How to Grow Butternut Squash

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Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata) is a winter squash. An annual, vining plant that grows from seed over one growing season before fading away at the end of the year, butternut squash fruits are orange-fleshed with tan rinds when they mature in fall. Growing butternut squash involves providing the frost-free, sunny conditions and moist, rich soil this plant prefers. Butternut squash grows 3/4 to 1 1/2 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet long and produces fruits of many shapes and sizes, according to the variety.

Sun and Soil

The best growing spots for butternut squash contain soil that's fertile, organically rich and freely draining, and receive at least six hours of sunlight per day. The best soil pH for this vine is between 6.0 and 6.5, which is slightly acidic, but butternut squash also tolerates neutral and slightly alkaline soil.

Space Between Plants

Butternut squash varieties include vining and bush types. Bush types take up less space in the garden but still produce a good crop. Grow butternut squash plants on soil raked up into low hills or rows 4 to 6 inches high to provide the freely draining, warm conditions these plants love. Hills for growing butternut squash should be about 3 feet square.

Grow three vining butternut squash plants on one hill, spaced 1 foot apart. Space the hills 5 to 6 feet apart in rows 7 to 12 feet apart. Grow bush butternut squash plants in 4- to 6-inch-high rows spaced 5 feet apart. Space the plants 3 feet apart in their rows.

Water Needs

Butternut squash plants need 1 inch of water per week, from rainfall or watering. Water butternut squash when the soil is dry to a depth of 1 to 2 inches. Apply enough water to moisten the soil to the depth of the root balls.

Tip

  • In hot, dry, windy weather, butternut squash plants may need water twice per week or more often.

Fertilizer for Butternut Squash

Applying nitrogen fertilizer in the middle of the growing season boosts plant growth in butternut squash plants. Evenly sprinkle 1/2 cup of 46-0-0 fertilizer along each 25 feet of row, 1 foot from the butternut squash plants, 40 to 50 days after sowing. Water the fertilizer into the soil.

Another option is to use organic and chemical fertilizer. Aged manure and compost provide slow-release nutrients for butternut squash plants. Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of aged manure or compost around after planting, and 40 to 50 days later apply 1/4 cup of 46-0-0 fertilizer.

Warning

  • Don't pile compost or manure against butternut squash stems, and don't allow chemical fertilizer to contact the stems or leaves. Rinse off any accidental spills.

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