Knowing when to harvest winter squash such as pumpkins and others can mean the difference between storing them all winter long and watching them go bad. If squash are harvested and stored properly, you can enjoy them for many months to come. The trick is watching the signs and signals to know when to harvest winter squash.
- Know When to Harvest Winter Squash
- What to Do with a Bumper Crop
- Notice the Color
- Feel the Squash
- When to harvest buttercup squash?
- How to Cook Buttercup Squash
- Get to Know These 11 Winter Squashes
- Family Of Squash
- How Does Buttercup Squash Look
- Growing Buttercup Squash
- Can Buttercup Squash Grow in Containers?
- Buttercup Squash Photo Gallery
- Where to Buy Buttercup Squash
Know When to Harvest Winter Squash
Both winter and summer squash need warm temperatures to grow. But unlike summer squash, which are picked when still fairly immature so that their peels are tender and their seeds small, winter squash must ripen on the vine and fully mature. Giving them this extra time on the vine ensures the rind hardens, which makes them easily stored if kept cool.
Types of Winter Squash
There are many types of winter squash. Think about all the fall squash gracing the Thanksgiving table. These are the typical winter squash and made include:
- Spaghetti Squash
There are many other types of squash considered winter squash, too, including heirloom varieties not found in the average grocery store. Winter squash are easy to grow from seed, and growing heirloom and unusual varieties is just part of the fun.
When planting winter squash, read the seed package. Most seed packages state the number of days until maturity. This is the average period of time from planting to harvest. Your squash may need a few days more or less, but knowing what it says on the seed package can give you a rough date to look forward to for the harvest.
Try to harvest squash on a sunny, dry day after a period of dry weather. The squash will be easier to cut from the vines and ready for either curing or storage. If you pick a squash and it has a noticeable hole, rotten spot or break in the rind, discard it. It should not be stored.
Signs that Squash Are Ready to Harvest
Squash need warm summer days to grow to mature. Starting in the fall, the fruits mature and take on their characteristic colors and sizes.Winter squash generally exhibit the following signs when they are ready to harvest:
- Pumpkins: Look for pumpkins that have turned orange all over. The stem where the pumpkin joins the rind should be dry. Sometimes the little tendrils of vines near the stem are dry and curl up. Cut the stem near the top, leaving several inches of stem at the top of the pumpkin itself. The rind should be very hard. If you press your thumbnail into the rind on a pumpkin ready to harvest, you probably can’t puncture the rind. An immature pumpkin gives easily under pressure from a fingernail.
- Acorn, Butternut and Spaghetti Squash: Look for a change in the appearance of the squash. Immature fruits have a shiny, glossy look to the surface. As the fruit matures, they tend to take on a dull sheen.
Curing Squash for Long Term Storage
Certain winter squash, such as pumpkins, need about 10 days stored in warm temperatures of around 85 degrees before moving them into long term storage. This process, known as curing, gives the rind time to harden even more, which protects the nutritious flesh inside the pumpkin and prevents it from rotting. Pumpkins cured properly can be stored for many months in a root cellar, basement or other cool conditions.
Acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash don’t benefit from a curing period. Acorn squash can actually start to go bad if you try to cure them in 85 degree temperatures like a pumpkin. Instead, pick a dry, sunny day to harvest them and put them immediately into storage. Store in a single layer in box in a cool, dark place such as a basement or a root cellar. If you have only a few, you can place them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them.
What to Do with a Bumper Crop
If you’ve harvested your winter squash and there’s so much you’re wondering how you’ll ever eat it all, there are options other than hiding it on a neighbor’s porch. Many local food pantries and food banks will accept fresh garden produce. Plant a Row for the Hungry and Ample Harvest are two non profit groups that can also connect you with places eager for fresh vegetable donations.
You’re walking through the produce section of the grocery store and come across this awkward, pale orange looking squash. You pick it up, give it a quick look, and shrug your shoulders. It’s not like picking out a banana that you can tell is ripe — all of these butternut squashes look the same. So how do you tell if a butternut squash is ripe? We’re here to help.
Photo by Julia Maguire
We start to notice butternut squash recipes pop up during fall. Recipes such as butternut squash risotto, butternut squash soup, and maple roasted butternut squash are meals we get excited about making. Some grocery stores carry butternut squash year-round, but peak season is summer through late fall. So now that we know when to buy the awkward looking squash, how do we pick it out at the grocery store?
Notice the Color
A ripe butternut squash should be a dark shade of beige. Its skin should have a matte look. If it’s shiny, put it down. It’s not ripe yet. Notice any patches of green? Not ripe yet. It’s okay if it has blemishes — just make sure there’s no cuts on the squash.
Feel the Squash
Photo by Julia Maguire
Butternut squash should feel hard and heavy. It’s going to feel like an unripe avocado. It’s stem should be intact because that will keep it fresh for longer. Tap the butternut squash with your knuckles and if it sounds hollow, it’s ripe. Knock, knock.
Ripe butternut squash will be perfect for making sweet, creamy recipes. An unripe butternut quash will be bland and tasteless. Butternut squash varies in price according to region, but Trader Joe’s sells them for $1.99 in its Texas, Midwest, Southeast, and East Coast stores. Now that you know how to pick them, never make the mistake of picking an unripe butternut squash ever again.
When to harvest buttercup squash?
Buttercup squash are best harvested when the dark green rind resists the pressure of a thumbnail. It will likely be in the ballpark of three pounds, and at this time it is usually right around the time of first frost. A light frost can improve the flavor, but a hard frost can damage or kill it. Many people leave buttercups until the vine dies, and let them cure on the vine (they should be allowed to cure 7-14 days before storage) but you don’t necessarily need to do this. You should try to leave about 2 inches of stem on the squash however.
Any squash that has damage or blemishes or is immature when harvest time comes should be cooked right away. If you find that it’s too much to eat that way, cooked buttercup squash freezes well. A cured squash in good shape can be kept in a cool, dry place (around 50 degrees F) for 3-6 months.
Be careful when searching for advice that people are definitely talking about buttercup squash, not the similarly named butternut, a more popular gourd that has some similarities besides the name but is overall quite different! Best of luck with your squash!
Pumpkins may get all the glory at Halloween, but there are many other versatile, vividly colored, flavorful, and nutrient-packed winter squash varieties to brighten up cold-weather meals. Sweeter, denser, and more firm in texture than summer squash or zucchini, autumn and winter squash take well to a wide spectrum of seasonings and can be true crowd-pleasers in warming soups, casseroles, risotto, lasagna, and even desserts.
The term winter squash is a bit of a misnomer: Harvested in the fall, these hardy vegetables will keep well through the cold winter months for which they’re named. Chances are that sugar pumpkins, acorn squash, and butternut squash are the most readily available types at local supermarkets. Others, such as spaghetti, buttercup, and red kuri, are worth seeking out at farmers’ markets, health food stores, or specialty shops. Regardless of the type, to get the best quality, select winter squash that are blemish- and bruise-free, with an intact stem and heavy feeling for their size.
Naturally low in fat and calories, the winter squash family delivers significant nutritional benefits. For example, one cup of baked butternut squash is rich in vitamins A (from beta carotene), B6, C, and E, as well as magnesium, potassium, and manganese. Flavors are generally mild-to-sweet, so squash won’t overwhelm other ingredients and can easily be incorporated into your seasonal cooking. The orange and yellow flesh helps brighten dishes—a definite bonus, especially in the colder months, when variety and color can be hard to come by in seasonal produce. And don’t be daunted by winter squash’s size, heft, and tough exterior; in fact, you can sometimes find popular varieties like butternut in stores already peeled and cubed. Use our recipes to transform the flesh into something sweet or savory, and you’ll know that it’s well worth the effort!
Photo by Kabocha Squash
Aliases: Japanese Pumpkin, Kent Pumpkin
Characteristics: The squat, green kabocha—the Japanese word for squash—has a nutty, earthy flavor with just a touch of sweetness. It’s similar in shape and size to a buttercup squash, but the base points out and not in.
Aliases: Butternut Pumpkin, Gramma Pumpkin
Characteristics: A slim neck and bulbous bottom give the butternut squash its distinctive bell shape. The muted yellow-tan rind hides bright orange-yellow flesh with a relatively sweet taste. To make butternut squash easier to handle, cut the neck from the body and work with each section separately.
Photo by Red Kabocha Squash
Characteristics: The red kabocha is squat, like its green counterpart, and has faint white stripes running from top to bottom. While the two are interchangeable, the green kabocha is relatively savory, and the red kabocha is unmistakably sweeter.
Photo by Carnival Squash
Characteristics: Breed an acorn squash with a sweet dumpling squash, and you get a carnival squash. While the carnival squash’s exterior resembles both of its relatives’, its yellow flesh is mellow and sweet. Use it wherever acorn squash or butternut squash is called for in a recipe.
Photo by Sugar Pumpkin
Aliases: Pie Pumpkin
Characteristics: If your Halloween pumpkin was small and squat, chances are it was a sugar pumpkin. But more than just decorative, sugar pumpkins are prized for their classic pumpkin flavor, as well as for their thick and flesh-packed walls. If you’d like to opt out of canned pumpkin for your baking and make your own purée instead, reach for a sugar pumpkin—or don’t.
Photo by Sweet Dumpling Squash
Characteristics: This whitish-yellow and green squash is small and compact, making the whole squash the perfect-size bowl for an individual serving. The flesh tastes very much like sweet potato, and the skin is edible is as well. Use sweet dumpling squash in recipes calling for sweet potato or pumpkin.
Photo by Spaghetti Squash
Aliases: Vegetable Spaghetti, Calabash
How to Cook Buttercup Squash
Buttercup squash is a common variety of winter squash with a dark green skin and a round shape. Like other winter squash, it is an excellent source of fiber and nutrients and can easily be roasted, baked, mashed, or puréed.
To cook buttercup squash, start by cutting it in half. Be sure to use a sharp knife and to stabilize the squash with a clean kitchen towel, if necessary; cutting round squash can be difficult. Once you’ve halved the buttercup squash, scoop out the seeds and fibers and discard them.
In the Oven
Place the cleaned halves cut-side up on a rimmed baking sheet or in a shallow baking dish. Brush the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour about ¼ of an inch of water in the bottom of the pan and roast the squash in a 350-degree oven until tender.
On the Stovetop
Buttercup squash can also be cooked in a pot of boiling water. After halving the squash, flip the halves over and place them on a cutting board, cut-side down. Cut the halves in half again and then peel the quartered squash with a sharp knife or durable vegetable peeler. Then, cut the squash into 1-inch cubes and boil in water (or steam in a steamer basket) until tender.
You can then season the buttercup squash and serve it whole, sliced, or mashed. You can also easily purée it as a base for soups or stews.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.
Get to Know These 11 Winter Squashes
We all love a good butternut squash soup, and it would be a pretty sad fall without pumpkin pie, but there are plenty of other squashes that rarely make it into the spotlight. Here are 11 beautiful and tasty varieties of winter (a.k.a. hard) squash that you should either meet for the first time or get more familiar with.
1. Spaghetti Squash
It’s pretty amazing when a vegetable can double as a bowl of noodles: Roasted and topped with tomato sauce and cheese, the humble spaghetti squash is a healthy alternative to the carb party otherwise known as pasta.
Best for: a healthy side dish or vegetarian main course | Try it in: Spaghetti Squash Cakes
2. Kabocha Squash
This green Japanese pumpkin is available year-round. It’s sweeter than butternut, with beautiful orange flesh that’s reminiscent of a sweet potato in color.
Best for: roasting, steaming, or puréeing | Try it in: Kabocha Squash Scotch Eggs; Thai Red Curry with Kabocha Squash
3. Buttercup Squash
Although the buttercup is very close in appearance to the kabocha, the texture of this compact squash is much drier and the flavor much more mild than its nutty and sweet look-alike. Thanks to its dense character, the hearty buttercup is best cubed and cooked into stews, or roasted until tender.
Best for: substituting in any recipes that call for butternut squash | Try it in: Pear, Buttercup Squash, & Chorizo Hash
4. Delicata Squash
One of the milder, less sweet winter squashes that’s so tender you can eat the rind (remember to scrub it well first, though). Since it calls for almost zero prep, delicata’s a good choice for a quick, healthy weeknight dinner.
Best for: salads, or served alone, roasted and drizzled with balsamic vinegar | Try it in: Roasted Delicata Squash Salad
5. Red Kuri Squash
This teardrop-shaped beauty goes well with something creamy, like dairy or coconut milk, and is best cooked unpeeled.
Best for: pies and soups; roasting and braising | Try it in: Roasted Red Kuri Pumpkin & Coconut Soup
6. Blue Hokkaido Squash
A lovely pale blue on the outside, this sweet, versatile squash looks like it’s straight out of Cinderella. Roast it cut into wedges but unpeeled, and the contrast between blue rind and orange flesh looks great on the plate (don’t try to eat the skin, though).
Best for: roasting with a savory or sweet filling and puréeing | Try it in: Hokkaido Stella blue squash purée, fava leave pesto, persimmon and bee pollen.
7. Lakota Squash
One of the more interesting varieties, this green-skinned, orange-streaked beauty has a nutty flavor. It’s as decorative as it is delicious—keep a bowl of Lakotas as a centerpiece for the dining room table.
Best for: decoration, roasting, mashing | Try it in: A roasted fall vegetable medley, puréed or braised.
8. Calabaza Squash
A versatile variety that’s often candied (we hear it’s been used to make dulce de leche, though we’ve never seen a recipe). You can find it in some Latin American markets chopped and ready to go, so there’s no excuse not to give it a try.
Best for: sweet dishes and roasting; also works well in soups | Try it in: Roasted Calabaza
9. Acorn Squash
This small green squash is one of the most commonly found on the Thanksgiving dinner table—check out our guide to basic roasting for an introduction to your favorite new quick side dish.
Best for: roasting, adding to salads and pasta | Try it in: Acorn Squash with Red Onion and Currants Recipe
10. Sweet Dumpling Squash
A tiny squash that looks like a miniature pumpkin, the sweet dumpling is great for individual servings. Cut one in half, drizzle honey or olive oil in the center, and roast away. It’s also a great base for rice, meat, or vegetable fillings.
Best for: stuffing, individual servings | Try it in: Baked Sweet Dumpling Squash with Millet & Caponata
11. Carnival Squash
Best for: can be used as a substitution for both butternut and acorn squash and is great roasted or broiled | Try it in: Salad of Roasted Carnival Squash, Pears, and Red Onion
One more benefit of trying lots of winter squashes: the seeds. You’ve always enjoyed roasted pumpkin seeds from the Halloween jack-o’-lantern. Squash seeds are just as tasty (and healthy), baked and sprinkled with a little salt. Check out our CHOW Tip video on how to roast squash seeds.
Photo Credits: Farmers’ market squashes, Spaghetti squash / Steamy Kitchen, Spaghetti Squash Cakes / CHOW.com, Kabocha squash, Thai Red Curry with Kabocha Squash / CHOW.com, Buttercup squash / Grow It Organically!, Buttercup squash hash / Cara’s Cravings, Delicata squash / Oregon Live, Roasted Delicata Squash Salad / CHOW.com, Red kuri squash / BBB Seed, Roasted red kuri soup / The Kitchn, Blue Hokkaido Squash / One Messy Kitchen, Hokkaido Stella blue squash purée / Flickr, Lakota squash / It’s So Very Cheri, Lakota squash / My Humble Kitchen, Calabaza squash / Sybil Cooper Fitness, Roasted Calabaza squash / Como Come Cami, Acorn squash / Passports & Pancakes, Acorn Squash with Red Onion and Currants Recipe / CHOW.com, Sweet Dumpling Squash / Fanatic Cook, Baked Sweet Dumpling Squash with Millet & Caponata / Blue Apron, Carnival Squash / Humane Living, Carnival squash salad / What I Do
Buttercup squash is winter squash, which means it will take the entire growing season for fruit to grow and ripen. It is one of the species of Cucurbita Maxima. Cucurbita Maxima species are one of the most sundry of the domesticated species of squash. The original species was Cucurbita Andreana, and it was found wild in South America over 4000 years ago. They are made into hybrids easily; the calcium measurements are very different in hybrid plants.
It is said that the 16th century introduced squash plants to the American Indians. And they domesticated squash quite quickly and is still grown by many tribes today.
The species we are talking about today is buttercup squash. Because of the similarity of names, buttercup squash, and butternut squash are often confused, but they are different squash varieties. Turban Squash is often also confused with Buttercup squash; it is a cousin but a different squash.
Buttercup squash is typical in gardening for its variety of uses, which include roasting, blending into soups, and fillings (similar to pumpkin). The seeds from the Cucurbita Maxima species are used to treat parasites in animals.
Family Of Squash
This squash belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family of plants. This plant family includes pumpkin, zucchini, squash, and some gourds. In Japan, all squash of the buttercup variety is called Kabocha.
Burgess Buttercup Squash, a thinner skinned sort of this plant, was introduced in 1932 by Burgess Seed Company. It is a crossbreed between Essex and Quality squash of the buttercup variety.
Below is a list of varieties of buttercup squash.
- Bonbon Buttercup
- Burgess Buttercup
How Does Buttercup Squash Look
Buttercup squash has a flatter top, and it looks like a turban. It usually weighs 3-5 pounds, it has a dense orange-yellow flesh, with dark green skin. Because its surface is medium-hard, this squash can be stored in a cool, dry place to enjoy them over a while.
The orange meat of the buttercup squash is creamy, sweet, and buttery. When picked at the right time, the top will be firm, and the skin will be dark green of color.
Buttercup squash is rich in vitamins A, and C potassium, B vitamins, and a large amount of minerals. Carotenoids found in buttercup squash can help lower the risk of some types of cancers.
Growing Buttercup Squash
Buttercup squash grows on vines or in bushes. Each vine will need 6ft of row spacing for bush or short vine varieties. If it is a long vine variety, it will need 12 feet.
The traditional way of growing squash plants is to plant them on the tops of a mound and allow a tall plant like corn or sunflowers to support the growth of the vines. You can also plant them at the end of a row, and train the vines to grow away from other plants.
If you want to add some height to your garden, you can grow this squash on a trellis or tepee, by tying up the vines as they grow. If the weight of the squash gets too heavy for a trellised vine, you can use parachute cord to create a net to hold it’s weight until rip.
These plants do well in loose, well-drained soil. That is side composted rather than being fertilized because over-fertilizing will cause the plant to leaf out, but not grow any fruit. The ideal pH range for squash is 5.8-7.0pH. Because squash is hardy, as long as you have well-draining soil, your plants should thrive.
Be sure to give your buttercup squash plant plenty of room in your garden; it will spread out and take up space you give it, six to 12 feet depending on vine or bush size.
Hardiness Zones For Squash
Squash plants need full sun and have the best growth in USDA hardiness zones 3-10. There are a lot of zone hardiness maps you can find online, to help you figure out which hardiness zone is yours.
Plant Size And Days To Maturity
The plant size for squash is significant because the vines like to spread out. If you have a bush or short vine variety, you will need about 6 feet of space for the plant. For a long vine variety, you will need up to 12 feet of space between rows.
The vines will reach maturity 90-100 days after planting. The vines will produce as little as four, and as many as six squashes per plant.
Water Requirments for Buttercup Squash
All squash plants like consistent water. Deep watering, the practice of watering the soil four-six inches deep, will help the water to reach the roots of a squash plant. Where it can most effectively retrieve moisture from the earth.
A dense layering of mulch will help to keep water from evaporating too quickly from the soil. Be sure to monitor the soil around your plant, the roots of squash don’t like to be saturated in water for long.
Buttercup Squash Pests
Squash plants have many enemies, so prevention by way of healthy soil is best.
- Seed Corn Maggots
- Flea Beetles
- Squash bugs
- Squash Vine borers
- Cucumber beetles
Diatomaceous earth is recommended as a way to keep pests under control. Floating row covers are also recommended as a prevention method for pests. If you are using floating row covers, be sure to secure the light fabric with soil. If using the floating row covers, you will need to open them regularly or hand pollinate the flowers.
Grow Your Buttercup Squash
Yes, you can do this. We will even give you a step by step guide.
- Choose your variety (bush, short or long vine)
- Decide if you will need a trellis or support
- Find a spot to plant with at least 6 feet and up to 12 feet of space
- Plant Buttercup Squash (sow indoors three weeks before planting, or direct seed in the garden after last frost date)
- Once plants have sprouted thin if needed.
- Cover with 2-3 inches of mulch
- Setup Floating row covers, or use diatomaceous earth for pest prevention
- Add compost, or fertilizer to the soil to feed plants
- When fruit appears, cut the runners to encourage plant energy toward fruit growth
- Monitor water levels for the next weeks, and watch your plant grow
- Fruits are ready around 55 days after the fruit has set
- To harvest cut fruit from the vines
- Do not wash, brush off the dirt, and avoid handling the stem area
- Set fruit to sun cure for 5-7 days, or indoors at 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit for with proper ventilation
- Store fruit at 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit for at least a few weeks.
Can Buttercup Squash Grow in Containers?
There are several varieties of squash that can be grown in containers, as long as it isn’t a giant variety that weighs a lot. You will want to choose a large pot, as a squash plant will need plenty of room for its roots. One squash plant needs a lot of space.
Buttercup Squash Photo Gallery
For your viewing pleasure a photo gallery of buttercup squash. After that, we will tell you more about where to buy seeds, or starts, for your garden.
Winter Squash That are Great for Storage
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These dark green squash are fantastic for winter storage if kept between 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit with proper ventilation they will keep for up to 4 weeks.
Cute and Tiny
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Who wouldn’t want to grow this adorable little squash called “Buttercup” in their garden?
Grows in Multiples
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Each plant will grow 4-6 fruit per plant.
Sweet and Delicious
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When you cut them open, you will find a dense yellow to orange flesh, that will taste sweet, and buttery.
Decorate With Style
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The dark green and striped skin will be a beautiful decoration for your garden and your fall table centerpiece.
A Perfect Present
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They would make excellent hostess gifts for Friendsgiving, and you could say, “I grew it myself.”
Perfect Fall Feast
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If you have never had buttercup squash, you are missing out. Roasted with maple syrup, blending into soup, it is the quintessential fall food.
Grow it Vertically
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Grown on a bush, on a short, or long vine, these beautiful plants will add texture, and height to your garden.
Fun for the Whole Family
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Kids have a ton of fall fun playing hide and seek with these squash as well as getting to harvest something they grew.
Give Them Support
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If you squash needs a hug, you can give it a little support so it can safely finish growing. Especially if you trellis and they are scared of heights.
Where to Buy Buttercup Squash
Seedz sells USDA certified organic, and heirloom buttercup squash seeds. They are verified non-GMO. There are approximately 25 seeds per pack.
Mr. Seedy Needs
My Seedy Needs sells six seeds per package, heirloom, variety, buttercup squash seeds. Ninety-five days to harvest with this variety.
Mooregold Buttercup Squash
If you want to add color to your garden, try these Mooregold buttercup squash plants — twenty-plus seeds per package.
Burgess Buttercup Squash
We also found these Burgess Buttercup Squash seeds in packs of ten seeds.
Gurney’s also carries in 1 ounces packages.
Squash is a great addition to any garden, whether bush or trellised, once you find and make friends with your buttercup squash, it is fun to watch them grow throughout the summer. Especially if you create a trellis tunnel with various types of gourds and squash. It makes a favorite summer shade spot.
Are you ready to grow these beautiful little garden fruits? You have all the information you need. Get planning, planting, growing, and enjoying.
Here are posts about Squash you might also want to check out –
54 Types of Squash That You Can Grow in Your Garden
Top 50 Online Stores for Pumpkin and Squash Seeds
How to Grow Squash in a Vertical Garden