How to Grow Squash

How to Grow Squash
by Halden Thompson

Sweet potatoes, trailing vines grown for their nutritious roots, need night temperatures of at least 60 (they prefer 70 to 80) for about 150 days. Therefore most are grown in southern areas, but satisfactory crops will also grow in southern New York, southern Michigan, Wisconsin and the Pacific Northwest if planting is timed carefully. Sweet potatoes may have yellow, orange, dark red or brown roots, and white, yellow or orange flesh. There are two types-those whose flesh is dry and mealy when cooked (excellent varieties are Orange Jersey, Nemagold and Nugget) and those that are moist-fleshed (recommended varieties are Goldrush, Centennial and Porto Rico). In some parts of the South, moist-fleshed varieties are called yams, a name also used for the unrelated plant Dioscorea. Twenty-five feet of row yields about 25 pounds.

Sweet potatoes grow best in light, sandy shallow soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5; deep rich soils produce too much foliage and stringy roots. Once the plants are established, they tolerate dry soil.

Sow squash outdoors when night temperatures no longer fall below 55. Set six to eight seeds 1 inch deep, evenly spaced on each hill. When plants become 3 inches tall, cut off all but the two strongest.

Garage Storage Units

Winter squashes all have orange flesh. All the varieties listed are good for winter storage. Most are trailing vines spreading 10 to 15 feet or more, but there are also bush types spreading 3 to 4 feet as well as a semibush type spreading 5 to 6 feet. There are several good vine types.

Blue Hubbard has pear-shaped blue-green fruit 15 to inches long and weighing 25 to 30 pounds. True Hubbard has pear-shaped green fruit, 12 inches long and 10 inches across, weighing about 12 pounds. Buttercup has dark green fruit with silver stripes; each fruit is 41/2 inches high and 61/2 inches across and weighs 4 to 5 pounds. Waltham Butternut has creamy tan fruit, 9 inches long and 3 inches across, that weighs 3 to 4 pounds. A splendid bush type is Gold Nugget, bright orange, 3 inches high and 4 to 5 inches across, and weighing about 2 pounds. A semibush type is Bush Ebony, acorn-shaped dark green fruit 5 inches long, weighing 1 to 11/2 pounds.

Let winter squashes mature fully on the vines until their skins are extremely hard. True Hubbard matures about 115 days after sowing, Blue Hubbard and Buttercup about 100 days, Gold Nugget about 95 days, Waltham Butternut about 110 days. To pick winter squashes, cut them from the vine, leaving a 2- to 3-inch stem on each squash. Let the squashes cure in the sun for a week or more, then store them in a cool dry place over winter.

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