Planting, Harvesting and Storing
Choose a location
that has warm, well-drained and fertile soil. Work in plenty of well
composted organic matter and mulch established plants to conserve moisture, as squash are
heavy water consumers. Sow directly into the garden after threat of frost
Here in the Maritime Northwest, it is common to plant seeds in hills. The hills are created by mounding up the
soil about four to six inches high, 24 inches across at the base and flattened on
the top. This allows the soil to be better warmed by the sun and provides better protection from heavy rain.
Sow five to six seeds, one inch deep, in hills or rows. Spacing is dependent on plant type. Vining varieties should be spaced on six foot centers while bush-types at twenty four to thirty inches apart. When seeds germinate, cut off all but the strongest three or four seedlings.
laying out your garden, remember to consider the growing habits of the
varieties that you are planting. Some bush-types are compact while some
vining types require a tremendous amount of space. Harvest time will
also vary by type.
It is important to harvest winter squash and pumpkins before they are damaged by the first frost of the fall / winter season.
The first sign that the fruit is ready to harvest will be visible shriveling and drying of the stems and leaves. Additionally, the skin of winter squash varieties will typically be too hard for you to be able to dent it with your thumbnail. You should note that most pumpkins will have a tough skin but it may remain a little soft.
Harvest the fruit by cutting them from the vine. Be sure to leave one to three inches of vine connected to the fruit. Before storing, cure the fruit.
Curing is best accomplished by allowing them to remain in the sunshine for about ten days. It is the sunlight that cures or hardens the skin. If there is a chance of freezing weather, protect in a storage building and return to the sunlight the following day.
If you cure the fruit and store them properly, they will last well into the winter. The storage area should be dark, about 50F (10C), and rather dry (>65% humidity).