Butternut Squash Plant: A Guide to Grow a Healthy Superfood

The butternut squash plant has recently attracted the attention of gardeners because it produces delicious fruit with abundant nutrition.

This plant is similar to a pumpkin but looks like a pear.

Having the Latin name Cucurbita moschata, this is a type of winter plant that grows vines. In Australia, this plant is popular as butternut pumpkin or gramma.

Because of its nutritional content, the butternut squash plant is part of the superfood group. Many people also use it as baby food that supports nutrients needs.

Facts to Know

Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata) is a warm-season, annual plant that grows on a vine. When planted in the spring or just after the last frost, butternut squash plants produce fruits that start out green and mature into beige-colored gourds with thick, hard rinds.
Butternut Squash Fact

Before discussing how to grow a butternut squash plant, it is a good idea to get acquainted with this grower first. Here are some facts about it:

Characteristics

It has a sweet, nutty taste similar to that of a pumpkin. It has tan-yellow skin and orange fleshy pulp with a compartment of seeds in the blossom end. When ripe, it turns increasingly deep orange, and becomes sweeter and richer.
Butternut Squash Character

Butternut squash plant has yellow fruit and orange pulps inside. If you split it, you will see a compartment containing seeds.

The fruit will be deep orange when ripe with a sweet and nutty taste like a pumpkin. Uniquely, this plant is botanically a part of berry, but most people process it as a vegetable.

Nutrient Content

This food is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium and Magnesium, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese.
Butternut Squash Nutrient

As discussed above, butternut squash is a superfood group with high nutrition. It contains vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, fiber, and potassium.

In addition, it also contains water, carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

With these ingredients, butternut squash is beneficial for eye health, prevents free radicals, boosts the immune system, and gets rid of intestinal worms.

Processing

You can just peel the butternut squashes with a vegetable peeler, then cut in half, clean out the small cavity, then use a French knife to chop into relatively uniform cubes.
Processed Butternut Squash

In ancient times, people ate it raw because of its naturally sweet taste. But over time, people began to eat it in a cooked condition.

The most popular way to cook it is by grilling it to retain the texture and sweetness.

Dishes with butternut squash are varied, ranging from soups and side dishes to barbecues to baby food. You can also eat it as a healthy snack.

Recommended Types to Plant

There are plenty of butternut squash varieties to choose from, all with excellent shelf life, such as Burpee’s Betterbush, Orange Butternut, Waltham, Waldo, and Butterscotch.
Butternut Varieties

Not just one, butternut squash plant consists of several different varieties. One recommendation you can try is Winter Hercules which has an average weight of 1.2 kg with thick meat.

In addition, you can also try Winter Hunter, Waldo, and Barbara. If you want a pest-resistant variety, try growing mini Butterscotch.

How to Grow

Butternut squash is a heavy feeder. Start with rich soil, and side dress with organic compost or aged manure in the middle of the growing season.
Grow Butternut Squash

Butternut squash plant is a vine that requires a lot of space. You must provide at least 50 square feet of land as this plant can spread up to 15 feet long.

This plant will begin to grow when winter passes.

The best conditions are when the soil gets sunlight exposure at a temperature of 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit (15-18 Celsius) at a depth of 4 inches.

When still young, the plant is quite fragile and will quickly die when it hits freezing temperatures. Even plants that have strong resistance will only bloom in warm temperatures.

Here are the steps:

  1. Prepare the land and make a hill as high as 18 inches or approximately 46 cm. The goal is to make it easier for sunlight to enter the soil to provide ideal conditions for growing.
  2. Ensure the soil already contains enough nutrients because the butternut squash plant is easy to absorb nutrients.
  3. Plant 5-6 seeds on each hill at a distance of about 4 inches or about 10 cm. Put them at a depth of 1 inch (2.5 cm).
  4. Water and fertilize the plants well, and they will start sprouting at the age of 10 days.
  5. When the plant is 6 inches (about 15 cm) tall, begin to reduce the plant density and leave only three plants per hill.
  6. Take care of the butternut squash plant to bear fruit.

Growing Butternut Squash Plant in Pots

Place pots in a propagator or clear plastic bag and set on a warm windowsill until seeds germinate. At this point, remove covers but keep in the warmth.
Grow Butternut in Pots

For some reason, many people prefer to grow a butternut squash plant indoors. Usually, this is because the planting time is too close to winter.

Planting in beds maybe is not possible for areas with low sunlight intensity because too high humidity will make plants unable to develop well.

You can start planting indoors with containers at least six weeks before the first snowfall around April. Initially, you can plant it in a small 7-cm pot.

You can move the butternut squash plant gradually as it grows.

As this plant requires space, please prepare a container with a capacity of 5 gallons for adult plants. Here are the steps:

  1. Put some mulch on the bottom of the container.
  2. Coat the mulch with vegetable garden fertilizer to provide nutrients.
  3. Add the soil media with compost mixture on it.
  4. Layer again with a natural calcium source, such as lime, and place it on the compost.
  5. Backfill with soil media as high as 3 inches.
  6. With this arrangement, you can start sowing seeds or transplant them immediately if the temperature in the soil reaches 60-65 F.
  7. How to plant and seed depth is more or less the same as in beds.
  8. If the plant starts to grow, don’t forget to support the stem using two stakes.
  9. Take good care until the plants grow and are ready to harvest.

Growing a butternut squash plant in beds and pots is not much different. During the planting process, ensure the soil conditions are warm to make them grow well.

Caring for Butternut Squash Plant

Start the seeds inside. If the warm season in your area is short, you can start your seeds indoors six weeks before the expected last frost.
Butternut Squash Care

The good news is that caring for the butternut squash plant is not something that needs too much of a hassle. All you need to do is keep the environment comfortable for them.

Several things to consider are:

  1. Use your hands or a hoe when cultivating the butternut squash plant. Using a tractor will make it too deep to be comfortable for their shallow roots.
  2. Make sure the hill is free of weeds.
  3. Spray insecticide at night when the bees are gone.
  4. Mulching can add nutrients to the growing media. You can use grass clipping, straw, or hay as an option.
  5. Staking you can do if the length of the plant reaches 5-6 inches. Make sure you support it properly.
  6. Plants under two weeks of age should remain in the shade. Once it starts to mature, you can move it into direct sunlight.
  7. Additional nutrition is necessary. Do not forget to water regularly and give fertilizer once a month.
  8. Prune if mildew appears or leaves turn yellow.

Pay attention to those things to keep your butternut squash plant healthy and fertile. Generally, the fruit will begin appearing at 90-120 days old.

Harvesting

When picking butternut squash, carefully cut the fruit from the vine with a sharp knife. Make sure about 2 inches (5 cm.) of stem is still attached to the squash.
Harvesting Butternut Squash

All butternut squash growing stages last for 110-120 days before finally ripening and ready for harvest. The sign of ripe fruit is the hardened skin, so you do not break it easily when pressing it with your fingers.

The average storage period lasts for 3 months.

You can cook it by boiling or grilling it to retain its flavor and nutrients. Some people also make it a mixture of food ingredients.

For making the fruit last longer, let the squashes stay on the vine as long as possible. However, you have to ensure to get them all harvested before winter arrives.

Some Problems You May Encounter

Some diseases that affect squash plants are wilt disease, powdery mildew, downy mildew and scab disease. These are usually identified by a powder like substance on the leaves or stems.
Butternut Squash Problems

As you grow, you may face butternut squash growing problems. The plant can get sick due to the wrong environment or pest attack.

Withered Plant

Squash plants need a lot of water. It's best to water slowly so that the water sinks deep into the soil before it begins to run off, or use drip irrigation, advises UC IPM Online.
Withered Butternut

If you find the leaves look wilted and not fresh, the first possibility is that the plant is not getting enough water. Therefore immediately flush and add nutrients through fertilizer.

The second possibility is that the environmental conditions are not conducive to the butternut squash plant.

Ensure the soil temperature remains warm and the sun’s intensity is sufficient because this grower cannot stand coldness.

Vine Borers

Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the stalks when the squash vines are small or the threat of squash vine borers is high (early to mid-summer). Reapply after rain. Also, build up the soil around the vines.
Butternut Vine Borer

Besides temperature and weather problems, pests can also be a severe problem. One you need to watch out for is vine borers, which bring damage.

If the plant continues to wilt even after watering, try observing the base of the plant. If you find sawdust, then you likely have a vine borer’s infestation.

These pests will lay eggs. The larvae eat the inside of the stem and then spread to the outside.

You have to handle it quickly so that they do not eat away at plants and make them die. Fortunately, there are now many insecticide products that can solve this problem.

Use only at night so that not to disturb the bees that play a role in the pollination process.

Squash Bugs

One of the best ways to control squash bugs and keep your cucurbits healthy is to use an effective control product proven to fight difficult squash bugs.
Butternut Squash Bugs

Another insect that often attacks these growers is squash bugs. The common symptoms are leaves that turn gray, brown, and even black.

Squash bugs attack food juices and dehydrate plants and dry them out. They also reproduce quickly, so you should immediately apply an insecticide.

Cucumber Beetles

Cucumber beetles are absolute destructors for your cucurbits. They are not picky about what parts of the plant they'll eat.
Cucumber Beetle

The characteristic of this insect is the yellow back with black dots. Cucumber beetles feed on young plants making it difficult for butternut squash plants to thrive.

To overcome this problem, use Diazinon and Malathion or other suitable pesticides. Soap spray can also be a more environmentally friendly option.

Conclusion

Butternut squash seeds will only germinate in warm soil, so it’s best to plant through summer. The butternut growing season is approximately 110-120 days for fruit maturation.
Growing Butternut Squash

Based on the explanation above, we can conclude that growing butternut squash plant is the right choice because it is delicious and nutritious. The planting and maintenance process is also relatively easy.

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