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Winter Squash


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Winter Squash



Winter Squash

CULTURE: Fertile, composted, well-drained soil is best.
FROM TRANSPLANTS: Sow 3 seeds in 2" containers or plug trays 3 weeks before transplanting outdoors. Thin to 1-2 plants/cell with scissors. Transplant after frost danger when weather is warm and settled, about 18" apart for bush and small-fruited varieties, and 24-36" apart for large-fruited varieties. Take care not to disturb roots! Plastic mulch and fabric row covers will help plant establishment and exclude insect pests.
DIRECT SEEDING: Sow in late spring after frost danger when soil is warm, minimum 62F (17C) for treated seeds and 70F (21C) for untreated seeds - seeds will rot in cool soil, especially cool, wet soil. Sow 2-3 seeds every 18" (24-36" for large-fruited varieties) 1/2-1" deep. Thin to 1 plant per spot. Rows 6' apart, 12' apart for larger fruit.
OTHER PLANTING SCHEMES: Some growers "check plant" in rows 6' apart, plants 6' apart in the rows. This permits tractor cultivation in both directions. Jab planters are the ticket for check planting (see Index).
DISEASES: Cucumber beetles can carry bacterial wilt and must be controlled. Gummy stem blight (black rot) causes black, sunken spots to appear on fruits in storage and the tan scabby patches on Butternuts in the field. Downy mildew may occur in damp weather, powdery mildew in cooler, dry periods and in late summer. Consult your local Extension agent for specific fungicide control. Choose well-drained soil to avoid phytopthora.
SPRING COLD PROTECTION: AG-19 (heavier grade) floating row covers will provide about 4 of frost protection and add warmth for vigor and an earlier harvest.
INSECT PESTS: Protect young plants with floating row covers (see Index). Cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and vine borers can be a challenge. Pyrethrin offers some control. Squash bug eggs laid on the underside of leaves may be located and crushed. Keep borders well mowed. For vine borers, use rotenone around the base of young plants. Cut borers out of vines and hill soil over the wound. Clean up refuse in the fall, and spring-plow the ground to bury the pupae. The Butternut type has solid vines usually not bothered by borers.
FALL FROST: Frost kills leaves and can thus facilitate harvest; however, it can also damage fruits and cause spotting and poor storage. Mature fruits can usually tolerate 1 and sometimes 2 or 3 light frosts without substantial damage. Sprinkler irrigation wards off moderate frost damage to fruits.
HARVEST: Before heavy frost, cut stems about 1" from the fruit when stem is drying and skin is hardening. Handle fruits like eggs!
CURING: Cure in the field to dry and toughen skins by exposing fruits to sun for 5-7 days or so, covering in the evening if frost is likely. An indoor method of curing is to expose squash to 80-90F (27-32C) with ventilation for 3-5 days.
STORAGE: Store at 50-60F (10-15C), 50-75% humidity, and good air circulation. An accumulation of sub 50F (10C) exposure events causes chilling injury, reducing storage life.
DAYS TO MATURITY: From direct seeding; subtract about 14 days if transplanting.
AVG. DIRECT SEEDING RATES: (at 2 seeds/ft., rows 6' apart)-Group 1: Hubbard, Kuri 50'/oz., 850'/lb., 8 1/2 lb./acre. Group 2: Buttercup, Kabocha, Spaghetti 75'/oz., 1,250'/lb., 5 3/4 lb./acre. Group 3: Butternut, Acorn 155'/oz., 2,500'/lb., 3 lb./acre. Group 4: Delicata, Sweet Dumpling 225'/oz., 3,750'/lb., 2 lb./acre.
SEED SPECS: SEEDS/LB.: Group 1: 1,500-2,000 (avg. 1,700). Group 2: 2,200-3,200 (avg. 2,500). Group 3: 4,500-6,000 (avg. 5,000). Group 4: 6,800-9,500 (avg. 7,500).
PACKET: avg. 30 seeds unless otherwise noted.


Winter Squash


THE BENEFITS OF WINTER SQUASH

No offense to zucchini, but the health benefits of fall-harvest squashes far eclipse their summer cousins. 

Like all members of the gourd family (which includes pumpkin, melon, and cucumber), butternut squash is technically a fruit because it contains seeds. Cut into its pale, yellow-beige hard skin, though, and you'll discover a vibrant flesh that's much denser than that of its relatives. 

Rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants -- and succulent enough to warrant the moniker "butternut" -- this graceful, hourglass-like gourd is the perfect addition to an autumn meal.

Health Benefits

Low in fat, butternut squash delivers an ample dose of dietary fiber, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice. It provides significant amounts of potassium, important for bone health, and vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems. The folate content adds yet another boost to its heart-healthy reputation and helps guard against brain and spinal-cord-related birth defects such as spina bifida.

Squash's tangerine hue, however, indicates butternut's most noteworthy health perk. The color signals an abundance of powerhouse nutrients known as carotenoids, shown to protect against heart disease. In particular, the gourd boasts very high levels of beta-carotene (which your body automatically converts to vitamin A), identified as a deterrent against breast cancer and age-related macular degeneration, as well as a supporter of healthy lung development in fetuses and newborns. What's more, with only a 1-cup serving, you get nearly half the recommended daily dose of antioxidant-rich vitamin C. 

As if this weren't enough, butternut squash may have anti-inflammatory effects because of its high antioxidant content. Incorporating more of this hearty winter staple into your diet could help reduce risk of inflammation-related disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.