November 3, 2009

Grow your own Butternut Squash 2009

  • PLANT: ‘Hunter’ Butternut Squash
  • PLANT OUT: In June (I did it a bit early on 22 May!)
  • FRUITS PER PLANTS: 4 or more
This butternut squash has been specially bred to grow in the British climate.
I planted them in moist compost in peat pots, covered with cling film and left them on the windowsill. The instructions said to plant them vertically, but as they’re tear-drop shaped I wasn’t exactly sure which way up to plant them. So I planted 3 with the point-up and 3 with the point-down.
The photo below was taken on 11 May:
2 out of 3 of the point-up seeds sprouted.
Only 1 of the point-down seeds sprouted and the sprout was pointing down into the soil, so I used a pair of tweezers to extract it and turned it upside down.
The photo below was taken 18 May:
Well I can’t being to tell you how amazed I am at the growth rate of the butternut squash in just one week! 3 of the other seeds have started to sprout which is good.
I’ve been reading that these plants grow pretty big and grow 4 or more fruits, so I’m a bit worried about planting them in my raised bed, in case they take over all the other vegetables! So I’ll probably grow most of them on in large pots.
The photo below was taken 22 May:
SquashpreplantingOf all the plants I’ve grown from seed, I’m most shocked and pleased with the butternut squash. I still can’t believe how quickly they’ve grown and they seem to be really strong plants. The roots have totally busted out of the bottom of the peat pots! So I planted the whole thing in the raised bed. I’m a bit early planting them outside, but I think they’ll be better off out in the sunshine and with more room to grow.

I’ve got 4 strong seedlings, but only planted 2 in the raised bed and 1 in a large pot (11 inches diameter) as they need a lot of space.

Squash planted Squash in a pot
The photo below was take 1 June:
The squash are all doing really well – the 2 in the raised beds and 2 in separate pots. I’m not sure when they will start to grow flowers for the fruits, but it’s looking good so far!
The photos below were taken on 13 June:
Squash pot 13 JuneMost of the squashes are doing really well, but this one that’s in a pot on its own is doing the best! I think they like a lot of space and this one has its own water source using a water spike I got from Harrod Horticultural, which is good as they’re thirsty plants.

The photos below were taken on 25 June:
As you can see the squash plants are getting MASSIVE! They are about 13 inches wide and 15 inches tall now. I am using green plastic things that Steve’s Mum got with some plants she bought (as seen in the small brown pot in front) to train them to grow upwards as I don’t want them spreading too much. Not quite sure what I’m going to do once the fruits start growing!
Here’s a close up shot of the new leaves growing and I’m wondering if that little tendril thing in the middle is the start of some fruit growing?
The photos below were taken 29 June:
The weather has been very hot during the past week and a heat-wave is expected this week! So all the plants have grown a lot in a week and the squash are fast outgrowing their pots/containers! They are growing really long trails/branches and they’re already about 18 inches long, so not sure how big they’re going to get! So I would advise anyone thinking of growing squash to make sure they have plenty of space!

I think I might have some flowers growing on the squash now but I’m not 100% sure – they could just be new leaves! So I’ll be keeping an eye on these. I’ve just done a quick search online for pictures of the flowers and they’re yellow and look like courgette flowers. Apparently one butternut squash plant produces both male and female flowers, so the bees need to do their handiwork to pollinate them.
The photos below were taken 11 July:
The squash plants have gone absolutely mental! They’re trailing all over the place and getting quite tangled up with each other, so I had to separate them and I used a cane to tie some of the longer ones up to train them to grow upwards, rather than all over the floor.

The squash plant growing in a pot on its own is the first to bear fruit! It has 4 fruits growing on the long trailing bits, so I’ve got rid of my lettuce (I wasn’t eating it anyway) and given that space to 2 of the fruits.

In this photo you can see a bit more of the flower, which will open up into a pretty yellow flower just like courgettes. I had no idea how the squash would grow, so I’m pretty excited about these!

The photos below were taken 18 July:
The squash plants grew loads during the week, so I had to detangle all the trailing bits. The snails had somehow made their way into the raised bed and had munched on some of the leaves, but luckily the squash weren’t affected as you can see here they’re doing rather nicely! I didn’t get to see the flowers open which is a shame, but I’m still so excited at the progress of the squash!

Squash18JulyThe plant in the pot on its own has the biggest fruit so far.

Squashpot18JulyI saw on the Good Food channel a man talking about growing giant vegetables and he said he put them in his wife’s stockings and tied the stocking to a cane. This will support the fruit and the stocking will stretch as it grows, so I thought I’d give it a go. I’ve left the other one just resting on the soil in the pot.

With the squash in the raised bed I’ve tied all the trailing bits to canes as well to try and keep them off the floor as I think that’s how the snails got in, even though the trailing bits have spiky little hairs all over them. I’ve got at least 4 fruits on each plant now, so I have cut back any trailing bits that don’t have any fruit attached.

The photos below were taken 25 July:
Squash25July The largest squash fruits are  from the plant growing in the large pot and they are now 3.5 inches long. I have removed the stocking, as Steve thought it might rot if it remained wet. I have used a rubber band to tie the fruit up on a cane so that it gets lots of sun. The other one is just resting on the side of the pot so it’s not sitting in soggy soil.

Squashflower25JulyThere are now quite a few open flowers and I think they're quite pretty. They are 5 inches in diameter and the ants are getting stuck inside!

Squashandflower25JulyHere you can see the flower at the end of a squash fruit. The flower dies and falls off when the fruit gets bigger.

The photos below were taken on 1 August:
The squash resting on the pot has grown quite a lot in the past week and it’s now about 4 inches long.

The one that I had hanging up on a cane is still making progress, but isn’t as big as the other one, so I’ve taken it down and I’ve rested it on the edge of the pot as well.

Here you can see the difference in size and shape.

The photos below were taken 4 August:
I was so impressed with the squash that were growing in the pot that I failed to spot this beast growing in the raised bed! It’s 5 inches long and a completely different shape to the others! I’ve used some chicken wire to create something for them to rest on, so that they’re not directly on the soil.

Some of the squash aren’t doing too well and I think it’s because I had them tied up on canes. So I’ve now removed all the canes and am letting them grow at ground level. I’ll give them a week to recover and if there are no signs of improvement then I will cut these bad fruits off.


The photos below were taken 9 August:
This is the squash that is growing in a brown plastic pot at the back of the garden. I don’t check on these plants as often as the ones in the raised bed which is right by the back door. So I didn’t notice how big it had grown and it’s now 4 inches long.

This is the other fruit that was growing on the same plant and unfortunately like many other fruits it has gone rotten. I did some research as to why this was happening and it’s because the female flowers weren’t being pollinated properly. So I have done a separate post for how to pollinate by hand in case the bees aren’t doing their job properly!

Squash bad leaves 9 Aug-1
The other problem I’m having is some of the leaves have yellow spots on them. I have a whole list of pests and diseases that could be causing this, but to be honest it’s all a bit over my head and it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause!

The photos below were taken on 15 August:
These are the fruits that I pollinated by hand and unfortunately it didn’t seem to work as they are starting to go all wrinkly. The flowers did drop off the day after I did it, so maybe I didn’t do it in time? I must have lost about 10 fruits already which is really disappointing.

I moved the squash in the terracotta pot to the back of the garden with the other squash and the tomatoes in pots because it was being eaten by a slug or snail (well the slime trails were all over the leaves but I could never find the culprit!). The leaves are still yellow on both plants and the squashes don’t seem to be growing any bigger. Steve’s Mum suggested I add some more compost and some fertiliser, so I’ve done that and fingers crossed they will grow a bit more!
The photo below was taken 18 August:
My largest squash, which is growing in the raised bed, has started to rot! It feels all squidgy at the end where the flower was. I’ve looked on the Internet for what might be the cause, but I can’t find anything. I have been watering the raised bed almost everyday as the weather has been quite warm recently, so maybe I’ve been overwatering? I’m pretty gutted this squash is poorly as it was doing really well growing – it’s 5 inches long and the circumference around the largest part is 10 inches, so it was well on it’s way to looking like a proper squash!
The photos below were taken 21 August:
Steve and I went away for a few days and I was hoping their would be some improvement in the rotting squash, but my optimism wasn’t rewarded and I came home to find it had got worse. So with a heavy heart I cut this bad fruit off to give some new fruits a chance. I did some more pollinating by hand on the new fruits, so fingers crossed they will do better!

I spotted this one hiding at the back of my raised bed and it’s doing pretty well at 4 inches long. I cut back some of the leaves to allow some sunlight to get to it.

The plants at the back of the garden growing in pots are not showing any signs of improvement since I added more compost and slow-release fertiliser. The leaves have lots of yellow spots and from what I’ve read, this could be mosaic virus OR a magnesium deficiency – it’s so difficult to tell!
The mosaic virus is spread by aphids and apparently you should destroy all affected plants to prevent it spreading to your other healthy plants. You should wash your hands and tools to stop the disease spreading. I really don’t want to destroy the affected plants in case it’s not the mosaic virus and it’s just a case of magnesium deficiency, which can be cured by spraying with Epsom Salts.
So I’m really not sure what to do. I’ve removed all of the yellowing leaves and I think I will just follow the advice from this website.
The photo below was taken on 23 August:
These are the squash growing on the plants that I believe to be suffering from the mosaic virus. It looks quite healthy in this photo because I’ve removed all the yellowing leaves. But the squash haven’t grown since the beginning of August and they are now changing colour, so I doubt they will grow any bigger. I decided to not destroy the plants and just see how they get on – the squash might be really tasty! The other plants in the raised bed are still doing OK and I’ve got new fruits growing, so fingers crossed I will have some decent sized fruit!
The photos below were taken 29 August:
I’ve had so many squash fruits that have started growing, only to go bad and rot. The hand-pollinating doesn’t seem to be working, so I’m not sure what else to do. So now I’ve only got 5 squashes and 3 of them are the ones that have stopped growing and are changing colour already.

But the one shown above and below are still growing steadily. The one above is now 4.5 inches long and growing rounder. The one below is about 3 inches long and just seems to be growing straight. Hopefully they won’t go bad like the other big one I had – it was almost heartbreaking when that happened! The chicken wire is doing a really good job of keeping them off the soil.
The photo below was taken 5 September:
Squashmildewleaves5septAnother day, another squash problem! I think these white furry spots are mildew. There are 2 types of mildew:
  • Powdery mildew affects both sides of the leaf.
  • Downy mildew usually appears just on the undersides.
The leaves only have the white spots on the top of the leaves, so I’m pretty sure it must be downy mildew. Apparently this type is caused by splashing water, whereas powdery mildew is airborne. An organic treatment is apparently milk, as it has anti fungal properties. You should make up a spray of 1 part milk to 9 parts water. I’ve cut off all the affected leaves and I will spray the remaining leaves and the plant itself tomorrow, as it’s a bit late in the day to be making the plant wet (I don’t want to encourage more mildew!). This treatment should be applied at least once a week. So we’ll see how well it works!
The photos below were taken 19 September:
Squash19Sept I had a couple more fruits making attempts to grow, but it’s far too late for them now as next month is the time to harvest. So I’ve removed those new tiny fruits and most of the leaves so that all the energy is going into allowing the mature fruit to ripen.

Squash19Sept1The 4 mature fruits that have fought against all odds (mainly the diseases that I have dubiously identified) and have made it this far are changing colour and ripening. However, they have all only grown to a pitiful 4 inches long! It will be interesting to see how these miniature squashes will taste.


The photo below was taken 1 October:
My 3 smallest squash looked like they had ripened to the right colour and they sounded hollow when I tapped them, so I followed the advice I’d read in books and cut them off the plants, leaving as long a stalk as possible. Then I left them in the sun to harden the skins for storing, although I already had in my mind that I would eat them rather than store them because it’s not as if I had a bumper crop! As you can see from the photo, the larger squash are still a bit green.

The photo below was taken 3 October:
Squashforsoup3Oct09Well today was the day that I took the plunge and decided to eat my baby butternuts. I was very dubious that they would even remotely look like normal butternuts inside, so I was pleasantly surprised when I cut them in half to reveal vivid orange flesh. Once they were peeled and chopped into chunks, I had enough to make my Winter Vegetable Soup and it was just as tasty.
The photos below were taken 13 October:

Despite the mild weather we’ve been having lately, I’m not holding out much hope for my last 2 squash going ripe as they’re still pretty green and it’s just getting colder and colder. It’s a shame as it’s been a bit of a struggle to grow the little blighters and I was hoping to be able to eat the fruits of my labour! Ah well, I’m looking forward to trying again next year with a different variety of squash. I’ve already bought my Uchiki Kuri (Red Kuri) seeds and they’re bright blue which is pretty cool!
The photos below were taken 3 November:

Squashweighed3Nov09Squash weighed_2 3 Nov 09Well I finally picked my last two squashes. The weather has been so mild for the time of year that they did ripen quite a bit, so I’m pleased I left them on the plants. I basically completely ignored them for the last 3 weeks. Didn’t water them. Didn’t even look at them. So when I went to pick them yesterday I was really surprised that they had changed colour. They are still a little bit green, so they probably won’t taste amazing. I’m going to simply roast them to bring out as much sweetness as possible.

I was curious as to how much they weighed, as these were the biggest ones that I managed to grow. 381g and 341g is pretty pathetic compared to the ones you get from the supermarket, but I’m still proud that I’ve grown these from seed and they survived!


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