Despite their names, summer and winter squashes are both grown during the summer. They’re broad categories that each cover a range of squash varieties, which complicates matters further. We’re here today to discuss the differences between summer and winter squash. It boils down to when in their growth cycle they’re harvested.
Summer squashes are harvested before they’re done growing. Their rind is still tender enough to be edible. Winter squashes, on the other hand, are harvested when the fruit has matured completely. Their skins are tough, and their seeds are fully developed.
Today’s discussion is meant to help gardeners of all experience levels determine the best time to harvest their squash, no matter what type they’re growing.
This article will cover:
- Information to help decide when to harvest your squash.
- The average time it will take for the squash to grow.
- What a ripe squash looks like.
- How big the squash should be.
- How often to harvest your squash.
- How to go about harvesting the squash.
- Common questions you might have that the article hasn’t addressed yet.
- Why squashes might be small or fail to develop.
- What you should do about yellow leaves.
- Why your squash plants are wilting.
When to Harvest Squash From A Garden
Squash is versatile, tasty and generally easy to grow, making it a popular feature of gardens across the country. When I see the fruits starting to develop, I begin to look forward to all of the meals I’ll be able to make with the vegetables I grew myself.
Nothing puts a damper on that excitement quite like discovering the squash I have harvested is under or overripe.
Time to Maturity
Summer squash should not be allowed to mature. As a general rule of thumb, they’re ready to be picked between 50 and 65 days after you plant them.
Winter squashes take longer from the time you plant them to the time you eat them. They need to mature completely, which usually takes between 60 and 110 days.
Are you feeling impatient? Squash blossoms are edible too. Be careful only to take the male blossoms, as the females are the ones that develop into fruit.
The appearance of a ripe squash will depend on the type you’re growing. Summer squashes are generally yellow or green. Some are elongated or have crooked necks. Others are scalloped or round.
Winter squashes vary more in shape and color. In most cases, you want to see a solid, well-developed color. Appearance generally isn’t the best indicator of ripeness in winter squash, though. Instead of looking at the squash itself, look at the vine it’s connected to. It should be hard and dry. The squash should be too hard for you to dent with your thumbnail.
Once again, the size of a ripe squash depends on the type. For summer squash, the longer varieties should generally be less than ten inches long. The round varieties should be less than five inches in diameter.
Test the firmness of the rind to determine whether your winter squashes are ready to harvest. Size is highly variable.
Summer squash should be harvested as often as they’re ready. Generally, you’ll want to check every other day while they’re producing fruit. Letting summer squash sit on the vine for too long will reduce your total harvest.
As long as you harvest your winter squash before the first frost in your area, you should be good to go.
Use a clean knife or shears to harvest both categories of squash. The clean part is crucial because it will help avoid spreading pests and diseases between plants.
You will likely be able to snap the fruit off with your bare hands if you’re harvesting winter squash. For winter squash, aim to leave a couple of inches of vine attached to the fruit. They’ll keep longer that way.
Why are my squashes so small? If your squashes are small, the weather could be to blame. Squash plants generally prefer temperatures between 55 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is too low or too high, your squash might not develop. It could also be a pollination issue. Early morning watering or rainstorms can wash away the pollen before it has a chance to transfer from the male to the female flowers.
Should I remove yellow leaves from my squash plants? Yellow leaves on your squash plant are a sign that something is wrong, and removing them won’t solve the problem. Likely causes of yellow leaves include not enough water, vine borer worms, an iron deficiency or bacterial wilt. Some of these issues are easier to address than others, and sometimes, you can’t save the plant.
What causes squash plants to wilt? The most common reasons your squash plants might be wilting are water stress, heat stress, bacterial wilt and vine borers.
Are you ready to get out in the garden? I know I am. I can’t wait for those first deep-fried blossoms or roasted squash this fall. Happy gardening!