is to add compost to each hill base. Dig hills 18 inches deep. Then, alternate 6 inches of compost with 6 inches of soil, repeating until the mound reaches your desired height.

This method will provide extra nourishment to plants throughout the very long growing season.

Sowing Smarts

Because they need 70-100 days to mature (depending on the variety and the weather), it may make sense to start your seeds indoors.

It is recommended to start your seeds in peat pots that can go directly into the ground when the weather warms up. This will cause the least amount of stress to new seedlings.

For complete step-by-step instructions, see our guide to starting seeds indoors.

If you choose to start seeds early, do so two to four weeks before the last frost day.

Some growers like to soak their seeds overnight, because it softens the outer seed covering and allows for faster and easier germination.

Seeds should be put in the starting container 1 inch deep and on their sides, with a narrow edge facing up.

A light watering should be done on the first day, and then every two to three days after that. Germination should take place within 7-10 days.

When it’s time to move your darlings out to their hills, remember to plant them at the same level that they have been growing inside. If you bury them too deep or two shallow, you risk killing them.

Most years, I prefer to sow seeds directly into the garden after the last frost. While this means a later harvest for my growing zone, it usually results in stronger plants and a larger harvest. I put two or three seeds into each hill, about one inch into the soil.

Thin to just one plant per hill after germination. Use scissors to snip the spares, rather than pulling.

This is important, since pulling one may disrupt the entangled roots of the neighboring seedlings.

Routine Maintenance for Plants

Once the seedlings are 3-4 inches tall, it’s a good idea to mulch around them. Mulching keeps the weeds down and helps the soil to retain moisture. I like to use a mixture of leaves, recycled cardboard, and commercial much.

Regular watering is needed during the hottest days, especially since these will be growing in full sunlight.

If you see leaves start to wilt at all, it’s imperative to water slow and deep until they perk back up. You can also choose to add fertilizer every two to three weeks.

To avoid a possible powdery mildew attack, keep the water off the leaves and vines. Try to keep the soil moist (like a squeezed out sponge) but not dripping wet.

Soaker hoses are a good option for this type of watering, allowing a hands-off approach for the busy gardener.

An Ounce of Prevention

During every stage of growth, it’s important to keep an eye out for all the pests and diseases that may gravitate toward your vines.

The most important weapon in your arsenal is healthy soil. Squash, like all the cucurbits, have many enemies in the form of insect pests: squash bugs, squash vine borers, striped cucumber beetles, flea beetles, and seed corn maggots.

A hungry squash bug.

It’s best to avoid letting these pests get at your vines by using floating row covers.

You can also choose to use your own organic pesticide to keep them under control. Diatomaceous earth is a formidable defense against most pests.

Squash can also be susceptible to diseases such as alternaria leaf spot, septoria leaf spot, black rot, gummy blight, and powdery mildew.

Powdery mildew is covering these leaves almost completely.

Gardeners have also found success planting radishes around the perimeter of each hill. Many pests that love squash also hate radishes, and radishes are a cheap deterrent. Companion planting at its finest!

Just be sure to skip harvesting these radishes, and allow them to grow tall. If you like, you can harvest the seed pods after they flower, and add them to salads.

Pollination Among the Vines

The first flush of big flowers that open will almost always be males.

If it looks like you have plenty of bees and butterflies around to fertilize your blossoms, it’s okay to harvest some of those blossoms yourself, as they are edible (I’ll cover a little more on this later, so keep reading!).

You can tell the difference between a boy and girl squash by lifting her skirt. A female blossom has a bulge – a potential squash – between the blossom and the stem, just waiting for fertilization. Male blossoms grow on long, thin stems.

In order to grow to full size, the female blossoms must be thoroughly pollinated. If you don’t see plenty of bees dipping in and out of your blossoms, you might want to try a little matchmaking.

How is this done?

The best time to initiate pollination is around midday, when the female blossom is fully open. Follow these steps to give your squash a boost:

  1. Peek inside your boy blossoms, looking for a bloom that is so ripe and full of pollen that if you lightly touch it, the pollen will adhere to your fingertip.
  2. Gently clip the blossom off, and carefully carry it to the female blossom.
  3. Touch the male blossom to the female’s sticky stigma in the center of her blossom.

While this type of hands-on treatment is not usually necessary, this extra step can increase your squash harvest, especially in urban regions where bees and other pollinators may be scarce.

Vine Management

If you’re just learning how to grow these wonderful edibles, you’ll probably start to wonder, “What is all this nonsense about vines taking over the garden?”

I’m here to warn you that they really won’t take off until August – and then you’d better be ready with a plan!

When fruit begins to appear, cut off the vines’ runners. This will encourage the plant to put its energy into growing fruit, not producing more vines.

Squash usually grow two main vines that head off in opposite directions. Each of these vines will produce a secondary vine, which also produces fruit. These secondary vines will also sprout “tertiary” vines that you will want to remove.

To avoid the spread of disease amongst your vines, don’t handle them at all when they are wet.

Be very careful when handling vines at all times, as they can easily crack or break, and root systems can be destroyed from accidental uprooting. Small fruits will need to be protected from impact, as well.

This is also a good time to remove foliage around the fruit if it is blocking the sun. Remove no more than one or two leaves per plant. The vine still needs its leaf system to function productively, so you never want to defoliate your plants more than is necessary.

The Long-Awaited Harvest

Winter squash have very hard skin, but it takes a while for them to fully mature. Leave them on the vine until you can’t press your thumbnail into the skin, which is usually around the time of the first frost.

To remove, simply clip your fruit from the vine and (if weather permits) allow them to cure in the field for one to two weeks.

In areas where the frost is fast-arriving, you won’t have time to do this. Bring your harvest in anyway, and allow them to sunbathe in a sunny location in your home, such as a windowsill, for 2 weeks.

Squash should be stored at 55-61°F in a dry space. Do not wash harvested squash, but simply rub away any loose dirt. Be careful not to handle the stem area, but rather, hold it by the body.

A well-cured, dry, and blemish-free squash can be kept in a cellar or other dark pantry area for three to six months! You can then wash and prepare what you need for eating when you’re ready to enjoy it.

Ways to Use the Extras

Got too many squash on your hands? This is a wonderful problem to have!

As a mom of six, we rarely have this issue. But we still try to bless our neighbors and friends with extras, especially if they have any blemishes and won’t store well over the winter. Sharing is the best way to use them up quickly.

Luckily, squash is so versatile! It can be boiled, steamed, baked, or roasted. You can freeze it, and you may pressure can it. You can eat it in soup and in casseroles, whole or pureed. And you can make it into an entree, side dish, or even dessert.

If you’re a fan of pumpkin seeds, you’ll be pleased to know that all types of winter squash seeds can be prepared in the same way! They make a protein-packed, crunchy snack for lunchboxes. Don’t forget to use them as an ingredient in trail mixes and granolas, too.

Edible Blossoms

Male squash flowers are a tasty delicacy that you can prepare at home. Just be certain you don’t take too many out of the garden at once. You will typically find that there are far more male blossoms on your plants than females, so your vines can likely spare a few.

Harvest the blossoms at midday, when they are open wide. Snip each stem about an inch away from the flower. Wash gently and well by filling a bowl with cool water, and swirling them in it.

Blossoms can be kept fresh in the refrigerator in a bowl of ice water until you’re ready to use them. Twirl them dry in a salad spinner, or by twisting each one between your fingers, and lay them out to dry on paper towels.

Blossoms are excellent battered and fried, but they also make lovely little purses that you can stuff with just about anything. Here’s one of my favorites, and it’s a super simple recipe: try some minced fresh herbs, a bit of lemon zest, some salt and pepper, and ricotta. So delicious!

Other Recipe Ideas

Winter squash recipes are abundant and filling. They are appropriate to serve at any time of year, but they are especially welcome during the colder months when you’re craving something warm and comforting that will fill you up.

You can stuff winter squash with any number of tasty ingredients, but this recipe for Stuffed Acorn Squash with Apples, Nuts, and Cranberries combines the sweetness of seasonal fruit with the nutty textures we associate with fall and family holidays.

One-pot meals are so appropriate for fall and winter, when you’re ready to fill a casserole dish and fire up the oven, or set up the slow cooker on the counter on a Sunday afternoon. Deliver deep flavors with acorn squash as the star in this Chicken Cassoulet from The Gingered Whisk.

There are many adaptations to this classic treatment of pumpkins, butternut, acorn, and other winter beauties. Customize this recipe for pureed squash from Foodal to please your palate in any number of flavor variations. (It’s not just for Thanksgiving – especially when you grow your own!)

Finally, nothing could be more decadent during the fall season than a chocolatey dessert made with your home harvest. Try this recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Tarts with a Pepita Crust from Vintage Kitty. You can easily swap out the canned puree for a homemade version, made from scratch.

Pounds and Pounds of Flavor

One of the best reasons to grow winter squash is that they produce such a large amount of edible delights! One seed can produce enough to make a week’s worth of dinners for a family of four. What other reason do you need to try it?

Packed with immunity-boosting vitamin A and always-good-for-you vitamin C, not to mention healthy dietary fiber, I’ve added it as a sensible complex carbo option to supplement most of our family meals. Not only are they good for you, they’re also delicious – so no one is complaining.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy this amazing addition to the veggie patch? I’d love to hear your favorite preparation or cooking tips in the comments below! And if you’re wondering where the zucchini and crooknecks are, these are summer squash. Check out our helpful growing guide with tips for growing these here.


  • Facebook84
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest420

Product photo via Rodale’s. Uncredited photos: . Originally published by Lynne Jaques on August 31, 2014. Last updated August 15, 2018. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

The staff at Gardener’s Path are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise cure. Gardener’s Path and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet or using plant-based remedies or supplements for health and wellness.

About Linsey Knerl

Born and raised in a small Nebraska town, Linsey Knerl is a homeschooling mother of six who enjoys blogging and working hard on her 3 1/2-acre Nebraska homestead. When she’s not working on her next fantasy novel, you will find her in her kitchen, perfecting the Danish recipes of her grandmother with those special ingredients you can only find in a backyard garden.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *