How to Grow and Care for Butternut Squash - Backyard Boss
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How to Grow and Care for Butternut Squash

When selecting fruits and vegetables to grow in your garden, you had “butternut” forget about butternut squash!

This orange squash is filled with potassium, fiber, antioxidants, and many other nutrients and vitamins that our body needs. Having this tasty vegetable on your plate even offers other benefits! It is said that butternut squash may aid in weight loss, preventing heart disease, and keeping blood pressure in check. But, rather than buying it from the grocery store, why not grow it yourself?

If you want to get your hands dirty and plant some squash, this is your sign to do so! Take a look at how to grow and care for butternut squash and get excited about adding it to your plate!

Materials Required

Gardening tools and straw hat on the grass in the garden
Image credit: Alexander Raths via Shutterstock

Before diving head first into gardening, you’ll need some tools get started planting butternut squash:

  • Butternut squash seeds
  • Watering can
  • Garden trowel
  • Gardening gloves (optional)
  • Soil, compost, and fertilizer
  • Bucket, soap, and a cloth

Step One – Start Your Butternut Squash Seeds Indoors (Optional)

Ripe butternut squash sliced with the seeds scattered on the table
Image credits: Nick Collins via Unsplash

When it comes to planting butternut squash seeds, some gardeners opt to plant them indoors first, while others sow them directly in the ground.

If you choose to prepare and plant your butternut squash seeds indoors, begin planting them between April and early May. To start your seeds indoors, plant them in a small pot of rich soil, about an inch deep. Place your seedlings in a spot of your home that receives plenty of sun and water them about once a week, making sure the soil is moist but not soaking (they need about 1 to 2 inches of water a week). Note that transplanting seedlings too early could result in the plant being killed or harmed by lingering frosts! So, be patience as timing is key!

If you prefer to plant directly in your garden, only do so when the temperature is warm enough. Only plant directly in the ground if there is no longer any risk of frost. It needs to be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit for butternut squash to thrive.

Step Two – Prepare Your Garden

Hands cupped and holding soil with plants unfocused in the background
Image credits: Thiago Patriota via Unsplash

When planting butternut squash seeds or seedlings, the soil must have good drainage. The soil also needs to contain plenty of nutrients from compost and fertilizers. As you prepare your garden beds, add compost into your soil that is rich in broken-down organic matter and check that the pH of the soil is around 6.0. Doing so will help to boost the growth of your squash. It is also important to add fertilizer to your soil. Use a well-balanced fertilizer for the initial planting of seeds or seedlings (10-10-10).

In addition to preparing your soil mixture, take time to prepare the space out where your squash will grow. Because many varieties of butternut squash are vining, clear a large space for your butternut squash that is uninhibited by other plants. Butternut squash plants can go quite big so, make sure you have enough space; make sure bush varieties can be planted in hills at least 4 to 6 feet apart and vining ones six to 12.

Step Three – Plant Your Butternut Squash

Person digging into garden soil with their bare hands
Image credits: Jed Owen via Unsplash

The best way to plant butternut squash is by using a method called hilling, or grouping plants together. In the case of butternut squash, this method also means planting the seeds or seedlings in a mound of soil 18-inches tall. Using a hill makes the soil warmer and allows for better drainage that promotes squash growth. For every squash hill you make, plant three or four butternut squash seeds/seedlings an inch deep. Allow for about 3 to 5 inches between each plant.

After planting your butternut squash in hills, prepare trellises or tomato cages for your squash to climb. As your plant grows through the season, wind the vines around the trellis or cage you set out for it. Setting these supports up will help your plant to grow upwards instead of outwards.

Step Four – Care for Your Butternut Squash

butternut squash plant blossom poking through trellis
Image credits: Nina Luong via Unsplash

Because butternut squashes are large in size, they need plenty of water to grow. Water your butternut squashes an inch each week. If your area is low on precipitation, save on watering costs by harvesting rainwater and using that instead!

If butternut squash plants are too close together or not thinned properly, they are prone to disease or drawing pests. If all of your butternut squash seeds sprouted, thin out your plants. Do this by removing the weakest ones to allow more growth space and nutrients for those remaining.

Squash bugs are drawn to mainly squash varieties and butternut is no exception when it comes to drawing these pests! To prevent squash bugs, regularly check over your plants for signs of them. Check underneath leaves for eggs laid, and remove any found with a cloth and a soapy bucket of water.

If you already have squash bugs crawling around, get rid of them by picking them off and submerging them in the soapy water. Doing so will kill both eggs and bugs. (Want more ideas to get rid of bugs? Check out this article for other ideas to draw away pests!)

Step Five- Support Your Butternut Squash

Growing butternut vertically on a trellis to promote more growth
Image credit: Johnathan Alfred via Shutterstock

For vining varieties of butternut squash, if you have not already set up tomato cages or trellises for your plants, do so when they begin to spread out. As your butternut squash grows larger, guide the plant upwards and into the supports. Once your plant grows upwards and begins to fruit, sometimes the butternut squash is too heavy.

To protect the squash from pulling the plant down or breaking off, offer support for your butternut squashes! Fruit slings are available that cradle squashes that become too large. Add these to your trellis or cage near the hanging squash and protect it from breaking off.

Feeling “Gourd”!

Butternut squash is a prolific veggie to add to your garden. It’s easy to grow if you follow the tips above. Remember, butternut squash plants take up a lot of space, so make sure to space them out properly. Fill your garden with plenty of healthy soil, compost, and fertilizer. Water your squash regularly to promote growth.

With the right amount of care and effort, your garden will soon be filled with healthy and plump butternut squashes ripe for the picking!