You and your children are probably eager to plant tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and other vegetables for summer eating. Winter squash may not immediately come to mind when you prepare your garden beds, but it is relatively easy to grow and it is one of the healthiest vegetables you can plant. Winter squash differs from the summer varieties because it has a hard shell and ripens late in the season.

There are many varieties of winter squash, but the butternut squash is one that you should choose for several reasons:

  • It is rich in vitamins A and C.
  • It is high in antioxidant carotenoids and potassium.
  • It is high in fiber.
  • The mature fruit has a hard shell that keeps for months when properly stored.
  • It can be prepared many ways and has a delicious flavor that kids will like.
  • Here is what you will need to get started:
  • A garden plot that provides at least 6 hours of sunlight.
  • A shovel, rake and spade.
  • Amendment or compost to add to the soil.
  • A package of butternut squash seeds, available at any nursery or hardware store.
  • A ruler or tape to measure planting areas for the seeds.

First, cultivate your garden plot and work amendment into the soil. This is great exercise for everyone. Turn the soil with the shovel and rake the soil for a level planting area. You will need a 3-foot square for planting with plenty of room for the squash vines to spread.Next, sow two or three of the seeds in each planting square and cover with

1 inch of fine soil. Keep the soil evenly moist. The seedlings will emerge in 10 to 14 days.

As the vines begin to spread and set fruit, you will want to carefully move them out of the way of walkways and lawn areas when being mowed. Kids will be amazed to observe how quickly the vines spread. In fact, measuring and charting the vine’s growth is a great family math activity.

Butternut squash matures in approximately 85 days. If you plant the seeds in early May, squash may be ready to harvest in early August. The vines will continue to produce until late in the fall.

When butternut squash are ready to be picked, they will turn a creamy beige color. If the skin has any trace of green, it is not ripe enough. The ripened squash skin will be thick and tough enough that pressure from your fingernails will not break it. Leave a short piece of the stem on the squash when you pick it. Your squash can be used then or stored for months in a cool dry place.

Cutting and peeling the squash can be a challenge because of its dense flesh and tough skin. Be sure to leave this task to an adult. Your family is sure to enjoy a delicious and nutritious vegetable from your OWN family garden. 

You won’t regret saving garden space for butternut squash!