Knowing When to Harvest Winter Squash

It is easy to identify when most garden produce is ripe just by color or feel. If this is your first time planting winter squash, it might not be as easy to identify when it is time to harvest.


How to Tell if Harvest is Close

One of the first indicators that you will soon be harvesting your winter squash is the weather itself. Cooler daytime weather and the shorter days means it is time to watch your squash closely. Although some types of winter squash can withstand a light frost or two, you need to be sure to have them all harvested before a hard freeze.

Signs to Watch for

Whether you have planted butternut squash, spaghetti squash, or any of the many varieties of winter squash, you can tell they are close to harvest time when you see the following signs:

  • Vines begin to turn brown and die off.
  • The squash stems start to shrivel and dry out.
  • The rind of the squash becomes hard.

How to Tell if Your Squash is Ripe

If your squash looks ripe and the rind feels hard when you press on it, you may think it is time to pick it. However, appearance alone is not always reliable when it comes to picking your squash. For example, a butternut ripens differently than an acorn squash.

As a general rule of thumb, a hard rind that cannot be pierced or scratched with your fingernail is ripe enough to pick. Additionally, most winter squashes sound hollow when you tap them lightly.


Smaller, more dense squash like an acorn or Delicata squash may not sound hollow.

Can You Pick Immature Squash?

It is always better to leave your squashes on the vine as long as the weather will allow. The more exposure to sunshine they have, the better they are. Not only do they taste better when you allow them to ripen on the vine, but they also store much longer.


If there is a hard frost in the weather forecast, you can cover the squash to prevent them from freezing.

Harvest and Enjoy

Once you have reached the end of the growing season and have harvested all of your winter squash, you can enjoy the flavors of your favorite squash dishes all winter long.