Butternut Squash – Comparing notes

A friend called me today. The same one who gave me one of his prized butternut squash last year. The one I told you about that can grow tomatoes and cucumbers from his southern exposure in the winter.

I was glad to have the opportunity to ask him some questions about my butternut squash. (I’m growing them for the first time this year.)  They’re in my back flower border because I didn’t have room in the garden at the beginning of the year.  They set fruit and looked so lush for quite a while, but now they’re starting to droop and the vines look like they may not last much longer.

Butternut Squash growing in my flower border in July.

Organic matter makes all the difference.

I’ll interject here that the soil in the border just can’t compare to the soil in my garden.  The garden has much more organic matter and mulch.  Thus, it holds moisture much longer than my borders and doesn’t get hard like the borders eventually do.  This is especially important to me since I am not set up to water.

Since I only have so much organic material, most of it goes to the garden with what’s left going to the borders. But – when I’m desperate for a spot to plant – I turn to the borders.

July 1st – In my back side border you can just see the leaves of the butternuts above the tallest yellow daylilies. The taller leaves that look almost the same in this picture are really cuke leaves.  The cuke is climbing on a trellis.

When are the squash ready to cut?

Most of the squash have turned tan and two are still cream color.  I don’t think there’s much chance of those two ripening on the vine.

My friend said that over the years he has found that when butternut squash are ready, the inch or so of stem extending from them will be so hard and woody that it almost takes a hacksaw to remove it! If it’s not that hard, he said, the squash will not keep properly.

As soon as I got off the phone I went out to see if mine met the criteria.  They did. You can actually see the difference in color where the stem extending from the squash is hard.  And about an inch and a half  from the squash the stem is shriveling.

The cream colored ones are delicious!

I was also happy to learn what I suspected all along — and that is – the younger ones that have not turned tan are delicious. Think I’ll pick one for dinner tomorrow to experience it first hand.


I’ve read of folks trellising butternut squash with success.  But, I found what my friend had to say about it intriguing.

He’s trellised the butternuts before.  Said it’s a lot of work and they don’t like it.  His didn’t set as much fruit that way.  When he stopped trellising, they set fruit.

And here’s the thing that swings the debate for me:  “Watch the plants,” he said.  You know how cukes will attach to anything and start climbing? Well, watch butternuts — they won’t.  They love rambling, but they won’t climb unless you make them climb.

Fall Crop?

I started more seed at the end of June and I have them growing in the garden under row covers.  Trying to give them some protection from the squash bug.  (And by the way —did you know that those lucky gardeners in Utah don’t even have squash bugs?!!)

They look good, but no blossoms yet.  I don’t know if they’ll have time to make squash or not. Depends on how long it stays nice.

Plans for the Harvest

Well, I haven’t gotten a lot of butternut squash this year, but I have some.  I plan to try the Sour Cream Butternut Squash Pie recipe that I mentioned in my post back in May.  Also want to try a butternut squash pudding and a bread recipe sent to me by a friend.

How did your butternut squash do this year?

Don, a reader in northern Illinois  recently told me (via a comment in the my previous post on butternut squash)  his vines were beautiful this year, but only produced 3 squash.

How did yours produce?  Learn anything you want to share?


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  • Went out there today and found one more. Small and green. Hope we have a late fall so they have time to grow and mature. There might be more but the mosquitos are so bad, I had to give up looking.

  • Bet the extra squash put a smile on your face, Don. Hope it finishes!

    I was going to pick mine today. After I looked things over, decided to give it another day or so. I am anxious to try that pie and pudding I mentioned in comments on the other post. I looked at the new ones under the row covers and the plants still look fabulous — but still just small buds and no open blossoms.

    Let me know if you plan any special recipes with yours.

    By the way, if we do have frost before my new butternuts finish, I think I’ll cover them with one of my portable cold-frames. After our first frost we usually have quite a bit more warm weather.


  • Well Theresa, I wound up with 10 squash. So far I have eaten one and given 2 away. I will grow them again next year and now that I know that they take over the garden, I’ll plan to grow them in a separate space.

  • Thanks for the update Don! Glad to hear you got 10 squash. I keep wishing I had been able to grow even more. There is so much you can do with them and boy are they delicious! Also – as you know – they keep wonderfully!

    One of the things I did was make a “pudding” that was almost like the pie I was going to make. I make a small pie crust and bake. Then I spread the “pudding” as a filling over the crust. If I really feel like going all out, I’ll add a tablespoon of sour cream to the top (of each half) (one piece for me and one for Bill) and spread. Boy is it WONDERFUL!

    And then there’s cubed and roasted butternut, or roasted with potatoes and onions and on and on.

    Next year I’m going to grow some semi-bush butternuts and try to save a bit of room that way. I know I don’t have room but I’d love to have 40 butternuts to tide me over until the next season!

    Thanks for checking in with an update. It’s always fun to hear from you, Don.


  • They are good. I’ve never had them before. Going to try roasting this week. I’ll try it with the potatoes and onions. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • I completely agree about trellising. I did it one year, and it seems to cut the amount of squash I got – way back. I let them sprawl out onto my garden paths because there’s no other space available. They are totally worth it. Do you grow pumpkins or other winter squash, Theresa?

  • Thanks for the additional input on trellising, Sandra.
    I don’t grow pumpkins because the value I get in return is not enough for all the room and effort they take.
    We depend heavily on our garden for food and so I try to grow what will give me the most return on my investment of space and time.
    I would like to grow Butternut Squash again this year but don’t know if I can find any space available. We really enjoy the Butternuts, but I’ll just play it by ear. I still have a little time to find a spot.
    At this time, I’m thinking I won’t grow any other winter squash.

  • Theresa, I’m in the same boat. I’m not sure I can find room for all that vine. Those squash were really good though. I have a small strip of dirt along my greenhouse that might work, but I don’t know how good the soil is. I’ll have to think about this too.

  • Hey Danita,
    I think I’d try to do a quickie prep on that strip along the greeenhouse. In the interest of time till deeply and add as many leaves as you can find. If no leaves maybe old straw and compost. If you have time to get that done and heavily mulched — you might just have found a great space for those delicious butternuts.
    Let me know what you decide.
    Good hearing from you. It’s been a while.

  • I thought the same thing Theresa. I do have bales of straw left over from last fall. Hmmm. I do have time to get it in there before planting time.
    I’ll give it a try. At least I’ll have a head start on next year.
    Thanks for the encouraging words.

  • That’s just what I thought Danita — but didn’t say: The worse that can happen is — you’ll have a head start on next year! That being said — I think you will probably be very successful THIS YEAR!

  • This the first for me growing butternut squash, I live in Michigan, I have a lot of fruit, I was wondering when to harvest, I think I received the answer from reading the other posts, when the stems become woody or tan and hard, is the time, did I get that right, its August though and if the stems are in fact woody, I haven’t looked yet, is it too early for them to be ripe. Or will nature tell me they are ready, with the hardened stems? Thanking you in advance..David D. in Michigan

  • David, I am writing a post on that very thing. If you can wait just a bit, I hope to have the post up within the next day or so. Please wait to do any harvesting until you read the post. I think it will give you a lot more information with which to make your decision.
    Thanks for waiting.

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