How And When To Pick Acorn Squash

How And When To Pick Acorn Squash

By: Nikki Tilley, Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden

Acorn squash is a form of winter squash, grown and harvested much like any other type of winter squash variety. Winter squash differs from summer squash when it comes to harvesting. Acorn squash harvest takes place during the mature fruit stage once rinds have become tough rather than the more tender rinds found in summer squash varieties. This allows for better storage, as most types of winter squash are stored throughout the winter season once harvested.

When are Acorn Squash Ripe?

So when are acorn squash ripe and how do you know when to pick acorn squash? There are several ways you can tell that an acorn squash is ripe and ready to be picked. One of the easiest ways is by noting its color. Ripened acorn squash turns dark green in color. The portion that has been in contact with the ground will go from yellow to orange. In addition to color, the rind, or skin, of acorn squash will become hard.

Another way to tell ripeness is to look at the plant’s stem. The stem attached to the fruit itself will become withered and brown once the fruit has thoroughly ripened.

When to Harvest Acorn Squash

Acorn squash takes about 80 to 100 days to harvest. If you’re going to store acorn squash rather than eat it right away, allow it to remain on the vine a little longer. This allows the rind to harden some more.

Although it can stay on the vine for several weeks after becoming ripe, acorn squash is susceptible to frost. Frost damaged squash does not keep well and should be discarded along with those that exhibit soft spots. Therefore, harvesting acorn squash prior to the first heavy frost in your area is important. Generally, this takes place sometime in September or October.

When harvesting acorn squash, carefully cut the squash from the vine, leaving at least a couple inches (5 cm.) of the stem attached to help preserve moisture.

Storing Your Acorn Squash Harvest

  • Once your acorn squash has been harvested, store them in a cool, dry area. It will keep for several months if given the right temperatures. Usually this is between 50 and 55 degrees F. (10-13 C.). Squash does not do well in temperatures below or higher than this.
  • When storing the squash, avoid piling them on top of one another. Instead, lay them out in a single row or layer.
  • Cooked acorn squash will keep for short-term periods in the refrigerator. However, to keep cooked squash for longer periods, it’s better to freeze it.

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How to Tell When Acorn Squash Are Ripe & Ready to Be Picked

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Acorn squash, part of the Cucurbita pepo family of winter squashes, is a popular choice with gardeners for its high productivity and its family-friendly size. It’s larger than its close kin such as Delicata and Sweet Dumpling, but much smaller than long-storage behemoths like the Banana and Hubbard squashes. Acorns reach their full size quickly, but they won’t be ripe until later in the season.


Propagation

Photo by Ann Ono Mouse (Wikimedia Commons) (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Before growing acorn squash, it is advisable to consider the below-mentioned factors.

Generally, the acorn squash matures in three to four months after planting. This period may vary a little bit depending on the environmental conditions. You cannot harvest most of the winter squashes including Acorn squash before ripening. So, ensure you have an adequate growing season with the full sun before planting.

Another factor to consider is the available space. Growing acorn squash does require some real estate. You can plant 2-3 plants in 50 square feet per hill. Even if you manage to allot 1-2 hill spaces, you can harvest plenty of them.

Growing Acorn Squash in Gardens

Normally, you can purchase seeds from online stores. After planting, you can also save the remaining seeds for upto six years depending on the seed quality.

Generally, for growing acorn squash in gardens, you have to wait till the dangers of frost have passed. After that, make sure the soil temperature exceeds 15 degrees centigrade (60-degree Fahrenheit).

These plants prefer to grow in Soils with PH value between 5.8 – 6.8. So, add compost to the soil space where you have decided to plant the seeds. Make sure to loosen the soil at least 12 inches deep.

Before planting, cover the acorn squash seeds in a damp paper towel for about 2-3 hours.

Initially, plant 5-6 seeds per hill space (50 square feet) in soil mounds. This prevents root rots to a large extent while watering. This is especially useful in the case of acorn squash, since they need a great deal of water. You can expect germination within a couple of weeks. After that, thin the planted seeds to three, picking out the unhealthy ones.

Normally, these plants need warmth to germinate. The vines of these plants grow well in temperatures ranging between 20 – 32 degrees centigrade (70 – 90 F).

The plants continue to grow as the temperature rises. But the flowers drop out, thereby preventing the fertilization process.

Growing Acorn Squash in Pots

You also have the choice of planting the seeds in Pots and transplanting them after germination. Purchase a large planting pot (at least 7.6 cm). Fill it with well-draining soil mixed with seed mix. Then, sprinkle warm water before sowing the seeds.

Sow 5-6 seeds at least an inch deep in the pots. Place the pots near a sunny window and cover with a plastic wrap. You can expect germination within a week or two.

After that, thin the seeds to three, picking out unhealthy ones. After a few days, when they show signs of growing, transplant them in your gardens.

Alternatively, you can purchase seedlings from nearby nurseries or garden centers and transplant them.


When and how to harvest winter squash

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Winter squash varieties are a staple in many gardens, thanks to their prolific fruiting, their ease of growth, and the long shelf life of the fruits.

Whether you grow acorn, butternut, delicata, Turk’s cap or any one of the other dozens of types of winter squash, the most important part of enjoying the harvest is knowing exactly when and how to pluck the fruits from the vines.

By mid-summer, your winter squash plants should be starting to develop young fruits. The male flowers will open first to ensure there is plenty of pollen around when the female flowers open a week or so later. Female flowers have a mini squash at the base of the flower, while male flowers have a straight flower stalk.

From the time they are pollinated, it typically takes many weeks for winter squash fruits to ripen. But how do you know the best time to pick a winter squash? If you pick it too early, the flesh isn’t fully developed and may be bland. If you wait too long, the fruits could rot on the vine and they may become mealy.

Here are some tips to help you determine when to harvest your winter squash.

• First and foremost, check the seed packet for the “days to maturity.” This is the number of days typically required for the plant to go from a planted seed to production. I usually wait about 10 days beyond that number to start checking the fruits for signs of readiness. Unlike some other garden crops, waiting a little longer to harvest winter squash is better than picking it too early.

• Next, examine the fruits. Their rind should be fully colored and difficult to pierce with your thumbnail. For acorn squash, a golden yellow or orange spot will develop on the bottom side when ready to harvest.

• Tap the fruits. If they sound hollow, they’re ready to pick. Winter squash will not continue to ripen once the fruits are snipped from the vine, so timing your harvest properly is key. However, do your best to pick all the squash before the first hard frost. While they’ll tolerate a few light frosts, heavy frosts will potentially damage the fruits and affect their shelf life. If the end of the season is growing close and you’re worried that the fruits won’t ripen in time, cut off the growing end off of each of the vines. This signals the plants that no more growth is needed and forces them to ripen the existing fruits a little faster.

• To harvest winter squash, cut the fruits from the vines with a pair of pruners. Do not pull them off or you could damage the fruits and promote rot. Leave a short nub of the stem intact.

• Once all of your winter squash have been harvested, it’s time to cure them. This process thickens the skin and enables them to last longer. After harvesting, line the fruits up on table in the garage or another dry room. Let them sit there for about 10 days to two weeks. Then, the fruits can be stored between 55 and 65 degrees humidity for several months.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden,” “Good Bug, Bad Bug,” and her newest title, “Container Gardening Complete.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com. Send your gardening or landscaping questions to [email protected] or The Good Earth, 622 Cabin Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.

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Ebony Acorn Squash

80-90 days. Cucurbita pepo. Our improved Ebony Acorn Squash produces round, slightly ridged, dark green-skinned fruits on prolific rambling vines. Each fruit grows to about 6" by 5" and 2 pounds with sweet, pale orange-yellow flesh. Our favorite recipe: cut each Squash in half, remove seeds and place in baking dish. Fill each cavity with maple syrup, a bit of brown sugar and a pat of butter. Add a half cup of water to the bottom of the baking dish, cover and bake at 350°F for 50 minutes. (OP.)

One packet of about 25 seeds

There is something extraordinary about the aroma of baking Winter Squash, bubbling with butter and brown sugar. Sun-loving Winter Squash is best direct-sown in well-draining, fertile, 60°F soil, two weeks past the last spring frost date. Plant them with plenty of elbow room since they love to ramble. Squash is simple to grow and transforms easily into nutritious, heart-warming dishes: soups, gratins or sumptuous Thai or Indian curries. Squash requires fertile soil and room to stretch in hot sunshine. Harvest with a sharp blade when skin is hard and the mature coloration appears, leaving some stem. Cure in the sun for ten days or in a dry room for five days. Properly cured Squash, kept cool and dry, keeps all winter long. Bee friendly. Deer resistant.

Average seed life: 3 years.

  • Winter Squash Sowing Instructions
    Planting Depth
    :1”
    Row Spacing:5’
    Hill Spacing:5’-6’
    Days to Germination: 5-10 days
    Germination Temperature:65°-75°F

Winter Squash needs space to ramble as well as a hot growing site in full sunlight. They may be started after the last frost when the temperature is a reliable 60°F. Direct-sow 3 to 5 seeds per hill, then thin to the 2 strongest seedlings. To start indoors for transplanting, sow singly in pots 3 to 4 weeks before the transplant date. Provide seedlings with good ventilation, strong light and even moisture. Transplant outdoors after the last frost date. Enrich soil with organic fertilizer, compost and/or well-rotted manure. Cover seedlings with cloches if it gets cool, water regularly and feed as needed with kelp or fish emulsion. Powdery mildew on leaves won’t affect the squash. Harvest with a sharp knife when skin is hard and fruits are fully colored. As long as there is no danger of frost, you may cure squash outdoors in the sun for 10 days. Or, you may place them in a warm, dry room for 5 to 7 days to cure.

Patience Pays Off
I’m always in a hurry to get my Winter Squash growing, and have often started them ahead indoors. But I find that the plants really dislike being transplanted, especially into chilly spring soil. I find it works best to sow directly. If your growing season is short, it helps to warm up the soil with black plastic sheets instead, cutting an X wherever a Squash plant will go.

Squash as a Groundcover
Here's a trick that saves space, keeps down weeds and deters critters, all at the same time. Plant Winter Squash along the edge of the garden and train the vines outward, through the fence. The vines will soon blanket the area just outside, shading weeds out the leaves make a prickly carpet that some animals prefer not to walk on.

There is something extraordinary about the aroma of baking Winter Squash, bubbling with butter and brown sugar. Sun-loving Winter Squash is best direct-sown in well-draining, fertile, 60°F soil, two weeks past the last spring frost date. Plant them with plenty of elbow room since they love to ramble. Squash is simple to grow and transforms easily into nutritious, heart-warming dishes: soups, gratins or sumptuous Thai or Indian curries. Squash requires fertile soil and room to stretch in hot sunshine. Harvest with a sharp blade when skin is hard and the mature coloration appears, leaving some stem. Cure in the sun for ten days or in a dry room for five days. Properly cured Squash, kept cool and dry, keeps all winter long. Bee friendly. Deer resistant.

Average seed life: 3 years.

  • Winter Squash Sowing Instructions
    Planting Depth
    :1”
    Row Spacing:5’
    Hill Spacing:5’-6’
    Days to Germination: 5-10 days
    Germination Temperature:65°-75°F

Winter Squash needs space to ramble as well as a hot growing site in full sunlight. They may be started after the last frost when the temperature is a reliable 60°F. Direct-sow 3 to 5 seeds per hill, then thin to the 2 strongest seedlings. To start indoors for transplanting, sow singly in pots 3 to 4 weeks before the transplant date. Provide seedlings with good ventilation, strong light and even moisture. Transplant outdoors after the last frost date. Enrich soil with organic fertilizer, compost and/or well-rotted manure. Cover seedlings with cloches if it gets cool, water regularly and feed as needed with kelp or fish emulsion. Powdery mildew on leaves won’t affect the squash. Harvest with a sharp knife when skin is hard and fruits are fully colored. As long as there is no danger of frost, you may cure squash outdoors in the sun for 10 days. Or, you may place them in a warm, dry room for 5 to 7 days to cure.

Patience Pays Off
I’m always in a hurry to get my Winter Squash growing, and have often started them ahead indoors. But I find that the plants really dislike being transplanted, especially into chilly spring soil. I find it works best to sow directly. If your growing season is short, it helps to warm up the soil with black plastic sheets instead, cutting an X wherever a Squash plant will go.

Squash as a Groundcover
Here's a trick that saves space, keeps down weeds and deters critters, all at the same time. Plant Winter Squash along the edge of the garden and train the vines outward, through the fence. The vines will soon blanket the area just outside, shading weeds out the leaves make a prickly carpet that some animals prefer not to walk on.


Cut your plant back to within 12-18 inches of the ground. Then keep the soil moist and fertilize. When 12 inches of new growth is produced, remove four to six inches from the end of each shoot. Allow more growth to occur and repeat the trimming. Complete all trimming by the end of August to allow the plants to mature and initiate flowering, which results in the colorful bracts, in mid-October.

Q: Each year, we try to grow squash and about now the fruits fill with worms. Is there an easy control?

A: Brown dingy moths fly in to lay eggs that develop into the fruit-feeding pickle and melon worms we hate to see in our squash, cucumbers and melons. Gardeners hardly every see the moths, so you can forget catching them as a control. Probably the best control is a spray with one of the natural insecticides of Thricide or spinosad. The latter is found in Bonide, Fertilome and Southern Ag products at independent garden centers. Follow the label instructions to help control these leaf- and fruit-feeders on squash.


Watch the video: Garden Harvest Acorn Squash