When it comes to growing your own vegetables, the process can sometimes seem a little daunting. However you really shouldn’t fear growing vegetables at home, because it’s not as hard as you may think. There are many vegetables that you can grow at home, but today we’ll be looking into a slightly more exotic vegetable that you can grow at home. This being, the butternut squash. One thing we have discovered though, is there really isn’t much information out there on Butternut squash growing stages, so we have put together an easy walk-through guide of all the butternut squash growing stages you will have.
But first, let’s take a closer look into the origins of butternut squash.
The butternut squash originates from Central America, Mexico and Guatemala to be precise. Due to the hot and humid climate, this makes it the perfect place to grow the butternut squash vegetable. Nowadays the butternut squash is largely exported all over the world, now mainly coming from Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.
Just from this list alone you can tell exactly the typical climate a butternut squash needs to be able to grow fully and healthy. But don’t let this put you off, because there are a few tricks which you can use to grow them perfectly from home.
In total, once all the butternut squash growing stages are complete, you should have vegetables that are ready to eat in roughly 110-120 days.
The 5 Butternut Squash Growing Stages
- Seed Preparation
- Seed Planting
- Stem Growth
- Plant Fruition
First of the butternut squash growing stages is the seed preparation. Now this may not seem like a stage which needs much care and attention, but you would be wrong in thinking so. The best place to buy butternut squash seeds is directly from your supermarket.
You can buy butternut squash seeds online, or from a local garden center, however this isn’t the method we recommend. We recommend buying an actual butternut squash and cutting it open straight down the middle to reveal the seeds inside.
Once you have cut your butternut squash in half, you should see a big hole in the middle of the vegetable which is full of seeds. These seeds should still be slightly moist as they extract the water from the vegetables itself.
Using a spoon, carefully carve out the seeds and place them into a sieve. Once all the seeds have been carved out, rinse them in the sieve under cold water until they look clean. From here they are ready to be planted.
Shop bought seeds will usually be very dehydrated, and unfortunately in many occasions will not flower into an edible vegetable at all. Using fresh vegetable seeds gives you a much higher probability of growing healthy products.
Second butternut squash growing stages is seed planting. In our opinion this is the most crucial stage in the process. If the conditions aren’t correct when planting the butternut squash seed, then you may not grow any at all, so read carefully.
Butternut squash seeds need a lot of space to grow. You will need either a pot which is sized 16 x 16 inches (deep and wide), or have at least 2 feet between each planted seed (if planted in garden soil).
First of all you will need to buy an appropriate soil to grow your butternut squash. Butternut squash seeds need to be planted in a soil which has pH levels between 6.0 – 7.0. Any more or less will massively reduce your chances of growing healthy butternut squash vegetables. The last factor is that the soil needs to stay between 21 – 29 degrees celsius, so please make sure it is located appropriately.
(Yes, butternut squash will grow indoors as long as they are located near a window with natural sunlight).
Using your finger, press a holes into the soil which is roughly 4 inches deep and 4 inches apart.
Then push the seeds into the hole which you have made, making sure that it stays vertical and not laying horizontal. Ideally no more than 6 seeds in one location. It doesn’t matter which way up you plant the seeds, and the roots will always grow downwards to find water, whilst the stem will always grow upwards to find sunlight.
If you are planting your seeds in cooler temperatures to start off with, then you can pile more soil on top of your planted seed, creating a warm blanket for your seed to flourish. Keeping the soil temperature between 21 – 29 degrees celsius is crucial to its growth.
After a few weeks you should start to see your stems breaching the surface. This is the first sign that your seedlings are healthy and growing at the correct speed. Sometimes this may take longer if you have piled any more soil on top previously to keep the seed warm.
From this stage, with regular watering every week you should see your butternut squash plant grow about 1 inch every week.
With time, your butternut squash plant may send out vines which can exceed 15 feet in length, so please allow enough space for these to grow, or have a trellis which you can wrap them around.
Once the stems have grown to approximately 6 inches tall, you should be able to see the healthiest and sternest stems amongst them. You will need to pull out roughly 50% of your weakest stems, to allow the strongest ones enough room to grow fully.
Eventually your butternut squash plant will begin to flourish, usually with bright yellow flowers that will soon develop into small fruits. The small fruits that you see are in fact the butternut squash forming at its earliest stage.
The unripe butternut squash will be a combination of yellow and green to start with, changing into a light orange as it ripens. The butternut squash will grow to the size of a pickle in 2 weeks, where it should then just about reach the ground. Once at a size to reach the ground, the weight of the butternut squash will no longer rely on the stem to hold it up, and simply lay on the ground.
This is where you’ll have to keep a close eye on your butternut squash plant, as pests will be able to access them easily. You will need to make sure that insects don’t start to either eat the vegetable itself, or the stem which it’s growing from.
The stem is equally as desirable to little indests as it holds a large amount of nutrients which will be feeding your butternut squash. Towards the 16 week mark, your butternut squash should be full size. However don’t get ahead of yourself when wanting to harvest. The last 2 weeks of a butternut squash growing stage is where it will ripen the most. Premature harvesting will result with an off tasting vegetable.
The final part of butternut squash growing stages is the harvest.
Unlike many other vegetable plants that you can grow at home, the butternut squash plant will keep its vibrant green color throughout the growing process. Commonly a vegetable plants leaves will change from a green color, to a yellow color as the plant begins to die. Butternut squash however continues to live past its harvesting stage, so the green colored leaves stay the same color.
The only way you fully know if a butternut squash is ready to be harvested is by poking it. Yes, that’s right. Take your thumb nail and poke the skin of your butternut squash. The outer layer of skin should be very tough, and you shouldn’t be able to poke your fingernail through it.
If you are able to push your thumb nail through the skin of your butternut squash, then it’s not ready to be harvested. You should keep trying this process every 3 days until you can no longer push your nail through the skin.
Once fully ripe, you can begin the harvest. When harvesting your butternut squash you should always leave about 1 inch of stem attached to the vegetable. This will continue to feed the butternut squash for a few days until you decide to cook it, keeping it fresher for a slightly longer period of time.
How Many Butternut Squash Per Plant?
So what should you expect after the butternut squash growing stages? How many butternut squash per plant should you see?
From one planted seed you should expect to see anywhere between 4 – 6 butternut squash per plant a season. So if you are only planning on growing butternut squash for personal use, then we would recommend that 1 plant is enough. (Unless you love it so much). But this is entirely up to you.
The butternut squash will not all grow at the same speed from the same stem. They should all ripen at a similar time, however there may be a couple of weeks between the first fruit ripening and the last.
Keeping the vegetable whole once it has been harvested will elongate its shelf life. Butternut squash can keep for up to 2-3 months after being harvested, without going bad. In some cases, butternut squash have been kept in edible condition for over 6 months after harvest.
Butternut Squash Growing Problems
There are many different reasons for butternut squash growing problems that should all be addressed. Any one of these butternut squash growing problems may cause your plant no to fruit at all. So keeping on top of these 6 factors will give your plant the best possible chance of producing healthy butternut squash vegetables.
The 6 mains reasons why you might see butternut squash growing problems are;
- Over watering,
- Not enough sunlight,
- Wrong soil,
- Distance between plants
The time of year you plant your seeds will have a huge effect on whether or not your butternut squash plant will produce any vegetables. The soil temperature needs to stay between 21 – 29 degrees celsius, for optimal growth. If the soil temperature is far below this range, then your plant simply won’t grow at all.
Planting your seeds in the first couple of weeks of spring, using the correct soil, and in full sunlight should be enough to keep your seeds at the correct temperature. Remember that you can always pile more soil on top of your seed for a few weeks to ensure any late season frosts wont reach the seed.
Over watering the plant is one of the main reasons you may have butternut squash growing problems. The butternut squash plant doesn’t like to be flooded with water. The best way to tell if your plant needs watering is to look out for welching.
Welching is where the leaves of the plant start to droop a little, and this signifies dehydration. Don’t be scared to let your plant get to this stage as it welches way before any serious growing risks occur. After it has been watered, you will usually see it come back to life within a couple of hours.
Not Enough Sunlight
The butternut squash is commonly grown in hot, humid climates, with long hours of sunlight. Be sure to place your butternut squash plants in a location that gets the most amount of sunlight a day.
Too little sunlight and your plant will take much longer to produce edible vegetables. Even when they do, the squash might be a lot smaller in size than you commonly see.
Another butternut squash growing problem is pests. Growing on ground level leaves the squash open to its environment which unfortunately include pests. Insects will no doubt find their way into the planting area and begin to eat their way through everything in sight.
Using a non-toxic pesticide will keep the majority of pests at bay, however you will have to continue checking them daily.
A single insect can ruin an entire plant in a day or two, eating the nutritious stems, or the vegetable itself. You’ll want to avoid both of these possibilities if you can.
Having the wrong soil is another butternut squash growing problem which is easily avoided given the correct information.
A balanced, all purpose soil will be perfect for growing butternut squash. As long as it has a pH level between 6.0- 7.0 then you shouldn’t have any problems growing healthy vegetables.
Distance Between Plants
The distance between each butternut squash plant is crucial to its growing and development. Butternut squash plants need a lot of room to grow, as their roots can grow anywhere between 25 – 40 inches. (Sometimes this is a straight root).
Ideally you will need at least 8 feet between each lot of planted seeds for the best possible growth.