How to Grow Acorn Squash



acorn-squash
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Days to germination: 7 to 12 days
Days to harvest: 80 to 100 days
Light requirements: Full sun
Water requirements: Regular watering
Soil: Loose, fertile and well-draining soil
Container: Only in very large pots, but definitely suitable

Introduction

One of the many varieties of winter squash, acorn squash produces small, dark green fruits that are somewhat shaped like an acorn.

Like other hard-shelled winter squash, acorn squash usually eaten cooked though it’s slowly gaining more popularity as a raw vegetable. The vitamin content of an acorn squash includes high quantities of A and C, and minerals like potassium and manganese. Add in a load of fiber, and you’ll find yourself a very healthy vegetable.

Starting from Seed

You do have the option of either starting your seeds indoors, or sowing them right out into the garden. Many gardeners do choose to get their seedlings going inside for later transplant because you can’t sow outdoors until the soil has warmed up and there is no chance of frost.

Indoors, start your seeds about 3 to 4 weeks before you expect to have your last spring frost. In that time, your seedlings will get too large for the typical little seed trays. To save yourself an extra step of transplanting, start your seeds in larger pots (about 3 inches across). Plant seeds about an inch under the soil, and keep your pots warm until the seeds sprout.

You can plant 3 to 5 seeds in each pot, then thin down to 2 or 3 strong seedlings. When you transplant later, the plants can just stay together in each hill.

Transplanting

Your seedlings can be transplanted about 2 weeks after the last frost of the season. Soil should be warm, so if you’ve had cold weather you can even put off the planting for another week if necessary.

Squash need a lot of room, so you’ll have to sacrifice a large part of your garden for your acorn squash. At least 3 feet in all directions around each hill of plants. You can still grow 2 or 3 plants per hill because the vines will just intertwine, allowing the plants to “share” the space.

For seeds going out on their own, plant them at the same time as you would put out transplants (2 weeks after frost date). Space them out the same as you would with the seedlings, but you can start a few more seeds than you need in each hill and thin down after they start to sprout.

To save space, you can grow acorn squash vertically on a trellis or fence. If you want to grow them like this, don’t plant your seeds or seedlings in hills. Go with a row, and 2 to 2-and-a-half feet between each plant. Your trellis system will have to be sturdy to hold the growing squash, as they will get pretty heavy later in the season.

Growing Instructions

Once your plants start to grow, their broad leaves will shade out many weeds, making maintenance fairly easy. Until them, keep the squash patch well weeded and water when the soil starts to dry out.

Protect your squash as they begin to grow. If your plants are growing on the ground, you can place a coffee can lid or something similar under each growing squash to protect it from the damp soil underneath. Squash on a trellis won’t need this, but you will definitely have to tie the squash to the supports as they grow. The plant won’t be able to support the fruits when growing upward.

When the cool weather comes in, you will want to make the most of your last few squash. If your vines are still making flowers, pull them off as you find them. That will make your plants use their resources to finish growing your existing squash fruits rather than starting new once that will never mature in time.

Containers

As one of the smaller winter squash varieties, acorn squash work fine in containers providing the pots are large enough. Plant each plant in a container around 5 gallons large, and either let the vines trail over the sides, or plan on having a trellis.

Your best option for container growing is to plant a bush variety, such as Table King. It might still need some support, but the bushy shape is more compact than the vining plants.

Pests and Diseases

Your biggest threats will be leaf-eating insects like the striped cucumber beetle or the squash bug. Either one can can do significant damage to your plants, so you need to watch out. They are large and easy to spot, though you should look under the large leaves and inside the blossoms too. Pick them off by hand as you find them, and regularly spritz your squash plants with a natural insecticide.

Insects like vine borers are more sneaky, and can chew the stalks at the ground level. Watch for wilting leaves (even after watering), that is the surest sign of borers. Pull up the plants immediately, and cut open the stalks. If you see small grubs, then that’s the problem. You can’t really do much about them once they are inside the plant, so pull any dying plants immediately so they don’t spread.

Harvest and Storage

One average acorn squash will weigh between 1 and 3 pounds, and each vine will give you 4 or 5 of them. Unlike other summer squashes (like zucchini) you shouldn’t try picking acorn squash while they are small and young. They need to grow until their maturity date for the flesh inside to be edible.

This also means, that you won’t be harvesting on and off through the season, but rather have a large bunch of squash come ripe at the same time. It’s a good idea to plan ahead so you don’t let any go to waste.

So leave your squash on the vine until they are mature, even if that means they aren’t picked until after the first frost. But after that first frost, you will have to get outside and harvest.

For your immediate use, an acorn squash will store fine in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks. All winter squash are well-suited to longer storage because of their thick skins. To keep your squash for a few months, let them dry well in the sun before storage and keep them in a dark, cool and dry place.

21 Responses to “How to Grow Acorn Squash”

  1. Kristen Shaw  Says:

    I am growing acorn squash in my back yard and thought I had left ample room between them and cucumbers I’m growing. The squash have grown wonderfully ! however the inside is off white with a few a little darker, with none of them being the dark golden color they should be.Are they edible? My husband and I pulled up our cucumber plants and am curious to see if it we can get squash that are the right color – thank you so much for your time! What do you think?

  2. Cecelia Villarreal  Says:

    I’m having a similar problem. Planted next to Zuccini, our acorn squash are large and a very pale green with dk. green spots. They must have crossed with the zuccini or simply have not had enough sun. I have no idea what the insides are going to be like. Very wierd.

  3. jovenal  Says:

    can i grow acorn squash together with melon

  4. Hal  Says:

    Am growing acorn squash in backyard. Plants blooms beautifully but does not set the squash. Anybody know why??

  5. Raymond masse  Says:

    I had the same problem last year. I asked the gardeners, and was told the problem was that I need to attract honey bees so that they can cross pollinate the squash blooms. I was also told to plant merigolds with the squash to attract the bees. I am trying that this year and am hoping that works

  6. sue  Says:

    Two possibilites that I can think of are: no bees are pollinating the flowers and do you have atleast four plants for the cross pollination. We have had this happen with the acorn squash.

  7. Melissa Shaffer  Says:

    Your squash should turn darker as it ripens. Mine were all pale and they are huge. Today I checked and they are turning dark. I estimate one of mine to be around five pounds

  8. Dana  Says:

    sounds like no pollination. look for pistols and humps.. Pistols are the male and Humps the female . Pull a Pistol and pollinate the humps by hand . Look for Bee’s also . we thought we were going to have to pollinate ourselves then the Bee’s showed up … Good luck…. Dana

  9. Adam Garfinkle  Says:

    Folks, (some of you, that is) if you plant other squash-family plants too near acorn squash of course they’ll cross pollinate and you’ll get weird and probably not too useful results. The same thing happens if you plant cucumbers too near zucchini, or a pumpkin plant. Good grief!! Try looking for a Remedial Gardening 101 class somewhere.

  10. Lucy Smith  Says:

    No need to be a jerk Adam Garfinkle. Cucs, summer and winter squash can be grown together with no problem other than they share some mold spores. I have all three in my greenhouse in containers within 10 ft of each other,because I live in Alaska. I have just 2 acorn squash but have fruits maturing the largest at about a lb. Yellow and zucchini producing fine for being in containers and 2 cucumbers, on a Diva self pollinating. I leave the door open during the day for some bee action but also pollinate by hand just to make sure.

  11. Rebecca Lockyer  Says:

    Good Grief ! I am been planting cucumbers next to zucchini for years. Small garden plot. Would not the plant wierdness come out in the seeds produced the year you planted and had cross pollination occur. Than if you planted the seeds from the by produt of cross pollination the following year the wierdness would come out. Just curious what does a cukezini taste like?

  12. anna  Says:

    My acorn squash plant was destroyed by, I think, squash bugs. The plant was separated from cucumbers by tomato plants and okra, but are my cukes doomed? Or need I only worry about the cucumber plants that haven’t started producing?

  13. amanda  Says:

    Adam, the best teachers teach without criticizing. Your words are true, but off color. Share your experiences graciously…. :)

  14. Mema  Says:

    Wish I could attach a photo of my back yard. I give my dog over ripe zucs, acorn squash and pumpkins to play with. The following year we have “surprise” plants growing. Fun to try and fiqure out whats poping up in the yard.

  15. Mishqueen  Says:

    I planted zucchini in the backyard and had a nice crop that was exactly as expected. Then, way late in the season, another fruit developed. It looked VERY different from the rest. When I opened it, it was obviously trying to be a pumpkin (I could tell from appearance, taste, and smell). Um, not so tasty though. However, I didn’t plant pumpkins and my neighbors don’t garden. I finally found the offending pumpkin plant across the street from my front yard…where I had tossed last October’s jack’o'lantern in the compost heap.

    They were faaaar from each other, and still cross-pollinated. And I know the zucc variety was fine because the first crop was luscious and perfect. :)

  16. Sam  Says:

    I have problems with Acorn here in Puerto Rico.
    FOr some reason the plant start to grow fast healthy, and show the small flowers in the 3-4 week.

    After the small Acorns show up, they look healthy but they fall from the plant always. Vitamins and nutrients was verify in all plants but always the same problem.

    If someone knows what I’m doing wrong please send me a message to samswaitt@yahoo.com

    THanks

  17. Sandy Bernstein  Says:

    How do I know when the acorn squash is ready to pick?

  18. Steven Domalik  Says:

    I am thinking about starting some acorn squash in the spring. I fondly remember the plants in my back yard when I was very young. We had more squash than even my extended family could ever eat! The vines had actually grown through the fence from our neighbor’s yard. Both families had plenty. What about sunlight? I remember this was a southern exposure but in the shade of apple and cherry trees. Can I plant in a mostly shaded area or do I need direct sunlight?

  19. Administrator  Says:

    They do need sun to fruit Steven, the more the better.

  20. Coryelle Kramer  Says:

    I have 2 acorn plants growing in my flower garden, it was NOT planned, they grew from seed most likely in the compost. But they are growing really well. Thank you so much for the information in this post it was very very helpful to this first time veggie grower.

  21. Ellie  Says:

    Why are the leaves on my acorn squash turning white?

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