Days to germination: 10 to 14 days
Days to harvest: 90 to 100 days
Light requirements: Full sun
Water requirements: Regular watering
Soil: Loose, fertile and well-draining soil
Container: Possible but not ideal
The name of the spaghetti squash comes from its unique flesh. When cooked, the fibers give the squash a very distinctive strands that look a lot like orange spaghetti. The added texture makes spaghetti squash a favorite with children who turn their noses up at the softness of other types of squash.
Squashes of all kinds are very healthy, and often eaten more as a starch than a vegetable in a meal. You can’t eat spaghetti squash raw, and its best baked. The inside flesh is scraped out with a fork, to help bring out the “spaghetti” nature of the squash.
They are extremely high in vitamin A, and also good sources of potassium, fiber and vitamin C.
Starting from Seed
Spaghetti squash need a long growing season and warm temperatures, and that includes warmth at planting time. So any seeds would have to go out after your frost date as passed. But starting your seedlings indoors is a common way for gardeners to start their squash plants.
Plant your seeds inside about a month before your local last frost date. Squash seedlings will grow fairly large in a month, so small 6-pack style seed trays won’t likely suffice. If you start them that way, you’ll have to replant them in larger containers before your outside plant date. Three or four seeds can go in each 3″ pot, about 1″ deep under the soil.
They’ll need to be kept somewhere warm as well as sunny in order to properly germinate and sprout.
Plan to put your seedlings into the garden about 2 weeks after the date of your last spring frost. Your soil should be dug up thoroughly to get it loose for the big seedlings, and mix in some aged manure or compost while you are at it. Squash likes nutrients in its soil. Your squash spot needs full sun, and you should allow for 3 feet between each hill (you will just be planting one pot in each location, with 3 or four seedlings in it).
If you are not starting with indoor-grown seedlings, you will still have to wait for 2 weeks past the frost date. If you’ve had cool weather, you can lay black plastic down over the garden before planting to help warm up the soil. The seeds won’t sprout in the cold. Plant them in hills, just like you did with the transplants, about 3 per hill.
Many squashes can be grown vertically to save space, but this isn’t the best idea with a spaghetti squash. The fruits are just too big and it is awkward to try and support them on the vine when hanging in mid-air. It can be done, as long as you are willing to put in a bit of extra effort with your trellis and support structures.
Keep your plants watered, and weed-free while the leaves are developing. Once the wide leaves are fully grown, they will start to shade their surrounding soil and will keep the weeds out without your help.
After the peak of the summer has passed, you should remove any new blossoms that your squash vines produce. There won’t be enough time left for them to mature and the plant’s resources would be better used growing the already-developing squash on the vine.
Because the squash will be growing for the full length of the season, they can be prone to getting rot underneath where they lay on the soil. You can help protect your squash with tiles or coffee can lids under each fruit.
You can grow spaghetti squash in a large container, at least 5 gallons for each plant. Give them a light feeding part of the way through the growing season to make up for the lack of soil nutrients in the pot.
Try to plant a variety that grows as a bush to help save on space, such as Orangetti or Tivoli. If you do grow a vining squash, be prepared to have the vines spill out of the container for several feet.
Pests and Diseases
Once established and growing well, a squash vine is quite large and can withstand a fair bit of insect damage without ill effects.
The most common insect attacker will be squash bugs, followed closely by the popular cucumber beetle. They are both big enough to be picked off by hand as soon as you see one, but make sure to check inside the blossoms as well as under the large leaves.
And those large leaves may be a benefit when it comes to weed control, but they are susceptible to getting mildew if weather is damp. It looks like a dusting of white powder on the leaves and it can effect your plant’s development and growth if it gets too heavy. Standard fungicide sprays can help to clear it up, and you can keep it from starting by watering your plants right at the soil instead of pouring water over all the leaves.
Harvest and Storage
As mentioned, spaghetti squash are very large, with each individual squash growing to be around 4 pounds in size. Each plant will produce between 4 to 6 of them. They can’t be harvested like zucchini or summer squash, you can’t pick them when they are small. They don’t develop that way. Spaghetti squash (all winter squash actually) need to fully mature before harvesting.
A tried and true method to tell if your squash is ready is to push your fingernail into the outside skin. The skin should be tough enough to withstand your nail. If it punctures, your squash need more time. Depending on your climate, another sign is that you should harvest your squash when the vines start to wither.
A whole squash can be stored in the fridge for about 2 weeks before it starts to lose its texture. You can store your squash at room temperature, as long as you have somewhere very dry. Moisture will quickly ruin a spaghetti squash, but barring dampness, it should keep for a few months.